Source: News Observer
Author: John Murawski

GlaxoSmithKline, once the largest real estate owner in Research Triangle Park, has sold what’s left of its once-sprawling RTP campus and will lease back a small portion of the property where 3,000 employees and contractors work. 

The deal, involving 20 buildings, was announced late Friday by Los Angeles-based Parmer Innovation Centers, which purchased the property, and by CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real-estate advisory that represented GSK in the real estate sale. The sale price was not disclosed. 

“It’s one of the largest deals in the Triangle, without a doubt,” said Brian Carr, a senior vice-president at CBRE’s Raleigh office. “It’s certainly one of the largest transactions in the last couple of years.”

Under the deal, GSK, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, will occupy four buildings on 700,000 square feet of property in a long-term lease, with renewal options. Parmer will take over 1.1 million square feet of vacant labs, plants and other abandoned facilities.

Parmer announced that it plans an $80-million renovation to modernize the site with permanent food trucks, outdoor meeting spaces, upgraded walking trails and a bike share program to create what the company dubs “the most amenitized and unique business campus in the southeastern U.S.” 

Parmer specializes in operating mega-sized corporate parks housing multiple tenants, with sites in Austin, Texas, and in the United Kingdom. The GSK deal opens a significant tract of real estate in the region for lease. 

“It’s a lot of space,” Carr said. “That’s the largest block of space in the market.”

Glaxo and Parmer declined comment, but provided brief statements. 

“This transaction reflects a global trend at GSK toward leasing office space and shifting to modern, collaborative workspaces,” the GSK statement said. “Continuing our 30-year history, GSK remains committed to our North Carolina employees and community. The sale of the campus will have no impact on employee jobs.”

Parmer said that the RTP site will be modeled on its Austin site, which spans more some 240 acres. 

GSK, which has been rocked by periodic layoffs, had announced one year ago that it planned to sell its properties, at the time assuring employees that the sale would not foreshadow the winding down of the company’s RTP operations. GSK’s real-estate sale announcement came a year after the company had consolidated its research-and-development functions in Philadelphia, eliminating more than 1,000 positions in RTP. 

The company’s presence in RTP goes back to 1970, when predecessor company Burroughs Wellcome established a headquarters here. Another predecessor, Glaxo, moved its headquarters to RTP in 1982. The companies later merged. 

GSK employed more than 5,000 in the Triangle and remains one of the region’s largest employers. In addition to the 3,000 workers in RTP, the company employs 800 at its drug manufacturing plant in Zebulon.