RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Construction on Boxyard RTP kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday morning, ushering in a new era for the aging office park at N.C. 54 and Davis Drive.

Inspired by a similar facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the $7-million project is spearheaded by the Research Triangle Foundation and is set on 12 acres of the former IBM campus. It involves converting 38 shipping containers into a new complex of restaurants, retail stores, an amphitheater, a dog park and sculpture gardens.

IBM’s Tim Humphries, Kristie VanAuken, Casey Stowe. Photo via WRAL TechWire

“This is a project only a foundation could love,” Research Triangle Foundation’s CEO Scott Levitan told a 100-strong crowd gathered for the event. “We’re not going to make money, but we’re going to create a tremendous community.”

Casey Stowe, founder of Boxyard Tulsa, helped design the project and called it “transformative” for the region.

“When it comes here, like we’ve seen in Tulsa, it’s going to create a critical mass,” he said.

It will also be a boon to local businesses, he added.

“We’ve arranged them in a bit of a ‘plug and play’ system, so a restaurateur can go in, whether they’re trying a new concept or they’re expanding their brand, they can come in and be up and running very quickly.”

Photo via WRAL TechWire

Attendees checking out one of the converted shipping containers on display.

Businesses are already lining up to be part of the complex, including Fullsteam Brewing, which will be the  anchor tenant.

“I can think of no better place than here in RTP, this fusion of industry and agriculture and innovation, to showcase our second location,” its founder Sean Lilly Wilson said at the ceremony.

RTP is home to more than 300 companies, including IBM, GlaxoSmithKline and Cisco.