Four sites still in running for new DHHS campus

Garner, Morrisville, RTP vie to host Health and Human Services

dbracken@newsobserver.comOctober 9, 2012 

State officials have narrowed their list of potential sites for a new state Department of Health and Human Services campus to four, according to a Garner economic development official.

The list includes two sites in Garner, one in Morrisville and one in Research Triangle Park, said Tony Beasley, Garner’s economic development director. Beasley attended a meeting with state officials and developers late last week where the finalists were discussed.

He said officials expect to select a developer for the project as early as next week and could take it before the Council of State for approval Nov. 13. Developers were required to submit proposals for the project by Aug 17.

The state is seeking as much as 1 million square feet for the new campus, which eventually would replace the 30 state-owned and -leased facilities that the agency now has in Wake County. DHHS will need 600,000 to 650,000 square feet no later than June 2014, and more space in 2017 and 2019.

Beasley said two developers, Raleigh-based Highwoods Properties and Red Rock Developments, that submitted proposals for the 105-acre former ConAgra site in Garner are among the finalists.

Columbia, S.C.-based Red Rock also is a finalist for a second proposal it submitted for the Greenfield Business Park just off U.S. 70 in Garner, Beasley said.

He said the other two finalists are Duke Realty, which submitted a proposal to build the new campus at Perimeter Park in Morrisville, and Craig Davis Properties of Cary. Craig Davis wants to place the campus in Park Center, a nine-building office park at N.C. 54 and Davis Drive in RTP that is home to about 750,000 square feet of space.

Ten developers initially submitted proposals for the DHHS campus. The project, which could cost in the range of $150 million to $175 million, represents an enormous opportunity for developers who have had few opportunities to bid on projects of this size in recent years.

Local officials in towns such as Garner and Apex also have been aggressively pursuing the project. The state’s request for proposals said that preference would be given to sites near the Dorothea Dix Campus in Raleigh, where 1,400 DHHS employees work.

Garner mapped where DHHS workers live based on their ZIP code and submitted that information to the state. The town has also requested information from traffic engineers working for Red Rock that estimated the travel times for agency employees to the different sites under consideration.

Beasley said that analysis showed commuting benefits for employees if the campus was placed in Garner.

Beasley said the town doesn’t have a preference between the two Garner sites in the running.

The Garner Economic Development Corp. owns the ConAgra site.

The company closed its meat-snacks plant there last year, and donated the property to the town after deciding to move Slim Jim production to Ohio following a deadly explosion at the facility in 2009.

The state is being represented in the site selection process by Grubb & Ellis Thomas Linderman Graham, which is eligible to earn a commission of 3.5 percent of the value of the lease.

Beasley said the state has instructed the developers to remain quiet about the process.

“We’re not a developer, so we can talk,” he said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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