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SKOKIE, IL-Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises’ $300-million redevelopment of the former Pfizer Inc. facility has begun with NanoBusiness Alliance relocating to 500 sf in the Illinois Science/Technology Park, which was formally unveiled Thursday. Gayle Farris, president of the company’s science/technology group, tells GlobeSt.com she hopes to have the 670,000 sf that is being kept leased up by the end of next year.

“We’ve done quite well,” says CB Richard Ellis’ Scott Brandwein, leading the leasing team for the Illinois Science/Technology Park. “Each week we get more and more interest.” Space needs can range from 5,000 sf to 100,000 sf, he tells GlobeSt.com.

In addition to the facilities that offer a wet lab and office space for biotech, nanotech and life science companies, Forest City Enterprises plans to redevelop the 28-acre campus with up to six new buildings, which ultimately could add another 830,000 sf of space at 4901 Searle Pkwy. “This is a project that will have a monumental effect for the state of Illinois and the region,” says Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen.

While the village is preparing to provide $10 million in tax increment financing for the project, the state already has committed $1 million, with the chance for another $4 million if the state legislature passes a capital improvements bill, says commerce and economic opportunity director Jack Lavin. The payoff will ultimately be 3,250 jobs on site, with the campus generating $1.8 billion a year in economic activity, he adds. “The entire ecosystem for bioscience is largely in place, and this facility is one of the last pieces to make it all hum,” says NanoBusiness Alliance executive director Sean Murdoch, whose national industry association advocates for nanotech policy and bringing entrepreneurial efforts to market.

When Pfizer Inc. executives told him and other village officials three years they were leaving Skokie, Van Dusen claims he was optimistic. “Not for one minute did I doubt that we could make lemonade from lemons,” he says.

Farris concedes her company would not be in this market if Pfizer had not decided to shed its campus, which Forest City acquired for $43 million. “Pfizer did it right here; they were committed to shutting the facility down in a way that it could be made vibrant again,” she says. “We think there’s great potential here having a facility of this kind.”

Forest City Enterprises has company in the biotech, nanotech and life sciences market place. Towson, MD-based Townsend Capital is redeveloping a 126,000-sf building on the Illinois Institute of Technology’s South Side campus, the first phase of what could be a $200-million project on the South Side. Farris predicts the two projects will be drawing from separate pools of tenants: Larger companies, and younger start-ups. “This is not a zero-sum game,” she tells GlobeSt.com.

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