Now owned by Pfizer, Pharmacia Corporation announced in 2000 the opening of its new facility in Skokie in Illinois, US.
Pharmacia Corporation was formed by an agreement between Monsanto/Searle and Pharmacia & St. John. Pfizer and Pharmacia Corporation began operating as a unified company in April 2003.
Several significant new medicines were discovered and developed at the Skokie site, including the blockbuster drug Celebrex. For decades, the facility conducted significant pharmaceutical research on everything from birth control to Nutra Sweet.
In late 2003, Pfizer announced the closure of the Skokie facility in a worldwide reorganisation. The closure affected 1,500 research and administrative jobs in the Chicago area.
In early 2005, developer Forest City Enterprises purchased the former Pfizer Pharmaceuticals property for $43m, including 1 million ft² of research and office space across nine buildings. The negotiations took 12 months but Pfizer had promised the local community that they would sell the property to a developer who would bring employment to the area.
Finance and incentives
Forest City planned to invest more than $155m in the park over a ten year period, while Illinois committed $5m to the project, and the Village of Skokie provided $10m from the proceeds of two General Obligation Bond issues supported by a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.
The funds were provided to Forest City as reimbursement for TIF eligible expenses. The assessed valuation of the Forest City property significantly declined from a peak of $35,256,000 valuation. Property improvements are projected to significantly increase the assessed valuation and generate the TIF revenue necessary to pay off the bond issues.
The complex was called the Illinois Technology Innovation Campus. The facility contains a range of companies and is expected to create more than 3,250 jobs (Skokie’s employment base is around 35,000 and so this represents an increase of around 9.5%).
Forest City officials estimate that the campus will generate $1.8bn annually in State-wide economic activity, according to a study conducted by Applied Real Estate Analysis.
A couple of the buildings on the site needed renovation. The campus was predicted to have upwards of 14 companies conducting important research combined with the ability to communicate with each other. The refurbished campus was put forward as a perfect site for the location of bioscience and biopharmaceutical start-up companies.
New biotech hub
The project was overseen by Forest City’s Boston-based University, Bioscience & Technology Group, which developed the old corporate facility into a state-of-the-art research campus over a period of five to ten years. Construction began in Q3 2005.
President of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organisation (iBIO) David Miller said: “The importance of the new Illinois Science and Technology Park cannot be overstated.
“It provides a focal point for the creation of a world recognised biosciences node, one which will draw to our community the best scientific and business talent, not to mention outside capital eager to back Illinois companies.”
Facilities at the site
From 1998, the Skokie site underwent a series of improvements to enhance production capacity and research and development (R&D) capabilities. The last building constructed was the Q Building.
The new facility was designed and built under the US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to create a green lab facility with a gold LEED rating that conserved energy and used recycled and locally available materials.
The Q Building was designed to be 40% more efficient than similar lab buildings, reducing energy requirements and emissions. The steel beams in the construction were made from 100% recycled steel and the wallboard was made from the purified waste products of power plants. The carpeting and ceiling tiles contained a large percentage of recycled material.
The Q Building was designed to maximise the collaboration among scientists of different disciplines. Primarily planned as a chemistry building, its flexible design was able to accommodate other scientific endeavours. The building has a floor space of 170,000ft² and required an investment of $78m to construct.
To address the issue of energy conservation at the Q Building, the building’s designers incorporated a combination of infrared sensors and high-efficiency air-handling units to ensure that the minimal amounts of energy were being expended to operate the building motion sensors allowing for the mechanical monitoring of the presence of occupants.
When there were no lab occupants for a specified period of time, a variety of adjustments were made within the building. For example, lights were automatically turned off; the velocity of air being removed through exhaust hoods was reduced.
In addition, air-handling units were analysed based on operating costs over an extended period rather than based on initial cost alone.
The campus has a whole range of advantages, including adequate parking. In 2000, JL Burke Contracting completed a refurbishment of the parking complex near the front entrance of the campus. They started the work in 1999 for Searle and completed it under the ownership of Pfizer. A two-level structure now parks 900 vehicles near the main entrance. The expansion presented the company with a complex engineering situation.