In the city's pursuit of high-paying, high-tech jobs, the Applied Research Center was designed to nurture start-up firms before they venture out on their own.
The ARC, as it's called, is nearly fully leased by companies, colleges and other users. City economic development leaders are considering putting up a smaller, neighboring building to give companies more space for light-manufacturing, lab work or research and development.
"It's exactly what this building was built for, so you'd have this domino effect in the future," said City Manager Ed Maroney, referring to the ARC.
The city's Industrial Development Authority plans to hire an architectural and engineering team to work on a site plan and determine what the building would look like. The best fit, said authority member Robert Yancey, probably would be a two-story building with roughly a third the space of the 121,000-square-foot ARC. That size would fill out the neighboring land without eating up all the green space, he said.
The shiny, $18.4 million ARC, which opened in May 1998, is the cornerstone of the 200-acre business park known as the Jefferson Center for Research and Technology. The city put it up along Jefferson Avenue to take advantage of the nearby Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility; the building even has an architectural feature that symbolizes a "hand" extended to the research laboratory.
If the proposed companion building is a hit, other high-tech firms might put up their own in the park. "This could become a prototype, if it's a handsome building," said Paul Miller, the city's director of planning and development.
Yancey sees the proposed building as an intermediate step for companies, keeping them close to Jefferson Lab researchers as they grow and preventing them from having to look outside the business park for more space.
The ARC's layout, with communal kitchens and wide hallways, encourages tenants to run into one another and share ideas. The new building would try to maintain that collegiality, Yancey said.
Miller said one company interested in more space is Dilon Technologies, a start-up that's developing a breast cancer detection system. The Southeastern Universities Research Association, which runs the Jefferson Lab, also is looking at taking more space, along with two manufacturers Miller declined to identify. Altogether, they could fill three-quarters of the new space, considered a strong start for a new building in real estate circles.
ARC tenants currently pay between $16.50 and $21 per square foot, depending on the type of tenant and the type of space they use, Miller said. On the Peninsula, comparable top-of-the-line office space, known as Class A, tends to top out at $17.50 per square foot.
The new building would offer what's known in the real estate industry as "flex-space," a mixture of industrial and office space. That would give the users more room to spread out than they currently have in the ARC.
City officials will try to keep the rates under $10 per square foot, so firms can use more space at an affordable rate. Rents in the new building would cover its operating costs and debt service.
Miller said he's discussed the project with Fred Dylla of Jefferson Lab a number of times, and they're pleased to see the ARC's spinoff effect taking shape. "We're not forcing the demand, we're responding to it," Miller said.
Submitted: Saturday, August 7, 1999 - 12:00am