Friday, April 15, 2011

CertainTeed-Saint Gobain will remain in Wayne

by Natalie Kostelni

"WAYNE — CertainTeed Corp. and the North American headquarters of its parent company, Saint-Gobain, will remain in its buildings on East Swedesford Road here for the “foreseeable future.”

The company sent an email out to employees Friday that ended speculation it might relocate to new offices.

The decision to stay comes after nearly two years of evaluating its space needs. Remaining at 750 E. Swedesford Road has implications for the office submarket. If anything, it will likely trigger some tenants currently milling about in the market to re-examine their real estate options.

Many real estate observers had anticipated the building supply company to sell its current campus of four structures totaling 175,000 square feet and relocate. That would have freed up the Swedesford Road site to be bought and redeveloped. One scenario had the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia committing to relocating its King of Prussia operations to newly constructed buildings on the property that could eventually be expanded into a medical campus.

Doug Carney, interim senior vice president of facilities at CHOP, said the CertainTeed-Saint Gobain property was under consideration but so were other options in the King of Prussia area and Route 202 Corridor and they are still in the mix.

“As you would expect there are lots of moving pieces,” Carney said, noting that the hospital is not looking to make a hasty decision on its long-term needs and strategy in that area..

Some in the real estate industry aren’t surprised that CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain are not moving, saying the companies have gone through this joint exercise several times over the years; each time arriving at the same conclusion. Others are miffed since it had reportedly narrowed down where it would consider relocating. Some options were: BPG Properties Ltd.’s Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square; an existing building owned by Brandywine Realty Trust on Swedesford Road in Malvern; and a new building to be constructed at Liberty Property Trust’s Quarry Ridge in Malvern.

Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed have decided to remain at their current headquarters building in Valley Forge and have consequently ended their search for new premises, said Karen Cawkwell, vice president of communications at Saint-Gobain, in an email.

It wanted to find a building “within easy reach of Valley Forge so that our employees would not need to relocate,” Cawkwell said. “Unfortunately, despite an extensive search, we have been unable to find a building that meets our requirements and have concluded that the timing is not right for a move. We therefore expect to remain in our current premises for the foreseeable future — at least the next several years.”

The company will launch a series of capital improvements to its existing buildings but nothing on the scale of totally redeveloping them.

Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed established a joint venture in 1967, and CertainTeed became wholly owned by Saint-Gobain, a French conglomerate, in 1988. CertainTeed moved its headquarters to the Swedesford Road properties from Ardmore in 1970 and occupied the space ever since. Roughly 525 CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain employees work there."

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