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SDSU selects developer to build first office, lab buildings at Mission Valley campus

A rendering of the LPC West project planned for SDSU Mission Valley. The project calls for 315,000 square feet of office and lab space spread across the buildings, as well as a parking garage, as illuminated in the picture, southeast of Snapdragon Stadium.

San Diego Union Tribune

Jennifer Van Grove

March 6, 2023, 11:36am PST

San Diego State University has picked Los Angeles-based builder LPC West to erect the first three office buildings at the school’s Mission Valley campus.

Monday, the institution announced the selection of LPC West following a competitive bidding process that started nearly a year ago and included rival bids from three other development teams.

“This is momentous for SDSU,” Adela de la Torre, who is the school’s president, said in a statement. “The innovation district is the very heart of the Mission Valley project. It is the vital step in reaching our educational, research and economic goals as a university, which is critically linked to the workforce needs of the region.”

SDSU declined to share the financial terms of the deal. The developer and the school will likely execute early next year, following approval from the California State University Board of Trustees, a long-term ground lease for a portion of the Mission Valley campus reserved for office buildings, or what the school is calling an innovation district.

The timeline should see the developer break ground in 2024 and complete construction in early 2026, Hala Madanat, who oversees research at the school and is managing the build-out of the innovation district, told the Union-Tribune.

DSU Mission Valley’s first office project includes three buildings and 315,000 square feet of space. The two larger buildings will cater to life science firms and feature wet lab space. The third, smaller building will serve as an amenity and co-working space. The developer plans to incorporate mass timber as a design element.

The LPC West project, which is themed around health and innovation, calls for 315,000 square feet of office, lab and amenity space, as well as 1,100 parking spaces. The developer has already secured commitments from prospective tenants for 140,000 square feet of space, Madanat said.

“LPC West was selected because they really got the vision of what we were hoping to do in Mission Valley,” she said. “We wanted them to think about things like public art and sustainability, indoor-outdoor space; to think about entrepreneurship as an ecosystem for the region, not just SDSU. And they got all of that.”

The project is intended to be the first of six themed research hubs that will eventually take up residence in the district, which is just south of the recently opened Snapdragon Stadium.

The master plan for San Diego State’s Mission Valley site, which the institution purchased from the city of San Diego in 2020, calls for a total of 1.6 million square feet of office and research space in the district. The campus plan also includes the completed stadium and envisions 4,600 residential units, 80 acres of parks and open space, 400 hotel rooms and 95,000 square feet of campus shops.

LPC West is the West Coast division of Lincoln Property Company . The privately held real estate firm operates in Southern California, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Boise. Its portfolio includes more than 30 million square feet of commercial and life science space. Locally, the company entitled and partially developed the Aperture Del Mar life science facility leased to Neurocrine Biosciences. It also previously owned and refashioned — and still manages — the 600 B Street office tower downtown, where the Union-Tribune is a tenant.

LPC West’s project at SDSU Mission Valley includes two lab buildings and an amenity building, as well as outdoor plazas and grassy areas.

The firm’s Mission Valley project includes two mid-rise buildings primarily comprised of wet lab space for life science companies, and a smaller amenity building with a gym, cafe, conference space and co-working facilities. The amenity building will feature mass timber for both aesthetic and environmental reasons. The building material, which is becoming increasingly popular in other markets, has a smaller carbon footprint than steel and concrete.

The project is also designed to cater to companies of varying sizes and amplify the best attributes of working from an office — as opposed to working from home.

“We like to build these types of amenitized campuses because we do feel that that is what inspires people and makes people want to get back to the office,” said Scott Moffatt, who heads up LPC West’s operations in San Diego. “We want to make it convenient, easy, and, honestly, a better option than working from home. And we do that through the use of amenities. We do that through the construction itself. ... We try to make (the buildings) very unique, inspiring places.”

San Diego State expects to move the bulk of its research operations to the Mission Valley site to make space for more students on its main campus, Madanat said. The migration will start with 50,000 square feet of research space within the LPC West project. The LPC West project will take over a portion of the SDSU Mission Valley campus that the institution refers to as innovation district. The project site is southeast of the newly opened Snapdragon Stadium.

QuidelOrtho, Naval Health Research, and Family Health Centers have also signed letters of intent to occupy the new Mission Valley buildings. The commitments are notable in light of a recent slowdown in life science leasing activity in University City and Sorrento Mesa, where research firms are predominately clustered, as well as the not-yet-successful push by major developers to draw biotech companies to downtown San Diego.

In the last three months of 2022, leasing activity among biotech firms in San Diego County was at its lowest level in more than five years, said Joshua Ohl, the San Diego director of market analytics for CoStar.

“I just think the location of Mission Valley, from a future perspective, is more exciting (to prospective life science tenants than downtown), because of the location and the collaboration with the university and the access to talent,” Madanat said.

LPC West has hired Swinerton as its general contractor. The project architects are Lever and Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects. James Corner Field Operations is the landscape architect.

The selection of LPC West to build SDSU Mission Valley’s first research buildings follows the school’s pick last year of AvalonBay Communities to construct the first residential units. The projects are on parallel tracks with similar anticipated completion dates.

-Jennifer Van Grove

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