University of Miami's life sciences park gets financing and shifts focus to filling space
By Zachary S. Fagenson
With the last piece of the financing puzzle in place for the first building in the University of Miami's Life Sciences and Technology Park, developers Wexford Miami and partners University of Miami and Jones Lang LaSalle can focus on finishing and filling the nearly 250,000-square-foot office and laboratory building.
The county commission last week voted to allow Wexford to float a $60 million, tax-exempt bond made available through President Obama's stimulus package.
The marathon to obtain the funds began late last year, when Wexford brass pitched their project to the county's Industrial Development Authority. The project, at one time, competed for the bond funds with a $160 million administrative tower developer Swerdlow Group proposed as a cost-saving tool for the struggling Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Now with the final nod from commissioners, Wexford has until year's end to sell the bond.
"These bonds are always purchased by large institutional investors who invest in short-term tax-exempt commercial paper," said S. Nelson Weeks, Wexford's executive vice president and general counsel. The bond will be "distributed and placed with institutional investors on the same day and all proceeds will be available on the same day."
Putting the bond to market, he added, should take 60 to 90 days. If it's not sold by the end of the calendar year, Wexford will lose it.
Meanwhile, work has been underway for some time on the first of the park's five buildings, whose skeleton continues rising over the Health District.
"We have the permits in hand for the [building's] shell," said Joseph Reagan, who's heading the project here for Wexford, "and we have just recently submitted permits for interior build-out for the first of the tenant package."
The first tenant is the University of Miami's Tissue Bank, which collects, processes and distributes donated human tissue. It's to occupy about 80,000 square feet.
Construction is to create 1,150 direct and indirect jobs. Once finished and occupied, the building will lead to creation of about 2,700 direct and indirect positions, according to a report by the Washington Economics Group, which Wexford hired to study the project's economic impact.
The firm also brought on Jones Lang LaSalle late last year to help market the space.
And though the building is essentially office space, prospecting and marketing that space to potential tenants is a far cry from filling the offices that line Brickell Avenue.
The "first thing we had to do was understand the subtle differences and what goes into the technology and infrastructure around this new building," said Richard Schuchts, Jones Lang LaSalle senior vice president.
And finding major tenants requires agents to search locally, nationally and internationally.
The "big users are going to be big multinational companies," Mr. Schuchts said. "A lot of what we're looking at is trying to identify companies in Europe, Canada, Latin America, clusters in Boston, Southern California and trying to identify who is synergistic with the research here.
"It's a big moving jigsaw puzzle, and depending on what pieces you put together it creates a draw for different types of companies."
The niches expected to develop out of the 1.6-million-square-foot park could also draw in a host of professional service firms that complement the research going on inside the buildings.
"You might have lawyers or accountants that are specialized in biotechnology and want to be close to where the action is," Mr. Schuchts said. "I think you're already seeing that happen for law firms and a lot of other specialties."