Cortex Innovation Community

Clayco helps blaze the trail for the Cortex District in St. Louis

St. Louis is becoming one of the fastest burgeoning hubs of research and technology in the nation. Today, St. Louis is home to a community of medical centers and universities, a growing group of technology firms, and a booming collection of over 1,000 startup companies.

During the 1990s, the region watched as many local researchers and entrepreneurs left after failing to find the necessary resources to build and grow in the area. As a way to re-orient the business climate in St. Louis, a group of business and local leaders founded the nonprofit group, Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences. The group’s goal was to retain St. Louis’ research talent and grow the biotechnology industry by providing companies with better opportunities to financing and modern facilities.

Over the next several years the coalition had notable success, but the most visible example of this success is the massive neighborhood redevelopment project known as Center of Research, Technology & Entrepreneurial Exchange (Cortex).

As Seen In New York Times: Keeping the Fruits of Research Close to Home in St. Louis

Center of Research, Technology & Entrepreneurial Exchange

Founded in 2002, Center of Research, Technology, and Entrepreneurial Expertise (Cortex) is the Midwest’s premiere hub for bioscience and technology research, development and commercialization. It serves as the anchor of St. Louis’ growing ecosystem for innovative startups and established companies.

Cortex is providing state-of-the-art facilities to hatch some of the nation’s most promising technological advances. Cortex offers customizable lab and office space, proximity to world-class research institutions, availability of a highly-trained workforce, and access to venture capital…all surrounded by amenity-rich urban neighborhoods.

The Cortex innovation community is home to a vibrant 200-acre technology district integrated into St. Louis’ historic Central West End and Forest Park Southeast residential neighborhoods. It is surrounded by nationally ranked universities, medical centers, and abundant cultural and recreational assets, including the Grand Center arts district, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and 1,400-acre Forest Park that is host to the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, biking and walking trails and two public golf courses.

Clayco came on as a builder for the Cortex district to help make the founders’ idea a reality

WUSM/BJH New Siteman Cancer Center

A new 659,000-square-foot ambulatory care center for Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. The School of Medicine-led joint project with BJC HealthCare is located at the corner of Forest Park and Taylor avenues. The nine-story building will feature 238,560-square feet of occupied medical space and a 243,250-square-foot parking garage.

Connected to the Washington University Medical Campus by a pedestrian link, the ambulatory cancer center will feature 96 exam rooms; 88 infusion bays; radiology, breast imaging and chemistry laboratory departments; 430 parking spaces above the main lobby on floors two through four; and a three-bay loading dock in the lower level. This project is the latest addition to the medical campus that continues to expand east into the CORTEX.

BJC @ The Commons

BJC Healthcare selected Clayco and Lamar Johnson Collaborative to perform design-build services for the core and shell of their new Central Business Office (CBO) in St. Louis’ CORTEX technology park. The 220,000-square-foot facility consolidates existing office functions that were spread across BJC’s Kingshighway campus. Using cast-in-place construction, the facility’s architecture complements the existing buildings in the CORTEX district.

The five-story, steel framed structure features load bearing architectural walls through the fourth floor, with fifth floor and the entire west elevation of the building featuring curtainwall. The project was completed in early 2014.

Cortex One

There was a dire need to make Cortex something more than an idea. In particular, because companies like Stereotaxis, a St. Louis-based, medical device start-up company, had outgrown its space, challenging its ability to continue operations in the local incubator. Cortex One was designed and built in approximately 11 months to allow Steroetaxis to stay in the Cortex District and to provide additional space for the Center of Applied Nanomedicine, a division of the Washington University School of Medicine.

The three-story, 177,000-square-foot facility is located within a bioscience district designed to encourage small biotech manufacturing companies to market. The facility features a three-story atrium within a new office space, state-of-the-art wet and dry laboratories for research and development, and small manufacturing units for use of the tenants.

The facility’s design and construction addressed the needs of biotech companies by incorporating a number of core and shell features. The building’s floor slabs were designed to allow future installation of vibration-sensitive equipment. The building’s north façade features contemporary cantilevered glass. The south façade consists of site-cast concrete wall panels set at varying angles. A dramatic three-story atrium lobby is warmly finished in stone, wood and fabric.


Clayco provided design-build and development services for Solae’s 175,000-square-foot global corporate headquarters on the CORTEX campus. The headquarters features 80,000-square-feet of state-of-the-art research labs, 70,000-square-feet of office space, and a 15,000-square-foot pilot plant.

The world leader in developing soy-based technologies and ingredients, Solae’s commitment to environmental stewardship is reflected in the design and construction strategies Clayco used throughout the project. Improved indoor air quality, locally sourced construction materials, construction waste reduction, increased daylight, and energy-efficient electrical and HVAC systems contributed to the project’s LEED certification.

Looking to the Future

Clayco is still very involved in the Cortex Innovation Community working on new projects and promoting additional development.

Cortex resident companies now have access to core facilities at Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, The University of Missouri – St. Louis and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. These facilities provide startups and growing companies with access to equipment and expertise critically important to scaling high-growth IT and bioscience ventures.

The progress taking place in Cortex permeates far beyond our physical boders. the breakthroughs of Cortex companies are elevating St. Louis and making our region a nationally and internationally recognized bioscience and technology hub; at full build out the Cortex Innovation Community will be home to 13,000 permanent technology-related jobs.