Chapel Hill-based company Rho moving its headquarters to Research Triangle Park

A rendering of Rho’s new headquarters in Research Triangle Park, which is scheduled to open some time in 2019.
A rendering of Rho’s new headquarters in Research Triangle Park, which is scheduled to open some time in 2019. Courtesy of Rho

Chapel Hill-based contract research organization Rho is building a new headquarters in Research Triangle Park.

The company’s new 159,000-square-foot headquarters – which will be 50 percent larger than its current location – will be located at the intersection of TW Alexander Drive and N.C. Highway 54, the company said in a press release.

Rho’s current headquarters at 6330 Quadrangle Drive is technically a Chapel Hill address, but it lies within Durham County and is not within the corporate limits of Chapel Hill. The company was founded in Chapel Hill in 1984.

Privately-held Rho, which has more than 400 employees, said the expansion will help it accommodate future growth. Contract research organizations such as Rho help test experimental drugs and analyze the results, and most of the company’s revenue comes from government contracts with organization like the National Institutes of Health.

The company has been steadily adding to its headcount in recent years. Just last month, the company announced that it would be hiring an additional 40 employees that it would bring on staff in the coming months.

“At Rho, our employees are our greatest asset and we want them to enjoy the time they spend in the office,” Rho Chief Executive Officer Laura Helms Reece said in a prepared statement. “Investing in a new, custom-built, environmentally responsible headquarters allows us to invest in our values. Employee feedback has driven the design process and we are all excited about a new office that is designed around our values and how we work.”

Dave Shortino, Rho’s vice president of corporate services, said he expects the company’s headcount to grow by around 8 percent per year going forward, and that the new building will have the potential capacity to house close to 700 employees.

Dwight Bassett, an economic development officer for Chapel Hill, said the company’s move to RTP came as no surprise and that Chapel Hill had shown the company multiple site proposals for its consideration, including one at the corner of Barbee Chapel road and Highway 54.

He said Rho chose Research Triangle Park over Chapel Hill because of the park’s central location and a lack of available space in Chapel Hill.

“They were extremely sensitive to location ... and besides Carolina Square and the Station at 54, we have had no office space come out of the ground since 2010 and that makes it hard to compete (with Research Triangle Park),” Bassett said.

Shortino added that Rho also found available space lacking in southern Durham during its search.

RTP was also a sensible choice because more of Rho’s employees are now living in the eastern part of the Triangle, he said.

“We collected a lot of data, and we found out where the center of all of our employees are and (it) has been moving farther and farther east in recent years,” he said. “The number of employees living in Chapel Hill has gone down since 2013, which was surprising to us. All other towns have gone up.”

Construction on the new headquarters is expected to begin by the end of this year with an expected opening of 2019. Charlotte-based developer The Keith Corporation will build the new office for Rho.

Durham-based architects Little worked with Rho on the design of the new building.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes