What Will Happen to ZymoGenetics’ Landmark Headquarters when Bristol Calls the Shots?

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$70 million, when ZymoGenetics built a modern facility across Eastlake Avenue for small-scale biotech drug manufacturing and process development. That building is called the Earl Davie Building after one of Zymo’s founders.

Some of the space in the original Steam Plant has been vacated after ZymoGenetics experienced two rounds of layoffs in April and December of 2009, which brought its staff down from 500 to its current headcount of 320.

Having a tenant like Bristol-Myers is a clear benefit to Alexandria as the landlord, because a profitable Big Pharma company like that shouldn’t have any trouble paying the rent, Mooney says. Still, it remains to be seen how the facility might be put to productive use if Bristol decides to vacate part or all of the Steam Plant. The building, Mooney says, was designed for a single tenant like Zymo, not a smattering of biotech startups. And there’s no obvious breakout biotech success story of the moment that’s currently prowling the local market for space—Dendreon has already found room to grow in a new Martin Selig building along Elliott Bay.

Bill Neil, the senior vice president of GVA Kidder Mathews and another veteran of Seattle life sciences real estate, says he can foresee someone stepping in to fill the void that Zymo may leave.

“Both the Steam Plant and the Earl Davie Building have building infrastructure and improvements that other life science office/lab users, both for-profit and non-profit, can utilize, so I would be very surprised if either of these two office/lab building would be re-positioned for an alternate use, especially since they are owned by Alexandria,” Neil says. “The Steam Plant, especially, is a shining star of Seattle’s life science critical mass and I’m sure that it will continue to operate as a corporate headquarters/R&D facility.”

We may not have to wait very long for the answer on what will happen to ZymoGenetics’ people and buildings. Bristol-Myers has set a deadline of Oct. 7 for shareholders to hand over their shares at $9.75, so it’s possible this deal could close sooner rather than later.

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