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UMB BioPark leaders seek city design group's OK for $675M expansion

Baltimore Business Journal - by Scott Graham

Leaders of the biotechnology research park at the University of Maryland, Baltimore will seek approval of the city’s architecture review board today for tripling the size of the project over the next decade.

And while such a nod from Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel would not trigger construction of the planned expansion, it would move the University of Maryland BioPark one step closer to beginning work on about 10 acres of land along the south side of West Baltimore Street near the university’s campus.

The $675 million expansion has been in the works for about two years, and Jane Shaab, the biopark’s senior vice president, said the project is still contingent on the final approval of university officials and perhaps the securing of a lead tenant for one or more of the seven planned research facilities.

The Baltimore Business Journal first reported University of Maryland's plans to expand the complex in June 2009. Since then, the proposal has changed slightly.

When it is complete — most likely by 2020, Shaab said — the entire University of Maryland BioPark campus will include 11 research buildings comprising about 1.8 million square feet of office, laboratory and retail space.

So far, the UMB BioPark consists of two multi-tenant research buildings and another scheduled to open later this year that will house the new Maryland Forensic Center. The three buildings cost about $175 million and include about 470,000 square feet of space.

Construction of another multi-tenant research building, which is also part of UMB’s original biopark plan, is scheduled to begin later this year and could be finished by 2011. But first, biopark leaders must sign tenants to about a third of the planned 180,000-square-foot facility before securing the financing needed to start construction, Shaab said.

“If I said we were putting every once of energy into finding tenants for that building, it would be an understatement,” she said. “That is the focus right now.”

No leases for that building have been signed yet, though.

The UMB BioPark is one of two massive medical research complexes under construction in Baltimore. The other, the Science + Technology Park at Johns Hopkins, also is planned to include more than 1 million square feet of office and lab space.

That project, located just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore, recently announced that the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, a newly formed neuroscience research outfit, will move into about 30,000 square feet of the 280,000-square-foot John G. Rangos Sr. building. The organization eventually could occupy 46,000 square feet there.

The UMB BioPark counts among its tenants several of Baltimore’s up-and-coming biotech firms. Among them are: Alba Therapeutics; Gliknik; FASgen; Biomere; and Fyodor Technologies. Almost 500 people work at the biopark, and hundreds more are expected to work there when the second phase of the project is finished.
UMB has not selected a development team for the planned expansion of its biopark, Shaab said. But Hanover-based Wexford Science and Technology, which is leading development of the initial phase, will be considered, she said.

Wexford recently won the right to convert two industrial buildings in Winston-Salem, N.C., into 242,000 square feet of lab and office space for Wake Forest University. That $87 million project is expected to be completed in 2011.