WALLINGFORD — A Massachusetts-based real estate firm has purchased the Bristol-Myers Squibb property for $5 million.
In a statement Wednesday announcing the acquisition, Calare Properties said that it sees “exciting leasing potential for both office and pharmaceutical/biotech tenants as well as new development opportunities for a variety of uses including industrial.”
“5 Research Parkway provides an unparalleled opportunity for companies in the pharmaceutical, biotech, manufacturing, healthcare and service industries seeking a facility in the southern Connecticut region,” company CEO Bill Manley said in the statement. “The extensive acreage and unique physical layout of the campus can accommodate a multitude of uses in addition to potential re-development to meet the needs of future tenants.”
The town clerk’s office said the property was sold for $5 million. The property had been listed on real estate websites with a sale price of $50 million. Tax assessor Shelby Jackson said the sale will not impact a tax appeal settlement that the town and company recently finalized.
Bristol-Myers filed the appeal in 2016 to challenge the town’s assessment. The settlement, approved by the town in December, set the value of the property at $46 million for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 grand lists. Jackson said the town will continue to collect taxes from the property based on the agreed upon values.
“We have a stipulated settlement that (establishes) the value through the 2019 grand list, so the next time this property will be reassessed will be 2020,” Jackson said. By that time, Jackson said, the real estate firm will hopefully have the property leased out.
Jackson said the $5 million sale price doesn’t reflect the value of the property.
“Does that mean the value is $5 million? Not necessarily,” Jackson said. “That means that Bristol-Myers has decided they have no more use for the property and they move on and divest themselves from that property. These companies in the (pharmaceutical industry)...they’re not in the business of owning real estate. Real estate is only a tool for them. This real estate has come to the end of its useful life for them, and now it’s time for a developer to come and reposition that property.”
Bristol-Myers first announced in 2015 that it planned to leave Wallingford, and its 915,000-square foot research and development facility, by the end of 2018. Spokeswoman Lisa McCormick Lavery said the company will “continue operations at the site until December 2018 through a lease-back agreement.”
“We believe the sale of this property to Calare Properties will benefit the local community and continue the productive use of this property,” she said.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said he considers the sale good news. “Clearly we’re sorry to see Bristol-Myers leave, but we’re glad to see that the property is attractive,” he said.
Dickinson said he spoke with representatives from Calare Properties once previously, but “they were just saying they were intestered” and did not speak about their plans for the property.
Calare Properties describes itself as a real estate manager that specializes in acquiring warehouses, manufacturing, and research facilities, as well as “flex/office commercial real estate.”
In the statement, Calare marketed the property’s proximity to several universities and Interstate 91, as well as Connecticut’s efforts to bolster its bioscience and pharmaceutical industries. It also noted the 180-acre property has several amenities, including equipment for research, recreational facilities for employees, and 1,405 parking spaces.
Joe Mirra, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, said the company is considering renting the facility out to one or multiple tenants, which he believes is “how a property like that has to be marketed.”
Bristol-Myers had previously tried to sell the property to a boarding school, however, the company said that sale was prohibited by a zoning change made by the Planning and Zoning Commission last February. The commission voted to eliminate religion, education and philanthropy as accepted land uses in the I-5 and IX industrial zones, where Bristol-Myers’ property is located. The elimination of “education” as an accepted use barred Bristol-Myers from finalizing a sale with the boarding school, which the company declined to name.
In March, Bristol-Myers Squibb filed a lawsuit against the Planning and Zoning Commission, claiming the commission “acted outside its authority” by approving the change.
At the time the change was approved, town officials said they feared that, if the property was sold to a boarding school, the school would be exempt from paying taxes.
In its appeal, Bristol-Myers claimed that Wallingford specifically "sought the text amendment in order to prevent that sale.”
McCormick Lavery said the “appeal will be assigned to the new owner so that they may pursue” a resolution.