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Pr. William Office Park Planned to Attract Biotech

By Dana Hedgpeth and Chris Kirkham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 11, 2006

A Reston-based developer plans to build a major office park in Manassas aimed at the kind of companies in the biotech, technology, biomedical and government-contracting businesses that Prince William County officials say they are trying to attract.

Waterford Development said it will start construction next year on a 640,000-square-foot office park on 50 acres at Prince William County Parkway and Godwin Drive. The first phase of the $150 million project is scheduled to be done in the first quarter of 2008.

The project is near Prince William County's major technology park, Innovation at Prince William, whose tenants are mostly biotech and government-contracting companies. Also nearby is a new Eli Lilly project, and George Mason University's campus in Manassas has several development partnerships for biodefense, drug discovery and bioterrorism research.

"Innovation at Prince William has been competing with Northern Virginia and Montgomery County for life-science companies. But because George Mason is starting to have a similar focus, companies are being drawn to that environment," said Waterford president and chief executive Jan A. Zachariasse.

"Prince William County has seen Loudoun County with Howard Hughes [Medical Institute] and seen the development of biotech in Montgomery County. And now it is taking a lead to get that in this region," he said. "Prince William had been left behind. It is now marketing this area for biomedical. It's a tremendous tug of war to bring these companies to their sites."

Christopher A. Ciliberti, president of Waterford Commercial, said he expects the project, which he is financing with help from a Dutch real estate company, to attract such tenants as biotech companies, research and development firms and government contractors. Rents will range between $25.50 and $27.50 a square foot. The company also has plans to develop some residential and retail around the office park.

Some are cautious about attempts in Prince William to compete for biotech companies.

"In Montgomery County they started 25 years ago with biotech and if you look at it today there's really not that much progress in terms of large companies," said Sigrid Zialcita, research director at Cushman & Wakefield.

The vacancy rate in Prince William rose to 12.6 percent in the third quarter, compared with 7.9 percent in the comparable quarter last year.

Coming to Rosslyn in '09

The dust is settling on the remains of the old Best Western hotel in the heart of Rosslyn, where crews will remove debris to make way for a 26-story luxury condominium building that will become part of the northern Virginia skyline by spring 2009.

The Turnberry Tower project on Fort Myer Drive is the first in the Washington market by Turnberry, an Aventura, Fla., company that has developed condominiums at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and at Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Turnberry is coming into the market at a time when condominium sales have slowed. In the Arlington high-end market, residential units sold in October are down more than 10 percent from last year, according to data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

"We go into a marketplace and we're realistic about what's going on there," said James Cohen, a vice president with Turnberry. "We don't want to bring in an ultra-luxury condominium in two months."

Despite the market, Turnberry Tower is already more than half sold. Prices range from $800,000 to $6 million. The condominiums will have a concierge, valet parking and elevators that open up into each room. Residents will get electronic keys giving them access only to their floors.

Dana Hedgpeth (hedgpethd@washpost.com) writes about commercial real estate and economic development.

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