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Developers Look To Delaware For Life Sciences And Office Space Growth And Investment

An aerial rendering of the renovated CRISP campus in Delaware.

Delaware is known for its business-friendly climate, which is why 68% of Fortune 500 companies and 93% of all U.S.-based initial public offerings are incorporated in the state. In recent years, more businesses have been choosing to go beyond incorporating and are setting up shop in Delaware — and office and life sciences developers are among those taking notice. 

“I have never been more optimistic about the Delaware market than I am right now,” said Chris Buccini, co-president of The Buccini/Pollin Group, a real estate investment, management and development group with an office in Wilmington. “Class-A office space is doing incredibly well, there have been a lot of renovations and redevelopment and there is a massive life sciences boom.” 

For its part, Buccini/Pollin has been working hard to contribute to this renaissance of Delaware office and mixed-use developments. Buccini pointed to a Class-B office park, Concord Plaza, that his firm has transformed into 270 Class-A apartments over ground-floor retail, along with several other Class-B buildings that the company has turned into Class-A office space in the last few years. 

Currently, the firm is working on the Riverfront East project in Wilmington — 86 acres of mixed-use opportunity that will feature 1.9M SF of office space, 4.7M SF of residential space and 13.3 acres of open space. Phase 1 alone of this massive project is expected to generate approximately 179 new jobs.

Buccini said his company is located in 24 states, but when it comes to this type of work, there is nothing quite like doing business in Delaware. 

“You’ve got an incredible governor, incredible county executives, incredible mayor and great representatives in D.C.,” he said. “Everyone is very pro-business and just gets it. If you're an out-of-town CEO and you come in you're going to have the full resources of the state at your beck and call here. You just don’t find that in other states.”

A rendering of the Prelude Pharmaceuticals building at CRISP.

Transforming Space For The Life Sciences Boom

When Buccini mentioned that Delaware is experiencing a life sciences boom, he wasn’t exaggerating: The number of life sciences firms in the state has risen by 80% in the past 10 years. 

Pennsylvania-based developer ​​MRA Group noticed this influx of life sciences companies heading to Delaware and decided to capitalize on the momentum by acquiring DuPont’s Chestnut Run Lab Campus at 984 Centre Road in Wilmington. The company has launched a massive renovation of the space that will cost approximately $1B and MRA Group is in discussion with several life sciences and scientific companies interested in relocating to the campus. DuPont has already leased back approximately 190K SF of the campus, and  Prelude Therapeutics has signed a long-term lease for more than 80K SF of lab and office space.

“What we've seen is a pent-up demand of regional companies looking for additional lab and advanced production space, particularly Class-A lab and cGMP space," MRA Group Executive Vice President and partner Mike Wojewodka said. “This is the perfect place for this type of campus — there's a great pool of experienced chemists, microbiologists and data scientists, especially in northern Delaware, as well as several great educational institutions providing some of the region's best scientists.”

The campus has been renamed the ​​Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park, or CRISP. Wojewodka said the renovation will include implementing modern, energy-efficient HVAC systems with top-quality lab equipment. The campus will be “highly amenitized,” with a fitness center, food suppliers, a walking trail, an outdoor amphitheater, daycare and a hotel.

For MRA Group, Wojewodka said, working in Delaware has been a very welcoming experience. 

“State officials at all levels have all expressed great interest in our project,” he said. “And the community overall has been supportive of what our vision is, which is fantastic.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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