Campus in Booming San Diego Biotech Neighborhood Sold to Boston Firm

Lou Hirsh

September 23, 2021

Longfellow Plans Redevelopment After $149.3 Million Acquisition of Sorrento Mesa Buildings

Biotech property investor and developer Longfellow Real Estate Partners purchased a 10-building office campus in San Diego’s Sorrento Mesa neighborhood for $149.3 million, boosting its stake in the region’s high-demand life science market.

Longfellow executives said the company purchased Centerpark Plaza, a 256,000-square-foot campus on 16.8 acres, from Montana Avenue Capital Partners of Los Angeles. The purchase includes seven buildings at 6730-6885 Flanders Drive and three others at 6620, 6696 and 10125 Mesa Rim Road.

The buildings were constructed between 1984 and 1990 and have since been renovated, according to CoStar data. A Longfellow spokesman said plans call for demolishing the building at 6790 Flanders Drive and replacing it with a laboratory building slated for a 2023 construction start.

“With a prime location and flexibility for both converted and newly constructed life science space, Centerpark Plaza will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our existing tenants and the growing market demand,” Longfellow Managing Director Nick Frasco said in a statement.

The acquisition is Longfellow’s eighth in the San Diego market since it entered the region in September 2018 and takes its local footprint to 1.3 million square feet. The company has another 1 million square feet in its San Diego development pipeline, officials of the Boston-based investor said.

Longfellow plans a redesign and renovation of Centerpark Plaza that will include new outdoor amenity space, fitness, conferencing and event spaces and other convenience-oriented services. The buildings will also receive “significant lab infrastructure upgrades” and other overhauls geared to serving growing demand for life science research-and-development facilities.

Longfellow joins several other developers that have been acquiring and redeveloping older Sorrento Mesa office properties to meet rising demand in the biotech sector, currently among the San Diego region’s most active generators of leasing activity.

“Sorrento Mesa, in particular, has been one of the most heavily invested markets in San Diego among national and international firms, and many office buildings and campuses have been targeted for redevelopment into lab space,” said Joshua Ohl, director of market analytics for CoStar Group in San Diego.

Sorrento Mesa this year has seen large leases signed by biotech firms such as Sorrento Therapeutics and Artiva Biotherapeutics. The neighborhood was the location of one of San Diego’s largest commercial property deals of 2021, when Chicago-based investors Harrison Street and Sterling Bay agreed to acquire eight office buildings in two campuses from City Office REIT for $576 million. The buyers subsequently announced plans to develop 1.1 million square feet of new biotech space at the properties.

This activity comes as nearby neighborhoods University Town Center and Del Mar Heights have also seen more leasing and development by life sciences companies.

San Diego is the third-largest U.S. hub for biotech real estate, and the privately held Longfellow has also been boosting its presence over the last three years in Boston, San Francisco and the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Its nationwide life sciences holdings now total more than 12 million square feet.