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First phase of Biogen-Idec campus nears completion

Construction of Phase I of Biogen Idec's (Nasdaq: BIIB) West Coast Center for Excellence is moving quickly -- in part, officials say, due to a streamlined development process that helped the project earn an industry award for Project of the Year in 2003.

Phase I -- expected to cost an estimated $95 million -- will see construction of five separate, interconnected buildings. Cumulatively, the offices, lab space and a commons facility will include nearly 350,000 square feet for use by 1,000 employees.

The first phase is scheduled for completion this month, according to Cisterra Partners, the San Diego-based development firm that is Idec's entitlement, planning and development partner.

Phase I of Biogen Idec's Nobel Research Park, which totals about 350,000 square feet of of office, lab space and a common area, is projected to be completed later this year.

The second and third phases will host another 1,400 employees in five additional buildings. The entire campus -- to be built during the next decade -- will feature 11 buildings, according to the company.

Having unprecedented access to the company's key decision makers, who were "able to make decisions virtually in real time," and the company's focus on employee satisfaction helped make developing the project unique, said Tony Badeaux, Cisterra's executive director of commercial development. Earlier this year, architect Bill Valentine of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. said Idec executives had the ideas behind the project.

"We were the pencil," Valentine said.

Members of Biogen Idec's senior management served on the project's steering committee, which was charged with ensuring that the designs fit the needs of company employees. Having such active client input helped the project move progress quickly and led to unique changes to the project, Badeaux said. "The building designs -- particularly the lab buildings -- are unlike any in San Diego," he said.

Phase I of the project includes the construction of approximately 350,000 square feet of office space, laboratory facilities and a commons building.

The office will encompass 181,000 square feet in one three-story and four-story building. The building is designed to serve as the Idec corporate headquarters and service administrative functions.

The laboratory facilities will include 125,000 square feet and will include research labs and support areas. The commons will encompass 42,000 square feet and include a warehouse, an employee food service facility and a fitness center.

A pedestrian bridge connects the north administration to the south commons and lab buildings. The bridge crosses over an arroyo that runs through the middle of the complex. The commons and lab connects with common stair enclosure, and the administration building is located on the other side of the creek.

The buildings were designed with a high emphasis on natural light in the working space that includes different designs and water features, Badeaux said. Plans incorporate smaller floorplates to provide more natural light to interior workspace and to grant employees a greater view of the outdoors, according to Badeaux.

"The company endorsed that from day one," Badeaux said. "They wanted to create an environment that would be an attractive place to work -- for productivity and to give themselves a recruiting advantage. They place a lot of emphasis on the quality of life."

For these efforts, the overall project was awarded the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Project of the Year award for 2003.

The new campus will allow the company to consolidate its work force and will serve as the launching pad for new drugs for Idec's product pipeline, which already includes Zevalin and Rituxan, two federally approved, complementary treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Annual revenues of Rituxan recently surpassed the billion-dollar mark.

Biogen Idec purchased the land in September 2001 and broke ground in October 2002. Employees will transition into Phase I's facility in September, with the move-in completed by December of this year. According to figures from San Diego's community and economic development department, the new Idec campus could bring the city more than $16 million in general fund tax revenue, 2,000 new jobs and "significant" new revenue from the sale of reclaimed water, a staple of biotech manufacturing.

The city of San Diego offered Idec economic incentives -- to the tune of $614,000 -- in fee reductions, tax rebates and reimbursement of Housing Impact Fees to bring the research and corporate campus to this site. The campus sits where Interstate 805 meets Nobel Drive. On all sides are views that have become characteristically University Towne Centre: high-density housing to one side, tall corporate buildings and hotels on another, and the roaring, racing freeway to another.

This is the second of two major construction projects for Idec. About 35 miles to the north of the UTC site, the company is building a 470,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 60 acres in Oceanside. The Oceanside facility's developer is Stirling Enterprises and the contractor is DPR Construction Inc.

The company is trying to create a corporate culture of collaboration, an effort that has been difficult to achieve with its current setup, said Idec's spokesman Vince Reardon, in an earlier published report.

Staff writers Jennifer McEntee, Kevin Christensen and Jeff Stinchcomb contributed to this report.

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