Mayor John Cooper and Fisk University have announced the launch of the Darrell S. Freeman, Sr. Incubation and Innovation Center. The center will focus on supporting the next generation of startups and entrepreneurs and will be housed at Burrus Hall, which has stood at the corner of 16th Ave. N. and Meharry Blvd. since 1945. This innovative partnership will transform Burrus Hall into an incubation and innovation facility with more than 13,000 square feet of flexible space for programming and engagement. Once finished, the Freeman Center will provide wraparound services, resources, and programming for students, faculty, and members of the community as they strive to scale their businesses and test their ideas.
Metro’s COVID-19 Financial Oversight Committee approved $10 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for the project to refurbish Burrus Hall on November 30, 2022, and Metro Council approved the funds unanimously on December 19, 2022.
“For too long, Nashville paid wealthy, out-of-state corporations to bring jobs here instead of creating and growing businesses by investing in local entrepreneurs already living in our city. With Burrus Hall, we’re investing in our own residents’ futures by transforming this historic building at Fisk University into an innovation and entrepreneurship center to create the next generation of Nashville’s business leaders,” said Mayor John Cooper. “Born through the work of the late, great Nashville entrepreneur and business icon Darrell Freeman, this center will be a place where emerging business owners can access resources, make connections to investors, take classes and more. As Nashville’s first public-private partnership with our oldest institution of higher learning, this initiative will help bring the opportunity of Nashville to communities that haven’t benefited from our city’s growth. This is how we build wealth for all of our residents.”
The new space will host tech boot camps, as well as programs including mentoring, classes, workshops, and events. The Freeman Center will aim to be a jumping-off point for ideas that entrepreneurs can spin out into self-sustaining businesses or for further private investment. Similar models are housed at top universities throughout the nation.
“Incubators are distinct ecosystems populated by curious and inquisitive entrepreneurs, free agents, programmers, designers, dreamers, angel investors, tinkerers, and venture capitalists. This center marks the next stage in Nashville’s remarkable development,” said Fisk University Executive Vice President Jens Frederiksen. “The late Darrell Freeman knew this and he embodied everything this center is about: determination, focus, and innovation. Over the next many years, students, faculty, and community founders will follow in his large footsteps and launch businesses and support neighborhood growth and development.”