Land once eyed by ApiJect in RTP sold to California real estate company for nearly $100M

·4 min read

Land in Research Triangle Park once eyed as the future home of a gigafactory for the injection-device maker ApiJect was sold this week to a California real estate developer with grand plans for a new life sciences center there.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities bought 122 acres of land at the intersection of East Cornwallis Road and Northeast Creek Parkway from Karlin Asset Management for $99.8 million, according to Durham County land records.

Joel Marcus, the executive chairman and founder of Alexandria, told The News & Observer that his firm plans to develop the land at 2501 E. Cornwallis Road into an expansive campus for life science and other technology companies.

Alexandria, one of the largest lab space developers in the country, already has several life science centers in RTP as well as in other cities across the country. On its website, the company says it has nearly four million square feet of rentable space in RTP.

“We have over 800 of our own tenants, many of whom we’re pitching or they’re pitching us on a move to (RTP) for various reasons,” he said in a phone interview. “So we have a pretty big demand for both current space and a path for future growth. So we thought expanding our campus (in RTP) even beyond where it is today makes sense.”

Marcus said Alexandria could add millions more square feet of space in RTP in the coming years. He added that the Triangle has the benefit of being considered one of the best clusters for science talent in the country.

“It’s hard to grow in a new cluster,” he said. “You can’t just go to some random city, you know, Denver or Chicago or Newark or someplace like that and say, ‘We’re going to build a cluster.’ That’s really hard to do, and it is about a 25-year effort.”

ApiJect in limbo

Alexandria’s latest land purchase might not have happened had a planned facility from ApiJect not been delayed indefinitely.

In 2020, ApiJect announced it would build a 1-million-square-foot facility in Research Triangle Park and hire 650 people, but two years later not much progress has been made.

That project was dependent on a $590 million loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., known as DFC, an agency that was tasked with doling out money from the coronavirus relief bill signed into law by then President Donald Trump in 2020.

DFC was to use money from the CARES Act to help launch domestic production of resources needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, such as ApiJect’s experimental syringes, which were pitched as potentially helpful to mass distribution of COVID vaccines.

However, the loan was never completed, sending the whole venture into limbo, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

“I don’t know any details, but I think when (ApiJect) fell through or they perceived that fell through, and (Karlin) decided they weren’t going to develop there in the short term, they looked to try to monetize” the land, Marcus said. “So that’s kind of how it came together.”

When asked whether ApiJect could still potentially build on the property in the future, Marcus said the company has yet to approach Alexandria.

“They’ve never approached us. I’ve never spoken to them. I don’t think anybody from our company has spoken to them,” Marcus said. “If, you know, there’s interest, we certainly would talk to them.”

ApiJect has not responded to requests for comment.

The deal is yet another example of the premium prices that Research Triangle Park is attracting. Interest in the Park has accelerated in the past two years, as investors have become infatuated with the biotech industry and firms like Apple have chosen to expand here.

Marcus said he believes RTP is still a good bet despite the rising land prices.

“It all depends on perspective. If you’re going to just buy land and not be able to develop it and have clients come and occupy it, then it’s really dead money,” he said. “But we’ve got over 800 clients, many of whom are asking us for space and a bunch of those are in the RTP area.”

The Karlin property is the latest in a string of land purchases made by Alexandria, one of the largest landowners in RTP, in the past few months.

The developer, which has long been bullish on the Triangle and built several lab facilities here, has recently purchased the Research Triangle Foundation headquarters on Davis Drive for $25 million as well as 72 acres of land off T.W. Alexander Drive for $80 million.

Last August, Alexandria also spent $90 million on another 100 acres off Cornwallis Road, the Triangle Business Journal reported.

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 maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate

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