Friday, May 11, 2012

Science Center leases up latest building, looks to expand

by Natalie Kostelni
"The Science Center has repeatedly proven it can fill speculative office and lab space, and the latest building it opened four years ago during the depths of the recession has been no different.

The $80 million, 10-story, 155,000-square-foot building at 3711 Market St. in University City is 86 percent occupied and set to be nearly fully occupied over the next couple of months. One of its existing tenants is planning to expand and would bring the occupancy rate to 96 percent.

Some of 3711’s tenants include Integral Molecular, which leases 10,000 square feet and is a graduate of the Science Center’s incubator. Another is Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, which started out with 16,000 square feet and expanded to 24,500 square feet, and Energy Plus, which has 33,000 square feet.

During the recession, educational and medical sectors continued to thrive, said Stephen S. Tang, president and CEO of the Science Center, and that helped to attract tenants to 3711 Market. “Proximity does matter and that is one of the things we’re trying to build upon,” Tang said.

With its office and lab space needs met for the time being, the Science Center is now considering incorporating a residential building into its 17-acre campus as one way of creating a more vibrant, around-the-clock community. It’s also an attempt to shed its reputation of being in a “concrete canyon” along Market Street.
"I don’t think in the history of the Science Center there has been a plan for pure residential,” Tang said. “We think there is very high demand for upscale apartments here.”

A multifamily project would be a new direction for the Science Center, which has stuck to a mission of providing a place for fledgling companies to incubate and grow since it was spawned 49 years ago.
While it’s still early in the process, the Science Center has issued a request for proposals for the construction of a residential building that could have as many as 300 apartments as well as retail space. The project could sit on what is currently a surface parking lot. A future phase would have what Tang called a “spiritual center” for the campus. Aside from incorporating potentially more housing, Tang envisions the building having more common space and uses for tenants and residents.
“The Science Center’s assets become less about the buildings, but the people in the buildings,” he said. “Now you’re talking about this becoming a community.”
The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, which had been at loggerheads with the Science Center on the timing of the redevelopment of some parcels along Market Street, supports the plans. This is a continuation of more than 40 years in partnership, said Paul Chrystie, spokesman for the redevelopment authority.
Tang has given Ed Covington, director of the redevelopment authority, an overview of his vision for the Science Center. Based on that, Covington is optimistic about Tang’s plans and how it will continue to contribute to the ongoing revitalization in the area surrounding the other universities in the neighborhood, Chrystie said.
“The redevelopment authority shares Steve Tang’s vision for a more functionally diverse Science Center and is optimistic that Steve’s plans will support an even more vibrant University City,” Chrystie said.
While the Science Center is exploring adding a residential dimension to its campus, it will continue to expand its incubator space. Its next building at 3737 Market is fully approved for between 250,000 and 300,000 square feet of lab and office space. Under a best-case scenario, the Science Center would break ground this year but only when an anchor tenant is secured. The Science Center is in discussions with a tenant but declined to divulge more details about it.

Further into the future, the Science Center would also build at 38th and Market. Early plans call for a two-building development that could be as big as 800,000 square feet of research and development, and light manufacturing space. One idea is to attract the headquarters of a life sciences company.
“We would love to do something big there,” Tang said.
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