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Thor Equities Launches Life Sciences Arm With N.J. Buy

The Center of Excellence

One of New York's most prolific retail owners and developers is launching a new division focused on a wholly different asset class, and it's starting across the Hudson River.

Thor Equities is launching Thor Sciences, kicking off the division with the $152M purchase of The Center of Excellence, a 784K SF campus in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Tenants in the building include Nestlé Health Science, Ashland and Amneal Pharmaceuticals, and Thor plans to spend tens of millions expanding the center, the company said.

“We are pleased to announce the launch of Thor Sciences as well as the acquisition of The Center of Excellence,” Thor Equities Chairman and CEO Joseph Sitt said in a release. “We have been an early advocate for the sector, having previously acquired assets in Berkeley and Boston, and are now ready to advance our global platform.”

Bill Hunter, a new senior vice president at the company, will be leading the division. Hunter was previously the president of Novita Equities, a Philadelphia-based developer of university research facilities, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Life sciences is a relatively nascent industry for New York City, although plenty of real estate players are looking for ways to capitalize on it. In New Jersey, it and industrial are two of the few commercial asset classes that have shown viability in recent years. 

There is about 1.6M SF of lab space in New York City, according to a report from CBRE released in March. But that figure is set to double over the next two years, with around 1.5M SF now under development.

"We’ve had an interest in the knowledge economies for a while, and we’ve been exploring it — we started buying smaller properties out on the West Coast," Thor Equities Chief Operating Officer Melissa Gliatta told Bisnow. "We’re highly motivated by the Center of Excellence not only because of its location and proximity to all of the labs in that area, but also as a value-add opportunity."

Last year, Alexandria Real Estate Equities reached an agreement with the city to build a 550K SF tower at its Alexandria Center for Life Sciences. The tower would be the third at the developer's campus on FDR Drive between East 28th and East 30th streets.

The company has also bought The Bindery building in Long Island City, which it plans to reposition for life sciences, and acquired Pfizer’s headquarters on East 42nd Street with David Werner for $360M. 

Taconic Investment Partners and Silverstein Properties jointly own the Hudson Research Center at 619 East 54th St., which was redeveloped with lab tenants in mind.

This year, Thor defaulted on a $37M loan on a property at 115 Mercer St. and reportedly canned plans to build an office complex at its Red Hook development site, opting instead for warehousing. Sitt's firm is currently grappling with retail's struggles after spending billions of dollars on prime Fifth Avenue property.

UPDATE, AUG. 6, NOON ETThis story has been updated with a comment from Thor Equities COO Melissa Gliatta.