MRA Group to Redevelop DuPont’s Delaware Lab Campus

After completing a partial sale-leaseback, the firm plans to reposition the unoccupied buildings into a premier life sciences complex.
Chestnut Run Laboratory campus. Image courtesy of MRA Group

MRA Group announced it has signed a letter of intent to acquire the Chestnut Run Laboratory campus, a collection of lab buildings within DuPont’s 220-acre corporate headquarters complex in Wilmington, Del.

MRA will purchase the 800,000-square-foot segment in a partial sale-leaseback transaction, with plans to redevelop the site. Neither MRA nor DuPont has disclosed the sale price.

The agreement comes several months after DuPont’s deal for Delle Donne & Associates to acquire the lab portion of the property for redevelopment unraveled.

If all goes as planned, the sale will close by the third quarter of 2021. According to New Castle County records, the entire campus has an assessed value of approximately $80.3 million.


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Located at 974 Centre Road, DuPont’s sprawling Chestnut Run headquarters campus features office and laboratory space within multiple low-rise, Class B and Class C buildings built between 1954 and 2013. The newest structures, Building 730 and Building 735, encompass 220,000 and 170,000 square feet of office space, respectively, and opened in advance of DuPont’s 2014 decision to consolidate its global headquarters at Chestnut Run.

Per terms of the agreement, DuPont will maintain its headquarters on the campus in the Chestnut Run Offices and lease several lab buildings in the Chestnut Run Labs area from MRA. The remaining laboratory square footage will undergo a transformation as part of MRA’s plan to redevelop the property into a premier life sciences destination designed to accommodate entrepreneurial and science-based innovation, said DuPont executive Jay Valvo in prepared remarks.

LOW INVENTORY, HIGH DEMAND

Wilmington is part of the Philadelphia Cluster, which is rapidly expanding, not just as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in response to increased investment in the Philadelphia area due to innovations in gene and cell therapies emerging from local institutions, as per a November 2020 report from Colliers. As investment in the market grows, so does the need for life sciences real estate.

“With several large institutional requirements and a handful of growing companies with expanding space needs, including Cabaletta Bio and Passage Bio, actively testing the market, there will be a number of significant announcements over the two quarters,” according to the report.

“The pipeline remains strong as evidenced by the continuing entrance into the market of new startups and the volume of FDA trial activity in the cluster.”

Life sciences projects are currently among the largest office developments under construction in the Greater Philadelphia area. In Wilmington, Biopharmaceutical company Incyte is expanding its headquarters with the addition of a new 200,000-square-foot lab and office building, which is on schedule to reach completion in the first quarter of 2021.

In terms of meeting speculative demand in the area, Brandywine Realty Trust is nearing completion of the 100,000-square-foot 650 Park office and lab building outside Philadelphia in King of Prussia, Pa. And MRA is doing its part; the company is wrapping up development of a 65,000-square-foot multi-tenant lab and office building in Philadelphia and a 72,000-square-foot, multi-tenant lab facility at its Spring House Innovation park in Lower Gwynedd, just outside the city.