Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ICYMI: Thermo Fisher on the move, considers selling downtown’s tallest building

Thermo Fisher Scientific could explore opportunities to sell the downtown PPD building as it goes on the hunt for new office space in town, the global pharma company announced earlier in the week. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — Global pharma leader Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. is on the hunt for new office space in town, specifically for its subsidiary PPD, which it acquired in a $17.4 billion deal in December 2021.

The Fortune 100 company announced earlier in the week it was exploring opportunities to sell the former PPD headquarters. The 12-story building, erected in 2007, is the tallest overlooking downtown Wilmington. 

The move is designed to support business growth and enable the company to match current and future workspace needs, according to a press release. The Covid-19 trend has many industries assessing more remote work options and scaling back on office space.

Just two months ago, the 17-acre campus of the former Verizon Wireless call center on Shipyard Boulevard sold for more than $16 million. The majority of local Verizon employees were sent home to work at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, a move the company made permanent by August of that year.

Yet, the scientific research industry has been offering flexible work options for years, according to David M. Johnston, Thermo Fisher senior vice president and president of clinical research at PPD.

“A significant percentage of our colleagues and job candidates prefer a hybrid work model, coming into the office for collaboration purposes, which necessitates more flexible workspaces and fewer dedicated offices,” Johnston said in the release. 

The PPD headquarters changed the skyline of downtown Wilmington 15 years ago. It was one of the first buildings to inspire revitalization of the north waterfront area, now home to Riverfront Park, multiple apartment complexes, as well as an expanded Riverwalk and marina. The PPD building offers 400,000 square feet of office space with surface parking, a parking deck and an underground garage.

When Thermo Fisher Scientific took over four months ago, speculation arose as to whether it would continue operating in the building. Acquisitions often come with changes, but empty offices and parking spaces were more notable due to the pandemic.

Utilizing the building, should it go on the market, won’t be hard, some local officials told the Wilmington Business Journal at the end of last year. Ninety-six percent of office space is occupied in the submarket of downtown Wilmington, Wilmington Downtown Inc. CEO Holly Childs said.

“Class A office space is really hard to come by because there’s so little of the product,” she told the journal.

Mayor Saffo added that demand for more apartments and hotels also remain on the rise downtown. Thus 929 N. Front St. “will be heavily used at some point in time, whoever uses it,” he also told the journal.

Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Thermo Fisher is a supplier of scientific instrumentation, reagents and consumables, and software services. Its annual revenue equals approximately $40 billion and it employs more than 130,000 worldwide.

Over 11,000 work in North Carolina, with PPD clinical research employing over 1,700 people in the Wilmington region. It currently has 200-plus open positions in the area.

The company says it is in the early stages of the sale process and relocating, which could take up to two years or more to complete.

“[W]e expect to continue to be a Wilmington growth story for years to come,” Johnston said in the release. “The business remains committed to Wilmington both as an employer that continues to expand hiring locally and globally, and as a good corporate citizen investing in the communities where our colleagues live and work.”

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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