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New Focus on Offices in Frederick

"A lot of the companies we approached are companies that are located in Montgomery County but have a large percentage of their employees who live in Frederick County," said T. Wesley Poss, a partner at Millennium Development Group in Frederick.

Millennium is developing 275 acres of an office park in Frederick that is to include 300 apartments. The firm plans to add retail space and walking paths between the office buildings, which will be geared to tenants ranging from medical and professional service companies to biotech firms.

Construction crews work at the site of a new office park in Frederick County. The county is particularly interested in attracting more biotech companies. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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Other projects are also in the works. Next to Natelli's development in Urbana is another large office project called Knowledge Farms, which developers are trying to pitch as a 35-acre campus for biotech and other technology-related companies.

The Knowledge Farms developer -- Tyler-Donegan Real Estate Services of Frederick -- plans to begin construction in the next few weeks of a 40,000-square-foot building for its headquarters offices. The firm has signed up an insurance company and an architect as tenants, and it is in talks with a biotech company, executives said. In the next three years it plans to build an additional 360,000 square feet of offices there, said Brian Duncan, a partner at Tyler-Donegan.

Developers and planning officials have expressed particular interest in bringing more biotech companies to Frederick County, which is home to the Army's Fort Detrick, one of the nation's top biodefense research centers. They say the county could be a better location for biotech firms than Montgomery, already a research hub that is home to the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies, because land in Frederick is cheaper and taxes are lower.

To catch the attention of the biotech sector, the county is offering incentives, including loans, grants and bonds that can be repaid from the property taxes of a project. Using such incentives, the county encouraged MedImmune Inc., the maker of the nasal flu vaccine FluMist, to build a manufacturing facility in Frederick. MedImmune has its corporate headquarters in Gaithersburg. Earlier this month, BioPort Corp. of Lansing, Mich., received $13 million in state and local economic incentives to expand a facility in Frederick to produce anthrax vaccine doses.

Some biotech companies say they want Frederick to offer more financial incentives to get biotech operations to locate and expand there.

"It's a little under horse-powered," said Peter L. Nara, president of Biological Mimetics Inc., a biotech company that he started in 1997. Its six-person office is in a research office park near Fort Detrick and develops vaccines for such things as the common cold, hepatitis C and HIV.

"There are efforts made by the county and the state of Maryland, but Montgomery County is way ahead of the curve," Nara said. "Frederick is doing a little bit of catch-up."


Wells Real Estate Investment Trust Inc. paid $82 million for 3100 Clarendon Boulevard, a 238,000- square-foot office building in Arlington. The building was sold by Jamestown, a real estate company, that is based in Atlanta.

Dana Hedgpeth writes about economic development and commercial real estate.

Her e-mail address is hedgpethd@washpost.com.

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