A proposal to build a biotech park in Pasadena to support that city's nascent industry is in jeopardy.
SMV Technology Partners LLC has been negotiating since last summer with the public authority constructing the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line to build the park on nine acres of land across from the rail line's last stop on the Foothill (210) Freeway at Sierra Madre Villa Ave.
The joint-use project just north of the freeway was to include a 2,700-car parking garage for both commuters and the park's employees. It would also serve as a bus depot for three separate bus lines.
But the negotiations proved so lengthy and difficult that SMV lost its exclusive negotiating rights three months ago. That prompted the Blue Line authority to begin parallel negotiations a month ago with a second developer, Lowe Enterprises, Inc., whose initial plans call for a traditional office complex, though biotech has not been ruled out.
"That is not something we give significant consideration to, but it certainly seems like there may be some opportunity there given the existence of biotech in that area," said Mike Lowe, vice president of Lowe.
A park specifically built for biotech companies would include so-called "wet lab" space to support scientific research and high-tech manufacturing. Such facilities, for example, require higher than normal floor-to-ceiling height for larger and more sophisticated ventilation systems.
Difficulty in completing the joint-use garage has prompted the authority to abandon the concept. Instead it will build the garage as a separate project so it will be ready when the rail station opens in July 2003. That means whoever develops the remainder of the site, about six acres, will have to build a second garage, significantly downsizing the project.
The nine-acre site is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority but controlled by the Blue Line authority under the state legislation that created the construction agency.
Jeff Allen, one of three SMV partners, said he was unaware the Blue Line had started talks with another developer. He said his group is continuing its own negotiations with the authority, and seeks financing for its project.
With the loss of the joint-use garage, SMV's proposal has lost an entire building, reducing the usable space from about the 500,000 square feet he initially proposed to 350,000 square feet.
Word that the proposed biotech park is losing steam has not pleased Pasadena officials, who have encouraged the development as a way of growing the city's biotech industry. Among the companies already located in the city are Clinical Microsensors, Nanostream Inc., Calhoun Vision Inc. and Cyrano Sciences Inc.
"It would be a disaster if (the rail line development) went into a different direction to a traditional office park," said Steve Haderlein, the Pasadena councilman who represents the district. "This biotech industry is not some little boutique retail store kind of economy."
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