View Full Version : Biomedical Research Lab in Westchester

May 9th, 2007, 08:56 AM
May 9, 2007

After Years in Wait, a Lab Is Born

Tsoi/Kobus & Associates
A rendering of a new lab for biomedical research at Landmark at
Eastview in Westchester County, N.Y.


Five years after a similar project was announced but never built, ground has finally been broken on a $145 million biomedical laboratory for research on cancer and other diseases at Landmark at Eastview, an office park straddling the towns of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant in Westchester County, N.Y.

Redevelopment of the site as a biotechnology center was originally proposed by LCOR Inc., a real estate firm in Berwyn, Pa., but the firm shelved the project three years ago. LCOR sold 117 acres of its holdings to BioMed Realty Trust, a two-year-old publicly held real estate investment trust based in San Diego that specializes in such construction. LCOR is planning to build houses on some of the land it kept.

Now BioMed is constructing three interconnected buildings on a 66-acre section in Greenburgh. The new buildings are adjacent to existing structures occupied by 18 tenants, most of them biotech concerns. Part of this acreage was the longtime home of the Union Carbide Corporation, which left in the 1980s.

More than half of the 360,000-square-foot space under construction has already been leased by Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company that has several drugs in clinical trials for the treatment of cancer, eye diseases and inflammatory conditions. Regeneron, which employs more than 450 people at its headquarters at the Landmark at Eastview, said it had been weighing a move to New Jersey.

Last year, though, the company decided to remain after receiving a $4 million grant from Empire State Development, a state agency that provides assistance to businesses to encourage economic investment, as well as $3.5 million in property tax abatements and $1.5 million in sales tax abatements from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, said Leonard S. Schleifer, Regeneron’s president and chief executive.

The original LCOR proposal was not the only biomedical project in Westchester that failed to make it beyond the drawing boards. A county plan to build up to one million square feet of lab and incubator space on a 60-acre site in Valhalla in 2002 failed to materialize, despite proposals from five developers. And New York-Presbyterian Hospital scuttled its plans to build a $265 million biomedical research center at its White Plains campus because of financing problems.

Creating a biomedical cluster is a high-risk endeavor that requires considerable financing and a critical mass of companies and potential employees, said Alan D. Gold, the president and chief executive of BioMed Realty Trust. The REIT owns or has interests in 66 properties representing 8.4 million square feet.

Even today, the county has less than one million square feet of biomedical lab space, and New York State over all continues to have a relatively small biomedical presence.

The Greater New York area (which includes Manhattan, Brooklyn, sections of Long Island and Parsippany, N.J., as well as Westchester) has less than five million square feet, according to Mr. Gold. By comparison, San Francisco has more than 25 million square feet of biomedical research space, and Boston has more than 20 million square feet.

Especially in the years after the end of the dot-com boom, venture capital money for biomedical research was in short supply. “The industry went through a downturn, funding dried up, and it wasn’t until the end of 2003 and early 2004 that there was access to capital again,” Mr. Gold said.

That was true also for Regeneron. But Mr. Schleifer said that his company now has three products in late clinical trials and that there is more investment money available. “We’re finally in a position to expand into more sophisticated space,” he said.

Clusters of biotech companies and personnel typically develop in cities that are near academic and research institutions, which in turn produce researchers and attract venture capital. Areas with such clusters include San Diego, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The New York-New Jersey biotech market is driven by research institutions like Princeton, Columbia, New York and Rutgers Universities; the Sloan-Kettering Institute, which focuses on cancer research; and by companies like Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Wyeth and Pfizer.

Besides Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the region’s roster of publicly traded biotechnology companies includes the Celgene Corporation in Summit, N.J.; Immunomedics Inc. in Morris Plains, N.J.; and Progenics Pharmaceuticals, which is also based at the Landmark at Eastview.

One factor behind New York’s relatively slow development as a biotech cluster is the tight supply and high cost of land in the area, compounding the already high costs of building new biomedical space.

Rick Kobus, a senior principal in the architectural firm of Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, Mass., which designed the Center for Life Science in Boston, said the cost to build lab space runs about twice that for office space.

Distances between floors in labs, he said, are generally at least 15 feet, in order to accommodate specialized pipes and wiring; by comparison, floors in office buildings are usually about 13 feet apart, or even less. Additionally, floors in laboratories have a minimum load capacity of 100 pounds per square foot, compared with 70 pounds to 80 pounds per square foot in office structures.

“Not only do the floors in labs need to carry heavier equipment, but they have to be stiffer,” Mr. Kobus said. “We can’t have any floor vibrations.” In addition, in office buildings air is usually recycled, whereas it is not reused in labs.

Construction of the core and shell of the new development at the Landmark at Eastview is expected to be complete by the summer of 2008, with Regeneron’s office and laboratory space ready for occupancy by early 2009.

“Like the rest of the biotechnology industry in New York, we’ve grown from a little start-up,” Mr. Schleifer said. “There has been a confluence of factors affecting our work, and we hope that now Westchester will attract other biotechnology companies. We do tend to cluster, like lamp stores do on the Bowery.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

May 9th, 2007, 11:46 AM
another miss oportnity for the city, when will they ever wake up and realize this is the industry of the future