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GSK To Vacate Buildings, Consolidate Employees

GSK To Vacate Buildings, Consolidate Employees [The News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C.]

From News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) (July 1, 2010)

July 01--GlaxoSmithKline will drastically reduce its real estate footprint in the Triangle over the next 18 months as it relocates 1,000 employees to the company’s Moore Drive campus in Research Triangle Park.

By late next year, the drug maker expects to have vacated six buildings it owns. It also plans to leave 88,000 square feet of office space in downtown Durham’s American Tobacco Campus when the company’s lease expires in May.

"We don’t have any definitive plans yet for what we’re going to do with all those buildings," said Kevin Colgan, a GSK spokesman. "As we work through that we’re going to keep, obviously, the officials in RTP and Durham and the state informed of our plans."

GSK is both the largest pharmaceutical company in the Triangle and the largest landowner in RTP with 690 acres. Over the years it has built a sprawling corporate presence that now includes about 40 buildings and 3.85 million square feet.

But GSK has been cutting costs and jobs worldwide in recent years to offset slowing drug sales, including several hundred positions in the Triangle. It now employs about 5,000 people in the Triangle, down from about 5,850 when Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham merged in 2000 to create GSK .

Earlier this year the company announced it would leave about 11 million square feet of office space, or 13 percent of its global real estate portfolio, over five years to cut costs and make more efficient use of space.

Reducing its real estate portfolio in the Triangle is expected to save the company $20 million a year, Colgan said.

GSK is spending tens of millions of dollars renovating its Moore Drive campus, which includes 21 buildings covering 1.9 million square feet. The buildings are being converted into shared work stations that can accommodate the 4,200 people who will work on the campus after the move is complete.

"No one will have assigned offices or seats," Colgan said. "Basically, employees will just come in and choose where they work based on what they need to do."

The company has created similar work environments at its offices in Philadelphia and London.

The buildings GSK is vacating contain about 1.1 million square feet of space. Included are two buildings at the Imperial Center in Durham and four buildings along Cornwallis Road in RTP.

The company’s plant in Zebulon is not affected by the consolidation, nor is the space the company leases in Research Tri-Center.

The buildings being vacated are all more than 20 years old. Some contain laboratory space that could limit the number of buyers interested in purchasing them.

If GSK puts the Cornwallis Road buildings up for sale, the Research Triangle Foundation will have first refusal. The foundation historically has bought back undeveloped land but not office buildings.

Rick Weddle, president of the Research Triangle Foundation, said the Cornwallis Road campus may need to be repositioned to attract new tenants.

"That happens when you have a 50-year-old park," he said.

Weddle said GSK’s investment in its Moore Drive campus shows the company remains committed to the park and the region.

"Quite frankly, what’s good for GSK is good for RTP," he said. or 919-829-4548

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Posted: July 2010