Planned Emeryville Life Sciences Development Challenged by Competing Developer

Workers at a construction site

A planned life sciences campus in Emeryville, Calif. has a detractor – a rival developer of space aimed at the pharma and biotech industries.

A 150,000 square foot development from City Center Realty Partners that includes lab and office space was approved in January. However, the San Francisco Business Times reported that rival developer Warham Development appealed the approval on the grounds that “it would create a wind tunnel for passersby,” as well as a few other arguments. Warham, according to the report, is not objecting to the competitive space for life sciences companies, but rather on the design of the development.

According to a letter of appeal filed with the city government, the current design of the City Center Realty Partners plan would shrink the amount of space between buildings. This could create a wind tunnel that would be “uncomfortable,” according to the letter. An additional concern raised in the letter is that the new plan would remove the “important visual connection” between the Marketplace and its own multi-building EmeryStation campus, the Business Times reported.

“We are compelled to file this appeal because key quality of life issues are negatively impacted and go against the intent and spirit of the overall Marketplace project’s approval,” the appeal letter said, according to the report. “As designed, the proposal diminishes the pedestrian experience and aesthetics at the Emeryville Amtrak Station.”

The dispute over the design of the City Center Realty Partners planned development comes at a time of increased demand for space designed with the life sciences in mind. According to a report in National Real Estate Investor, developers of space for the industry are seeing a steady demand from tenants across the United States. As companies take a deeper dive into personalized medicine, the demand for sophisticated lab space and production facilities has increased dramatically, according to the report. At the end of 2018, the report noted that lab space vacancy in the hottest biotech hubs in the United States was dwindling. Vacancy for lab space ranged from 4.1 percent in the Boston/Cambridge market and 2 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area to 6.4 percent in San Diego by the end of 2018, the report said.

The Bay Area, in particular, has seen an increase in new construction due to the growing industry. Last year, biotech employment in the Bay Area grew by more than 11,200 jobs over the previous year. There are multiple building projects in the process of going up across the Bay Area, including Kilroy Oyster Point in South San Francisco. The first phase for the Kilroy Oyster Point facility includes three six-story buildings that will total 508,000 square feet on 10 acres. In addition to the Kilroy project, The Cove, a project of HCP Life Science Estates, broke ground in 2015. The campus design consists of seven buildings ranging in size from 102,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet in both single- and multi-tenant building configurations.

Because of the tight vacancies and ever-increasing demand, there are construction booms happening in multiple hotspots across the country. In addition to the three aforementioned communities, Seattle and the Research Triangle Park area in North Carolina are seeing significant increases in construction for the life sciences industry, the report said.

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