Pasadena's aspiration to become a biotech hub just got a little closer to reality, with a $125 million biotech incubator/office project being approved for a site next to a future Blue Line station on the city's east side.
The Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority Board has selected the partnership of SMV Technology Partners and Kearny Real Estate Co. to purchase and develop a site near what will be the eastern terminus of the light-rail line. The partners still need entitlements from the city.
The project, to be called the Pasadena Science and Technology Campus, could encompass as much as 500,000 square feet, including an existing historical laboratory-office building.
SMV includes developers Jeffrey B. Allen, David Worrell and Stuart Farber. Kearny is affiliated with the real estate investment funds managed by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. The SMV-Kearny partnership went head to head with Lowe Enterprises, which had proposed a traditional office development.
"Pasadena's been trying to nurture the biotech industry," said City Councilman Paul Little, a member of the Blue Line board. "In our long-term economic development picture, SMV's complex with technology and biotech is compatible with what the city's been trying to do."
Little said there's already a "healthy group of tech companies in east Pasadena," including EarthLink Network Inc., as well as smaller firms and the famed California Institute of Technology. "There's a huge demand, especially for lab space," he said.
O'Malley Miller, an attorney at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who represented the developers, said: "It gives an opportunity for professors to have incubator space for biotech startups not far from campus."
The site sits at the southeast corner of Sierra Madre Villa (from which SMV derived its name) and Foothill Boulevard, right next to the Foothill (210) Freeway. It's on the other side of town from the Raymond Avenue corridor, where the city and Huntington Medical Research Institutes have been trying to foster a biotech corridor.
SMV-Kearny plans to restore the Stewart Pharmaceuticals building on the site, built in 1951 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the landscaping. Some old warehouses on the property will come down.
The partnership has also agreed to build a 2,500-space parking structure as a public-private project, with 1,000 spaces reserved for Blue Line riders and the rest reserved for tenants of the SMV-Kearny project.
Kearny is no stranger to the neighborhood. Directly across the street from its biotech hub site, Kearny is developing the eight-acre Pasadena Corporate Park. That $30 million project involves the renovation of two pre-existing buildings, one of which was recently leased by IndyMac Bancorp Inc., and construction of a new 100,000-square-foot building.
David Simon, a senior vice president at Kearny, said he had to turn away some tech users from Pasadena Corporate Park because of the huge IndyMac lease.
The SMV-Kearny project, which is being designed by Perkins & Will, should be able to capture some of that demand.
"There are a lot of Jet Propulsion Lab-related uses software, engineering, computers, biotech users and Idealab kind of guys prevalent in the market. We've seen a lot migrating our way," Simon said.
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