Regional Report Triangle December 2010
Money sets a new direction for growth of Carolina NorthPlans call for Carolina North to cover an area about a third the size of the main campus.
Carolina North is expected to showcase the UNC Chapel Hill’s research, entrepreneurship and academic capabilities, but officials have struggled to get the 228-acre campus off the drawing board and under construction. Now its executive director says the first two buildings in the plans will be delayed indefinitely or scrapped.
Approved in 2007, Carolina North is intended as a counterpart to N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, which brings together university, government and private-industry researchers. Planners expected to build 2.5 million square feet within 15 years. Its first building was to be the Innovation Center, an 80,000-square-foot technology-transfer incubator. But its developer, Pasadena, Calif.-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., backed out this fall, citing difficulty financing the $22 million project. Jack Evans, Carolina North’s executive director, says it likely won’t be built. “That project, like a number of other development projects, was adversely affected by the change in the financial markets.”
Another sticking point was how much space the university would occupy. Evans says it originally planned to use about a third. Discussions about increasing that commitment never produced results. By contrast, Wake Forest University Health Services recently agreed to occupy 85% of a research building at Piedmont Triad Research Park to secure a development deal. “In these times, when a developer has to be concerned about cash flow to cover debt services, 85% occupancy seems to be a very attractive position,” Evans says.
Financial woes also have delayed construction of a new $95 million home for Carolina’s law school. Building it depends on getting funding from the General Assembly, which isn’t likely with the state facing tight budgets. The UNC system recently identified more than $3.1 billion in renovation and repair needs that will compete for money with the law school.
Money is a problem for research parks across the country, says Eileen Walker, CEO of the Association of University Research Parks in Tucson, Ariz. Construction has been sporadic, though projects have begun this year in Texas and Arizona. “All of these processes are long-term and go through ups and downs in the economy. There are times when things are easier to fund.”
So is Carolina North dead? Evans insists it isn’t, but it’s certainly dormant, and a newly elected Republican majority in the General Assembly has promised spending cuts to fill what could be a $3 billion budget hole next year. Evans says the first building now will likely be for research. Details are still being worked out, and construction is unlikely to begin before 2012, but he’s optimistic. “We’re still an important part of the university mission. The role of Carolina North in the university’s future is still significant.”
When software developer Red Hat Inc. moved to Centennial Campus of N.C. State University in Raleigh in 2002, it was young and still growing — just 634 employees. Now, it boasts 3,400, about 600 in the Triangle alone, and needs more space. Red Hat leases 188,000 square feet at Centennial Campus and reportedly needs 300,000 more. Executives are vague about when it needs to happen — “the next couple of years,” CEO Jim Whitehurst told one reporter — and where, though Atlanta and Austin, Texas, have been mentioned. The company hasn’t said if it is considering a move of its headquarters.
North American Financial Holdings Inc. agreed to invest $181 million in struggling Raleigh-based Capital Bank Corp., giving it an 85% stake. North American, which is run by former Bank of America executives and lists headquarters in Charlotte and Jacksonville, Fla., plans to merge Capital with four out-of-state banks it acquired this year and base the surviving company in Raleigh. That would expand Capital Bank into Florida and South Carolina and more than double its footprint to 84 branches. North American also wants a 50% discount on paying back $41.3 million in federal TARP money that Capital Bank received.
DURHAM — BioCryst Pharmaceuticals plans to move its headquarters here from Birmingham, Ala., in mid-January. That will boost the drug developer’s local employment from 30 to 45.
RALEIGH — First Citizens BancShares once again plans to merge its subsidiaries, First Citizens Bank and IronStone Bank. IronStone will become a division of First Citizens Bank but keep its own name. The company announced a similar action in 2008 but didn’t follow through.
DURHAM — Voyager Pharmaceutical renamed itself Curaxis Pharmaceutical after raising $25 million from Connecticut-based investment firm Southridge Partners. With it, the drug developer will restart clinical trials of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
DURHAM — Atlanta-based GE Aviation added 40 technicians at its local plant, which makes and repairs jet engines. That gives the company, part of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, about 320 employees here.
MORRISVILLE — Salix Pharmaceuticals paid $4 million to Norway-based Photocure for rights to an experimental drug that could help detect colon cancer. It will pay up to $126.5 million more if the drug wins U.S. regulatory approval and reaches sales milestones.
RALEIGH — Software company rPath will add 20 employees by the end of the year after raising $7 million in venture capital. That will bring employment to 90. Its products allow companies to access and manage their software more easily.
DURHAM — Biotechnology company Aldagen hired Lyle A. Hohnke, a board member, as CEO. He replaces Tom Amick. Hohnke was most recently a partner at Connecticut venture-capital firm Tullis Dickerson.