A sizable chunk of the North Carolina Research Campus has been listed for sale in an acquisition offer comprising nearly 27 acres of lab space, land and supporting infrastructure within the public-private nutrition research hub located in the heart of Kannapolis.
The offering recently debuted on a landing page hosted by commercial real estate firm CBRE, on behalf of the campus' owner and developer, Castle & Cooke. Mark Spitzer, president of Castle & Cooke's North Carolina arm, confirmed the offering's authenticity to NewsBreak but declined to comment further, citing confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements.
According to the CBRE listing, Castle & Cooke is selling 283,339 square feet of the campus' central Core Laboratory building, along with 4.07 acres of land around the facility, a 59,504-square-foot medical office building leased to Atrium Health and Duke University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute, over 6 acres of parking space, a few smaller parcels of land and a 1.97-acre central energy plant facility on the site.
The Core Lab facility, which is the largest and oldest building on the 350-acre campus, first broke ground in 2006 and has since served as the home of the David H. Murdock Research Institute, a nonprofit contract research organization focused on genomic and metabolomic studies. The institute's for-profit subsidiary, Eremid, provides commercial services to organizations in the fields of nutrition science, agriculture and biotech. Another Core Lab tenant is NC State University's Food Innovation Lab, a 15,000-square-foot pilot manufacturing plant and R&D space that opened in 2019.
The Core Lab is currently 36% leased and the medical building is 67% leased, according to the CBRE listing. The assets are available to purchase individually or as a portfolio.
The offering attempts to sell investors on "a rare 'value add' life sciences opportunity with the potential to add scale through development."
"This rare investment opportunity offers an investor/user a high quality, state-of-the-art research campus with the potential to establish a significant presence in the Charlotte region," the listing states. "The scientists at the NC Research Campus are known for research that explores the health benefits of plant phytochemicals, nutrients such as choline and the impact of nutrition and exercise on human performance. Research also involves the study of nutrients and plant-based compounds to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes."
The sale would be a significant development for the 15-year-old campus, which is home to laboratories and research programs from several universities within the University of North Carolina (UNC) System. Billionaire David Murdock, chairman of Dole Food Company and Castle & Cooke, donated the land to the UNC System and the City of Kannapolis in 2006, kicking off the effort to build a $1.5 billion hub for research and innovation in nutrition and agriculture.
Murdock's real estate group, Castle & Cooke, now leases much of the property to eight UNC System universities and other tenants. In 2020, Castle & Cooke accounted for 6.2% of the City of Kannapolis' tax base, making it the city's largest taxpayer with properties valued at about $269.9 million.
Adjacent to the Core Lab, a pair of buildings are primarily occupied by UNC Chapel Hill's Nutrition Research Institute and NC State University's Plants for Human Health Institute. Other university-tied research programs operating at the campus include UNC Charlotte's Bioinformatics Research and Services Division and the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, UNC Greensboro's Center for Translational Biomedical Research, NC Central University's Nutrition Research Program, NC Agricultural & Technical State University's Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, and Appalachian State University's Human Performance Lab.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College also hosts its two-year biotechnology and nursing programs in a 62,000-square-foot facility on the campus, and in 2019, the college opened a 55,000-square-foot Advanced Technology Center on land donated by Murdock.