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Former animal testing lab for sale

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For decades, the gray industrial laboratory complex off of Leesburg Pike attracted animal rights activists calling for an end to the testing of drugs, cosmetics, pesticides and other chemicals on monkeys and dogs kept there.

The property’s owner is now hoping to attract a very different crowd —prospective buyers — as it starts to market the Vienna facility for sale.

Built in 1954, the 113,000-square-foot property, a mile north of the Wolf Trap performing arts center, helped Hazleton Laboratories become the nation’s largest tester of pharmaceutical products, food additives and industrial chemicals by the 1980s.

Hazleton later became Covance, now one of the nation’s largest drug development companies, based in Princeton, N.J. It has more than 10,000 employees and reported $2.1 billion in 2011 revenue.

The Vienna laboratory, for which the company bred its own rhesus monkeys and beagles as testing subjects, later became a target for roadside protests by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other activists.

Fears about laboratory animals in the county exploded after a shipment of 100 monkeys to a separate Hazleton facility in Reston contracted the Ebola virus — setting off a panic among government officials and residents chronicled in the book “The Hot Zone .

Two years ago, Covance opted to close the Vienna laboratory and shelved plans to build a new $175 million lab in Prince William County.

“In October 2010, Covance announced that we would close our facility in Vienna because of continued weak demand in the toxicology market,” Melissa Thompson, a Covance spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We have transitioned work and service lines to our other sites to leverage existing capacity and infrastructure, and plans are to sell the property.”

In May, Fairfax County issued Covance demolition permits for the buildings — a sign that the company was preparing the site for other uses. When the laboratory’s closure was announced, the site was discussed as a possible senior living facility, according to Fairfax County Board Supervisor John W. Foust.

Since then, Foust said, “the silence has been deafening” in terms of what might happen to the site.

“We try real hard to keep commercial from coming on that side of Route 7 in that area, so I think it’s likely to be a residential use,” Foust said about the site. Offices or retail would be a concern to residents already bombarded by traffic, he said.

“But there might be things that someone could propose that could increase the density but provide public amenities that may be found to be acceptable,” he added.

The Reston property, site of the Ebola outbreak, became condominiums and a child care facility.

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