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UTC campus locks in Genomatica, Malarkey

Brian Malarkey, known for offering rich food and drinks at his upscale restaurants around the county, is expanding into the fast casual segment by planting another healthy café at one of Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc.’s life sciences campuses.

Some of the researchers Malarkey will feed work at Genomatica Inc., which just announced a plan to move its headquarters to the four-building campus under way in University Towne Center.

The outdated early 1990s-era site is being redeveloped by life sciences landlord Alexandria Real Estate (NYSE: ARE).

The biotech company inked a 10-year lease to occupy a 68,000-square-foot building rising at the Esplanade-named complex.

Genomatica's current office in Sorrento Mesa is less than half that size, at 29,000 square feet, said Daniel Ryan, executive vice president and regional market director at Alexandria.

The industrial biotech makes sustainable chemicals from renewable feedstocks, rather than oil and gas. It will also use its new location for research and development.

Current occupants in the first two finished buildings at the campus off of Nexus Center Drive include Senomyx Inc. (Nasdaq: SNMX) and Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: OPTR).

Genomatica will occupy the third building when it delivers in September 2013. The fourth building has been planned.

Cushman & Wakefield represented the tenant in the deal and Alexandria represented itself.

Alexandria is currently redeveloping the site into a nontraditional life sciences campus, with outdoor meeting areas and stylish and sustainable touches. It did the same for the 220,000-square-foot Nautilus campus in Torrey Pines, which counts Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) and Sequenom Inc. (Nasdaq: SQNM) as tenants.

Alexandria renovated the underutilized buildings on the site this year, adding a high-end gym, a spacious patch of faux grass with cushioned benches and a barbecue.

Malarkey, the brains behind downtown's hip Searsucker, Del Mar's Burlap and others, was asked to create the proprietary restaurant brand called Green Acre café for the Nautilus campus, which offers menu items plucked from its on-site organic garden.

Esplanade will also feature the Green Acre brand, though it's unclear whether it will also grow a variety of seasonal fare at the location.

“I don’t know if we will go quite as big as Nautilus, but we will incorporate organic fare,” said Ryan.

Green Acre café, operated by Campine Catering, offers organic breakfast, lunch and to-go options that caters to a health-conscious crowd that cures and studies diseases for a living. Instead of heavy pastas, for example, there's spaghetti squash meatballs. In lieu of creamy milkshakes, pressed juices are on tap.

“It’s an eatery. It’s something new and exciting,” said Malarkey, at an open house for Nautilus last month. "I love to put puzzles together."

He cited his participation in Bravo’s "Top Chef" TV series, which dishes out tight deadlines and budgets to competing chefs.

He just filmed another cooking show with French chef Ludo Lefebvre and candid culinary expert Anthony Bourdain called "The Taste," which premieres on ABC in early 2013.

Malarkey clearly puts a lot on his plate, as evidenced by the now-expanding relationship with Alexandria.

Aside from the celebrity chef-backed restaurant, the Esplanade will live up to its name by featuring a pedestrian esplanade modeled after the mile-long High Line in New York, said Ryan.

The abandoned rail line-turned-park running along Manhattan's lower west side features naturalized plantings, views of the city and the Hudson River and pebble-on-concrete walkways.

“The notion of a walkable pedestrian plaza,” Ryan said.

The firm is working out entitlement issues to get the café up and running in September 2014. The landscaped walkway would also open at that time, he said.

Ryan declined to disclose the total cost of the Esplanade project for now, pointing to future company filings.

Locally, Alexandria has leased approximately 340,000 square feet in the past year to such tenants as California Institute for Biomedical Research, Illumina Inc. (Nasdaq: ILMN) and Shire plc.

Factoring in the Genomatica lease, Alexandria's 2.8 million-square-foot San Diego asset base of life science campuses and facilities is now 95.2-percent leased.

Genomatica, which could cut down on the world’s fossil fuels used for chemical production, is the 2012 winner of the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award in the materials category.

The industrial biotech is currently headquartered a few miles north at 10520 Wateridge Circle, which is part of a three-building site called Wateridge Summit.

The landlord losing Genomatica to Alexandria is an entity of BioMed Realty Trust (NYSE: BMR), which bought the Wateridge campus about a year ago for $45.6 million.

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