One South Broad turns to lab conversion to fill vacant Wells Fargo office space

One South Broad St., a 464,000-square-foot building, is the latest Philadelphia office property to enter the life sciences fray.

Aion Partners of New York, which owns the 26-story building, is marketing 108,418 square feet over floors three through eight as space that can be converted into labs. The six contiguous floors were vacated last year by Wells Fargo, which relocated to Two Logan Square.

Landlords in Philadelphia and its suburbs are sensing an opportunity in the region’s growing life sciences sector and looking to convert vacant office space into lab space. About 1 million square feet or more of these tenants are being tracked in the Philadelphia market.

Examples of buildings in Philadelphia that are in the midst of a conversion or are being considered for labs include converting several floors in Cira Centre, turning some space in the Curtis into labs, and evaluating whether to transform several floors in the Wanamaker.

Not every building is a candidate for conversion and there are several minimum requirements that allow for space to be adapted into labs. For example, ceilings need to be at least 15 feet high to house mechanical duct work. Floor load, or the amount of weight it can handle, is important for lab equipment. Mechanical systems, ventilation, electrical power redundancies and vibration mitigation are also crucial to accommodate lab space.

Life sciences companies tend to gravitate to locations that are already hubs of research and educational institutions such as University City, though that doesn’t mean Center City or suburban locations aren’t conducive for these firms.

A study of the space at One South Broad was conducted to ascertain whether lab space would work in the building, which was constructed in 1932 by John Wanamaker during the Great Depression for his men’s department store.

The ceiling height in the building ranges from 16 feet to 20 feet, which provides enough room for mechanicals necessary for lab space. Old elevator shafts can be used for air circulation and exhaust.

Rents on the space will run in the mid-$40s a square foot.

Aion Partners bought One South Broad in 2014 for $68 million. At the time, it was 88% occupied with Wells Fargo as its anchor tenant, leasing 33% of the property until 2020.

*Article courtesy of Philadelphia Business Journal

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