Trinity Capital plans billion dollar biotech campus in Morrisville, NC
Two developers who have invested heavily in the Triangle in recent years are targeting Morrisville for a massive new life sciences campus that could potentially add 1.5 million square feet of space for biotech companies.
The project – called Spark LS and backed by Miami Beach-based North Carolina developer Trinity Capital and Starwood Capital – is costing $ 1 billion and will include space for restaurants and retail in addition to more than one dozen buildings designated for laboratory space and bio-manufacturing.
This is the latest in a wave of life science-focused projects being planned for the Triangle’s burgeoning biotechnology sector, which has gained significant momentum over the past two years.
In 2021 alone, around $ 4 billion in biotech investments were announced in the Triangle, including major projects from Fujifilm Diosynth, Amgen and Jaguar Gene Therapy, according to the NC Biotechnology Center.
And already some 10 million square feet of biotech space is under development in the region, according to real estate services company Newmark.
A sign of the interest aroused by the Triangle economy, Spark is built on speculation and no tenant has signed up yet.
âI think it has a lot to do with the fact that scheduled leasing is a science of life,â said Jeff Sheehan, partner at Trinity Capital, in an interview. âWhen the pandemic hit, business slowed down for many traditional office developers, but in the life sciences area we actually saw an acceleration. ”
And demand for labs and manufacturing space at Trinity Capital’s other Triangle properties has remained strong, Sheehan said.
“We see the demand for a front row seat,” he said. “And that’s what makes us so optimistic and ready to make such a big bet on a speculative basis.”
Another reason the company is optimistic is the aggressive recruitment of biotech companies by the state.
Dozens of biotech companies have thrived in the Triangle in recent years after landing state incentive programs.
One of Trinity’s current tenants includes biotech firm GRAIL, which said in 2020 it would create 400 jobs in Durham after securing an incentive program worth over $ 6 million from Carolina North and County Durham.
âWe probably wouldn’t be so optimistic about this investment if we didn’t have great partners like Wake County, Morrisville and the state,â Sheehan said. âIt will be essential to work together to recruit this talent, because it is very competitive there. Everyone is trying to recruit these companies in every state across the country. ”
Spark will be built in multiple phases, Sheehan said, with the first phase to add three buildings over 400,000 square feet. The first phase could also include an incubator space for startups, he added.
Spark will be located at the intersection of McCrimmon Parkway and Airport Boulevard in Morrisville, between Research Triangle Park and Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Last year, the city of Morrisville changed zoning laws in this part of town to encourage denser development and attract more businesses, The News & Observer previously reported.
Sheehan said the zoning changes were a game-changer for the property.
âI think if Morrisville hadn’t made the zoning changes, this (land) probably would have been used as a warehouse instead of life sciences,â he said.
Project Spark will roughly double the amount of space Trinity and Starwood have together in the Triangle. The two are also developing Park Point in Research Triangle Park and the Southport Innovation Center in Morrisville.
In addition, Trinity Capital is working on the Venable Center, which will bring more laboratory space to downtown Durham, and has several other properties in Durham and Raleigh.
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an Independent Journalism Fellowship program. The N&O retains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate