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New Haven Science Park Broadens Development Scope Beyond Life Sciences to Mixed-Use Space

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The owner of Science Park in New Haven, Conn., has issued a request for qualifications from developers interested in transforming a portion of the life sciences campus into a mix heavy with residential use, but also possibly including smaller blocks of retail and office space.
 
The types of development envisioned under the RFQ mark a change from the longtime plans of owner Science Park Development Corporation to find biotech and pharmaceutical tenants for the largest vacant portions of the old Winchester Repeating Arms Company factory campus, which employed 19,000 people during World War II and once proudly made the Winchester Rifle among other guns.
 
Science Park Development insists that a mixed-use redevelopment would be less a retreat from building a life science campus than an opportunity to generate more life science activity long-term by offering prospective tenants housing and stores near their offices on the redevelopment site at 275 Winchester Ave.
 
The 7.3-acre parcel, called Tract A, consists of 15 industrial buildings. It is bounded on the east by Mansfield Street, on the south by Munson Street, on the west by Winchester Avenue, and on the north by Science Park tracts D and E.
 
David Silverstone, president and chairman of Science Park Development, told BioRegion News the pace of life science activity at Science Park picked up in recent years, though not enough to quickly fill the million square feet of space, some of it vacant for decades, at Tract A. Science Park Development, he said, is also studying whether to pursue life science redevelopment of two other tracts on the 80-acre campus.
 
“We had plenty of supply [of life science space], more than we had demand. I don’t know if that’s slowness, or just if it’s a lot of supply,” Silverstone said in an interview. “We think [housing] is going to enhance our ability to attract life sciences to Science Park, and we think they’re really complementary uses.”
 
Asked what type of housing Science Park expects to see at Tract A, Silverstone said: “We’re waiting for the market, but we’re anticipating certainly several hundred units running the full gamut, from affordable to high-end. We think it’s going to be great housing for people in the community, for Yale people, for people who work at Science Park.
 
“Science Park is still about biotech and jobs and life sciences. We have about a quarter-million square feet of space currently leased, primarily to life sciences [companies], and we have another couple of hundred thousand square feet available.”
 
Tract A’s selling points include proximity to two interstate highways, I-91 and I-95; two busy state routes, 15 (Wilbur Cross Parkway) and 34; the Amtrak and Metro-North railroads; as well as Yale, whose Science Hill portion is a few blocks south. The site is also two miles from Yale-New Haven Hospital.
 
The mixed-use concept contained in the RFQ gibes with the ongoing redevelopment effort shepherded by New Haven officials. The city of 124,001 (2006 US Census population estimate) has assembled a $1.5 billion pipeline of new development projects intended to help revive the Elm City following a generation of urban blight.
 
“We’re looking generally to see more of a mix of uses on the site, maybe having more of an active ground-floor use, if it’s housing or office, to generate more of a 24/7 kind of activity going on in the area,” said Kelly Murphy, economic development administrator for New Haven, and a board member of Science Park Development. The developer-operator was created in 1981 by the city, Yale University, and Olin Corporation, which acquired Winchester 50 years earlier.
 
The redeveloper chosen through the RFQ will need zoning changes to allow for housing since the parcel is now zoned for heavy industrial use, as well as site-plan approvals. Murphy said approvals for a redevelopment plan should come within a year of the RFQ’s Feb. 28 benchmark for final selection of a redeveloper, given the pace of city reviews of the recently approved $175 million redevelopment of the downtown Shartenberg department store site into 467 apartments, a daycare center, and an upscale grocery store.
 
That pace, Murphy said, should not be slower for Science Park because the campus has been listed since 1988 on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Winchester Repeating Arms Company Historic District.”
 
Science Park would maintain control of redevelopment at Tract A by seeking ground leases with the developer selected through the RFQ, Silverstone said.
 
Sheila Anastas, executive director and comptroller of Science Park Development, told BioRegion News the campus developer-operator could not feasibly convert many existing buildings on the redevelopment site to life science use: “Tract A has a lot of very unusually shaped buildings in it. They’ve been looked at in the past and they’re not the same, easy squares that buildings 4, 5, and 25 were. They have some unusual architectural issues that make it more difficult to just fill them up with biotech.”
 
She said the infrastructure of the Tract A buildings was not a problem: “They’re very strong buildings. It was more the question of the widths and those issues. There are also environmental issues on the lower floors,” such as the need to clean up pollutants dating back to when the site was used for manufacturing guns.
 
Olin is obligated to clean up the site for new commercial use, though not for residential uses, which require an even higher cleanup standard, Murphy said. The city would help Olin and the prospective redeveloper craft a cleanup agreement spelling out which parties would pay what percentage before redevelopment can take place.
 
Short-, Long-Term Life Science Space
 
Anastas said Science Park can still meet both immediate and long-term demand for life science space within Science Park at the 267,000-square-foot 25 Science Park, located at 150 Munson St., which is now only one-third leased. That building is controlled through a ground lease by BioMed Realty Trust, a life sciences real estate investment trust based in San Diego. BioMed took over the building, as well as ground leases for a 295-space parking lot and an abandoned parking lot, both on Winchester Avenue, last February as part of a $511 million acquisition of sites from Lyme Properties of Hanover, NH. Lyme completed a $30 million renovation of the building a few years ago.
 


One of the 15 buildings that comprise Tract A (275 Winchester Ave.), within the Science Park campus in New Haven, Conn. Science Park Development Corporation has issued a formal request for qualifications of potential redevelopers willing to transform the industrial site into housing mixed with some retail and office space. Click for larger view

Science Park Development won’t disclose asking rent. Late last year, a 5,698-square-foot space at 25 Science Park was marketed at $18 per square foot plus utilities by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, a nonprofit, utility-funded group formed to promote economic development in the state, according to a listing posted on its website Nov. 28, 2006.

 
Another option for life science companies seeking space at Science Park is the US Repeating Arms Center, a 256,000-square-foot manufacturing building completed in 1994. “It’s designed for manufacturing. If a life sciences company wanted to move in, I think that would work. But we really see it more for light industrial manufacturing use, which is what the building was built for,” Silverstone said.
 
Another vacant building within a tract dubbed “B-2” is being considered for demolition, Silverstone said, since it has deteriorated beyond repair and thus not generated much developer interest past initial queries, Silverstone said: “The first step is to demolish it, and the second step is to figure out what to use it for. Right now, we’re leaning towards parking, but that could change.”
 
He said free parking is a key amenity of Science Park, so up to 600 new spaces will be created in the future as the campus is redeveloped and life science space fills up at 25 Science Park.
 
Oct. 17 Deadline for RFQ
 
Science Park has retained the Capstan Group of New Haven to market the development site to prospective buyers. “We sent out the RFQ to several dozen developers, at least 50. We’re very pleased with the level of response so far,” Silverstone said.
 
“We’ve already gotten several expressions of interest, and that had manifested itself in people asking questions and in people taking tours of the site. We’ve scheduled three or four site visits already,” Silverstone added.
 
Prospective redevelopers have until Oct. 17, 4 p.m. eastern time, to submit completed RFQ forms to Science Park Development. The RFQ, as well as seven exhibits and weekly updates, can be downloaded at Capstan’s website. Capstan’s Elizabeth Grossman will answer questions from redevelopers who contact the group at [email protected] or (203) 785-0130.
 
Capstan has begun meeting with neighborhood groups to build support for the redevelopment and listen to suggestions for community amenities that should be included within the project.
 
Science Park is a key cog in New Haven’s life science cluster, accounting for nearly half the approximately 40 life science companies doing business in the Elm City. Several additional companies like HistoRx, Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, and RHEI Pharmaceuticals are based within another biotech campus, the 560,000-square-foot 300 George St., owned by Winstanley Enterprises of Concord, Mass., and located near Yale.
 
300 George is now 95 percent occupied, something that has helped Science Park draw early-stage biotechs in recent months. Life science companies, Silverstone said, account for “15 or 16” of the 21 tenant businesses now at Science Park. They range from Yale spinoffs, to startups established by Yale alums, to businesses with no connection to the university. The businesses occupy most of the 148,000 square feet in two virtually full buildings, 375 and 396 Winchester Ave. (also called buildings 4 and 5), as well as more than 80,000 square feet at 25 Science Park.
 

“There’s enough biotech-related activity going on there that now it’s more plausible to think of developing this very large building into a retail and residential center. Five, certainly 10 years ago, that would have been a real stretch.”

Another Science Park tenant, the quasi-public authority Connecticut Innovations, manages a 10,600-square-foot lab space with three of its own tenants. CI operations won’t be affected since the lab is at 25 Science Park, said Kevin Crowley, CI’s director of investments and manager of its $46 million Connecticut BioScience Facilities Fund. One former startup tenant, Achillion Pharmaceuticals, grew out of the facility into 300 George. The bioscience facilities fund has committed $33 million since 1998 to companies occupying a total 320,000 square feet of lab and support space statewide.

 
In recent years, Science Park lost one promising company, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, to the suburb of Cheshire, and another tenant, Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, to a merger with Clinical Data of Newton, Mass. But the New Haven campus’ tenant roster still includes CI, as well as Artificial Cell Technologies, drug discovery service provider Cheminpharma, medical technology developer Ikonisys, Sopherion Therapeutics, Vion Pharmaceuticals, and even Yale University, which leases about 10,000 square feet now.
 
Science Park Development remains in talks with Yale for additional space within the campus, Silverstone confirmed, while declining to discuss details. Yale President Richard Levin told BioRegion News in June that the university was in talks for 100,000 to 150,000 square feet at the campus, as part of an expansion of its life science activity in the New Haven region.
 
That expansion includes Yale’s acquisition for an undisclosed sum of the 136-acre Bayer HealthCare campus in neighboring West Haven, Conn., announced in June [BioRegion News, June 18].
 
“They’re waiting to close on the property first before they do anything else,” West Haven Mayor John Picard said.
 
Yale is scheduled to close on the Bayer campus purchase Sept. 25, said James Zeoli, first selectman of the neighboring town of Orange, based on a briefing of town government and economic development officials a few weeks back by Yale administrators. A university spokeswoman, Gila Reinstein, could not confirm the date but told BRN the closing of Yale’s purchase “is scheduled to be coming up pretty soon.” Two Bayer HealthCare spokeswomen did not return messages from BRN.
 
Yale has said it will use the West Haven campus to house new interdisciplinary life-sciences research programs, mostly for the medical school. The university would not hold classes on the campus, though graduate students could be trained there.
 
“Yale taking over West Haven in a sense has helped us, because it meant none of the private sector would move to West Haven,” Silverstone said.
 
Paul Pescatello, president and CEO of Connecticut United for Research Excellence, the state’s nonprofit life sciences industry group, said Science Park should continue to benefit, both in terms of life science development and beyond.
 
“I think what happened at Yale had a little bit to do with what’s happening at Science Park. People once thought [West Haven] would be coming on line for companies. There’s a need for a place for companies to go, and for people who work in these companies to live. Most likely, it’s going to be around Science Park,” he said.
 
Science Park also has the advantage of available space during a period of shrinking availability: As of 2005, according to a CURE report released last year, Connecticut’s inventory of biotech lab space dropped 10 percent to about 4.8 million square feet. Also, the amount of office space occupied by bioscience organizations dropped 15 percent, to about 3.8 million square feet. And while Connecticut’s 50 bioscience organizations directly employed 17,402 people in the state, up 5 percent since 2000, the bio work force is down 2 percent from 2004.
 
Yet Connecticut continues to attract some new companies. Earlier this year Cara Therapeutics, a developer of pain treatment products, moved its headquarters to Shelton, Conn., from BioMedRealty Trust’s The Landmark at Eastview in Tarrytown, NY.
 
But that pipeline of companies isn’t large enough, Pescatello said, to negate the need for the mixed-use project Science Park envisions at Tract A.
 
“It would complement the other stuff that has been developed. If you go there now, there is some really good class A lab and office space for biotech companies. But what’s missing from that area is a lot of retail, and any kind of residential [space] for the biotech workers. So it makes sense. It would fill out and round out what has already occurred,” Pescatello said.
 
“There’s enough biotech-related activity going on there that now it’s more plausible to think of developing this very large building into a retail and residential center. Five, certainly 10 years ago, that would have been a real stretch.”

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