(Bloomberg)—Thor Equities, known for investing in retail and office buildings, is increasing its bet on another kind of real estate: laboratories.
Thor, led by Joseph Sitt, paid $152 million to acquire the Center of Excellence, a nearly 800,000 square-foot (74,000-square-meter) life sciences campus in Bridgewater, New Jersey, in a deal that closed Thursday. The real estate firm plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on the property, whose current tenants include Nestle Health Science and Ashland Global Holdings Inc., expanding the leasable space by 1 million square feet or more, Sitt said in an interview.
The firm is also starting a new division called Thor Sciences to develop and manage properties in the sector, where an influx of venture capital has increased real estate demand, pushing rents higher. Thor has acquired five life science properties in the past two years including the Bridgewater property, and wanted to signal its experience in managing the complex environments that biotech firms require, Sitt said.
Life sciences property has been the domain of a small group of real estate investment trusts, as well as investors with strong ties to biotech hubs like Boston and San Francisco, said Ian Anderson, senior direction of research at CBRE Group Inc. Traditional office developers have also sought to team up with specialists. Earlier this month, Tishman Speyer announced a joint venture with the family office of the biotech investor Arie Belldegrun, to invest in property for biotech firms.
“You need certain environmental systems, air ventilation systems, waste disposal, that most buildings can’t accommodate to,” said Anderson. “You have to have an expertise, or a partner, to supply space for this.”
For his part, Sitt said he’s been investing in life sciences companies for decades, giving him an early education on the space. Thor hired Bill Hunter, formerly president of Novita Equities LLC, to tap his experience in modernizing research and development facilities.
Thor’s first life sciences acquisitions were in the Boston and San Francisco areas, Sitt said, and eventually the firm may look for opportunities around the world. In the near term, the company plans to focus on meeting much-needed demand in New York and New Jersey.
The sellers of the 48-acre Bridgewater campus, which combines lab space, offices and amenities were Advance Realty and CrossHarbor Capital Partners.
“It’s hard to believe how little square footage there is,” he said. “We’ll combine expertise in life sciences with expertise in development and construction.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Clark in New York at [email protected].
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Debarati Roy at [email protected]
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