WALLINGFORD — The real estate firm that purchased Bristol-Myers Squibb’s 915,000-square-foot complex earlier this year plans to demolish the building in January and replace it with two industrial buildings if it cannot find a tenant by the end of this year.
Calare Properties CEO Bill Manley said the firm hopes to find one or multiple pharmaceutical tenants to lease the office complex, but Manley doesn’t think that’s likely given the lack of interest the building has received since it was first put on the market by Bristol-Myers several years ago.
“The operating costs on a building like this are staggering, so if we don't have a tenant, we really have to just knock it down,” said Manley, whose firm purchased Bristol-Myers’ 180-acre property, at 5 Research Parkway, for $5 million in February.
“We’re going to do everything we can to bring a pharmaceutical company to town, but if that does not happen, we're going to be moving quickly to turn this into something that is economically feasible for the area,” Manley said.
Bristol-Myers will continue to lease the building through the rest of the year, after which Manley said demolition would begin in January if the firm hasn’t secured a tenant. Calare Properties would replace the complex with two large industrial buildings totaling over 1 million square feet — a 625,000-square-foot building and a 475,000-square-foot building, according to an application submitted to the town. Town Planner Kacie Hand believes the buildings would be the largest industrial buildings in town.
The developments are being proposed as warehouse distribution centers, according to the firm’s application. In the future, the buildings could be used for other industrial purposes depending on future tenants and uses allowed within the zone, Manley said.
Manley thinks he will have an easier time finding an industrial tenant for the property because there is more of a demand for large industrial spaces. He says the Bristol-Myers building has not garnered a lot of interest from biotech and pharmaceutical tenants in several years because biotech companies have less interest in occupying large research facilities.
Following the sale of the property in February, state officials expressed optimism that Bristol-Myers’ departure could present an opportunity for other biotech companies to move in and help grow the state’s biotech industry. But Calare Properties has not received many serious inquiries about leasing the research facility.
“A few people have called us and inquired, but we’re not in any lengthy discussions with anyone,” Manley said.
Calare Properties, based in Massachusetts, is a real estate operator “focused on acquiring and managing warehouse, manufacturing, research and flex/office assets primarily in the Northeast,” its website says. The firm’s portfolio includes several other large industrial buildings in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Bristol-Myers last year tried to sell their property to an unnamed Chinese boarding school, however, that sale was thwarted when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in February 2017 to eliminate education as an accepted use in the industrial zone the property is located within.
Bristol-Myers filed a lawsuit challenging the commission’s decision, which a Hartford Superior Court judge dismissed last month, ruling the commission acted within its right.
Bristol-Myers was the town’s top taxpayer for many years and paid $2.3 million taxes in 2015. The company and town agreed to a tax appeal settlement last year that significantly reduced the amount of taxes the company pays on the property. That agreement will remain in effect through the 2019 grand list year and the property will be reassessed again in 2020.