Alexandria Real Estate envisions ‘convergence cluster’ on RTP site

Mar. 18, 2014 @ 09:13 PM

In line with Research Triangle Park officials’ vision for new, more urban development clusters in the park, a California-based real estate trust is planning to develop a new lab and office cluster on the existing campus of The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences.

About two years ago, the life science-focused real estate trust Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. paid about $20 million for land and the building in the Research Triangle Park that’s occupied by The Hamner, a biomedical research institute that does research for private companies, the government, and academia.
On that campus, Alexandria officials have plans to build two additional buildings to create what the trust’s founder and CEO Joel Marcus called a “convergence campus.”
“Whereas now, there’s just a lot of isolated campuses around the Triangle; we’re really trying to build a convergence center for agriculture, science and technology,” Marcus said “That’s really the big idea.”
The firm is proposing to locate an agricultural-technology accelerator at the site, Marcus said in an email.
The proposal is a new, “morphed” proposal, Marcus said, from a project announced in 2011.At an announcement in May of 2011 that included Gov. Beverly Perdue and other leaders, they announced a plan to build a new, $13.5 million facility called the Alexandria Ag-Tech Center on a different site.
That center was expected to help build out the Research Triangle Park’s agricultural biotechnology sector. The park is already home to major players in that industry. Bayer CropScience, Syngenta Biotechnology, BASF Plant Science, and Monsanto all have operations here.
“It has morphed, and now become a big accelerator with numerous (venture capital firms) … and a bunch of ag strategics,” Marcus said of the updated proposal.
Building plans were updated with Durham City-County Planning in March showing what Marcus said would be called the “Alexandria Center for Ag, Science and Technology –RTP.”
The plans include about 250,000 square feet of building area with two buildings and a parking expansion.
Marcus added that he also expects the Hamner’s site to expand over time and to house a number of different private companies. The firm is recruiting companies from out of state that are involved in science and technology.
The idea is for a campus of clusters of science research and enterprise, as opposed to “random buildings in different locations like the Triangle’s been used to over the years,” he said.
The approach mirrors developments the firm has in the Boston area, New York, and in San Francisco.
Separately, Research Triangle Park leaders have promoted new development for the park with higher-density infill clusters.  In November 2012, they unveiled of a new master plan with three proposed higher-density clusters that included places for apartments and shops that are now absent from inside the park’s boundaries.
Then in February, officials with the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina announced key land purchases that give them a place to start the redevelopment effort. The $17 million purchases gave the foundation control over nearly 100 acres off of Interstate 40 where they plan to modernize the park with new, more urban development.