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Friday, May 7, 2010

Commercial Real Estate: BioMed Realty buys Venter's campus

Genetics research institute to lease buildings in Rockville

by Sonny Goldreich

BioMed Realty Trust has bought the J. Craig Venter Institute's five-building office campus in Rockville for $53 million, which the nonprofit said will provide capital to allow it to continue its genetic research.

Venter's headquarters will remain at the site indefinitely under a 10-year renewable sale-leaseback agreement.

"We are pleased to be working with BioMed as a real estate partner as it will enable us to remain financially sound for the foreseeable future, and ensure that we can continue our groundbreaking genomic science," said J. Craig Venter, the institute's founder and president, in a statement.

The deal marks the second time in recent years that BioMed provided an infusion of much-needed cash to one of the pillars of Maryland's high-profile genetic research sector in the I-270 corridor. The San Diego real estate company also struck a $425 million sale-leaseback deal in 2006 that included acquisition of the headquarters and a separate factory deal for Human Genome Sciences, also in Rockville.

BioMed's Venter acquisition includes 218,000 square feet at 9704-9714 Medical Center Drive. The office complex is fully leased to Venter, a world leader in genomic research.

"Acquiring and operating this state-of-the-art life science campus in one of our core markets, with the campus anchored by a world-renowned research institution, is an excellent illustration of our execution on BioMed's growth strategy," said Alan D. Gold, BioMed's chairman and CEO. "We look forward to supporting the Venter Institute's goals of advancing the science of genomics for many years to come."

The deal means that Venter will keep more than 300 scientists and staff in Rockville. The institute also employs almost 100 in San Diego.

The Venter deal expands BioMed's Maryland portfolio to six properties, totaling 1.4 million square feet in 15 buildings that are fully leased.

Among other top tenants are MedImmune and GenVec, which occupy a pair of laboratory buildings in Gaithersburg that BioMed acquired in March for $14.4 million.

Ground broken on $43M Columbia project

Howard County officials presided over the start of construction of a $43 million mixed-income housing complex in Columbia, which will replace an aging apartment project.

The development, a partnership between the county and Shelter Development of Baltimore, will replace Guilford Gardens, a 30-year-old complex where demolition began Wednesday. The new Monarch Mills will include 116 affordable housing units and 153 units that will be rented at market rate. The first new units in the development are expected to open in the first quarter of 2011 and the final units are to be completed within two years.

"We are delighted to serve as development partner for Howard County Housing on this important revitalization initiative," said Shelter partner Marilynn K. Duker in a statement. "We believe that the mixed income, multi-generational approach to redevelopment honors the legacy of the founders of Columbia, benefits the existing residents at the community and strengthens the neighborhood as a whole."

Rockville building sells for $6.1 million

A Rockville building housing Food and Drug Administration offices sold for $6.1 million, according to state property information.

The 84,431-square-foot industrial building at 12100 Parklawn Drive was purchased by Dorsey Management Co. Parklawn LLC, of Washington, D.C., according to Transwestern, which brokered the sale.

"This was an ideal value-add opportunity and was met with tremendous market interest," said Transwestern senior director Bob Filley, who is a member of the firm's institutional commercial group in Washington.

He said the FDA support facility provides stable near-term cash flow, coupled with a high likelihood of renewal, given the velocity of the agency's FDA office leasing in the neighborhood.

Texas developer tackles 80-acre project near Andrews

The Joint Base Andrews corridor is gearing up for an 80-acre project near Forestville and Allentown roads, across from the base, said M.H. Jim Estepp, CEO of the Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business & Community Alliance.

Jackson Shaw, the Texas developer responsible for The Brickyard in Beltsville, will be handling the project, known as the Andrews Federal Campus. Shaw's regional office is in Lanham.

About 20 acres of campus will be devoted to a federal security tenant, Estepp said.

"We're very excited about this; this is the kind of office development we're interested in," he said, adding that he hopes this leads to improvements in the nearby area infrastructure, particularly the interchanges coming off the Capital Beltway.

Estepp said he also believes Shaw will have a significant presence throughout the corridor.

Guitar Center store bought for $5.25 million

A local partnership group acquired Guitar Center's 50,000-square -foot retail property in Rockville for $5.25 million, according to WillCo Cos. of Potomac, which is one of the buyers.

The 2.4-acre site was the longtime home to Veneman Music before that company was acquired by national music supply retailer Guitar Center in 2000. Koob Veneman sold the property to WillCo and two other real estate investors, Fanaroff & Steppa and Don Hinton.

"With the acquisition of 12401 Twinbrook Parkway, the partners have jointly accumulated approximately seven acres of contiguous properties two blocks south of Rockville's Twinbrook Metro Station," said WillCo's Brian K. Mistysyn, in a statement.

Mistysyn noted that the Twinbrook Metro station is the focus of substantial development, with numerous sites ripe for redevelopment and adaptive reuse over the next decade, including JBG's 2.2 million-square-foot Twinbrook Station mixed-use project.

Ace Logistics expands in Middle River

Warehousing company Ace Logistics Cushman is moving to a bigger site down the block in Middle River, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which represented the company.

Ace signed a lease for 141,400 square feet at 670 Chesapeake Park Plaza. The company's transit business currently is at 103 Chesapeake Park Plaza. The office complex is in Baltimore County northeast of Baltimore city on a former Lockheed Martin industrial site.

Fitzgerald Auto Mall facility gets LEED gold certification

John J. "Jack" Fitzgerald Jr., founder of Fitzgerald Auto Malls, celebrated Earth Day last month with a ceremony to mark the gold certification of his Germantown dealership under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Constructed in 2009, the building features solar and wind power sources.

All of the electricity at Fitzgerald's facilities in Maryland is purchased from renewable energy sources, mostly wind power, according to company information. In 2009, Fitzgerald dealerships recycled 65 percent to 88 percent of the solid waste generated at each facility.

Rock Creek Property Group closes opportunity fund

Principals of Rock Creek Property Group, which has an office in Bethesda, said they have raised their first investment fund to acquire and provide investment capital primarily for retail, office, multifamily and industrial properties in the region. The $21 million fund will target Class B and Class C properties.

"We've developed a profitable niche over the past 10 years that does not compete with institutional investors," Gary Schlager, one of the fund's six principals, said in a statement.

"Instead, our fund will target acquisitions or joint ventures in the $5 million to $20 million range," he said. "Our position allows us to capitalize on profitable opportunities that are out-of-reach for smaller investors but not big enough for larger institutional investors to consider."

Commercial real estate news items may be mailed to: Steve Monroe, The Business Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877; e-mailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or faxed to 301-670-7183.