Developer renovating former Kroger to attract life sciences company to Raleigh

·3 min read

A vacant Kroger in Raleigh will be transformed into a space for a life sciences company as part of a developer’s effort to draw some interest away from Research Triangle Park and help Raleigh establish a stronger foothold in that expanding industry.

East West Partners, a Chapel Hill-based developer, completed its $13 million acquisition last week of the long-vacant grocery store on East Six Forks Road.

The former grocery store, near the intersection of Wake Forest Road, shut down more than three years ago among 13 other Kroger closures across Raleigh and Durham.

Leasing is open, but East West has not secured a tenant.

“We want Raleigh to get more in the life sciences game,” said Lee Perry, senior managing partner at East West Partners, in an interview. “A lot of that activity has been RTP- and Durham-focused. There’s been limited attention in Raleigh, and we believe that’s really just because there’s been limited supply and opportunity.”

Perry said the firm explored different applications for the space — which it named Midtown BioCenter — but found a high demand for life sciences, including biotechnology and pharmaceutical research.

“We’ve been following all the activity here in that market, doing a lot of research on this kind of the product,” Perry said. “And we just really liked this opportunity here.”

Renovations of the 100,000-square-foot building will begin immediately and are expected to be completed by the end of 2022. About 80,000 square feet will be fitted for a laboratory or production floor, with the remaining space divided into office space.

“Gene therapy is obviously a big potential for users moving into this market,” Perry said. “It could be something like that, or it could be some type of biopharma, lab research kind of hybrid. I mean, really, the market is far and wide as far as those types of users and what they can end up being.”

Raleigh looking to attract life sciences

Midtown BioCenter will be the first building of its kind in the central part of Raleigh just inside the Beltline, according to CBRE Raleigh, the investment group overseeing East West’s leasing interests.

“We are seeing developers transform existing sites into lab space to keep up with the growing demand in Raleigh-Durham,” Lee Clyburn, CBRE’s executive vice president, said in a press release. “East West Partners has found a great opportunity to execute in our market, as Midtown Raleigh does not have any existing inventory for lab users, making Midtown BioCenter a first of its kind.”

In January, Kane Realty announced it would develop a $1 billion expansion to its North Hills property for tech-and-life-sciences companies. It will be called the Innovation District.

“It is undeniable what tech and life sciences have done for our region,” Josie Reeves, director of design for Kane Realty, previously told The News & Observer. “It is exciting to think about what the impact they can continue to have, if we evolve with them, keep them here, and make sure they have a multitude of offerings that speak to them.”

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