It is one of the most prominent high-techresearch and development centers in the United States. It was created in 1959 by state and local governments, nearby universities, and local business interests. Karl Robbins bought the land where the park is now built. The park covers 7,000 acres (2,833 ha) situated in a pineforest with 22,500,000 square feet (2,090,318 m2) of built space. The park is adjacent to Interstate 40 and the Durham Freeway. It is managed by the Research Triangle Foundation, a private non-profit organization.
The park is home to over 170 companies employing 42,000 workers and 10,000 contractors, including the second largest IBM operation in the world, smaller only than the one in India; the company has around 14,000 employees in RTP. The park hosts one of GlaxoSmithKline's largest R&D centers with approximately 5,000 employees.Cisco Systems' campus in RTP, with approximately 4,000 employees, is the highest concentration of its employees outside of its Silicon Valley corporate headquarters.
The park is an unincorporated area, and state law prohibits municipalities from annexing areas within the park. Some local government functions are served by the Durham-Wake Counties Research and Production Service District, a special tax district created in 1986 that is conterminous with the park, wherein the property tax rate is limited to 10 cents per $100 valuation. The park has special zoning as a Research Applications District in the Wake County portion, and a Scientific Research Park in the Durham County portion. As of October 2012, both zoning areas are in the process of being revised to allow higher density development. The zoning changes are coupled with legislative changes allowing for Urban Research Service Districts (URSD) within the Park, which can include a mix of retail and residential usages. These newly permitted URSDs could levy taxes at the same rate as a neighboring city.
On November 9, 2012, an update to the RTP master plan was released for the first time since the park's creation in 1959. With 39,000 employees in 22,000,000 square feet (2,000,000 m2) of office space, RTP only had 600 acres (240 ha) left under previous rules, enough for 6000 more employees and 4,000,000 square feet (370,000 m2) to be added. John Alschuler of HR&A Advisors said the new plan would allow 150,000 employees in 84,000,000 square feet (7,800,000 m2) of space. Three areas would offer new development. Triangle Commons in Durham County would have 300 acres (120 ha) to 400 acres (160 ha) and 7,000,000 square feet (650,000 m2) of office space, a hotel and conference center, a new science and technology high school and a commuter rail station. Park Center at N.C. 54 and Davis Drive, seriously underutilized, would become a business support center. Kit Creek Center in Wake County would have 850 acres (340 ha) with a commuter rail station and add 2,200,000 square feet (200,000 m2) to 3,300,000 square feet (310,000 m2) of office space.
Companies and institutions in or near the Research Triangle Park