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Work proceeds to transform Chestnut Run labs

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Work is set to begin on Prelude Therapeutics’ new headquarters at the Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP) near Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – Six months into developer MRA Group’s plan to transform the former DuPont Chestnut Run labs into a state-of-the-art science and technology campus, they are preparing to begin construction of the new buildings.

That $500 million project, led by Horsham, Pa.-based MRA Group, will create the Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park (CRISP) off Route 141, offering 780,000 square feet of modern lab space. The project already scored major wins by securing more than 80,000 square feet for the future headquarters of Prelude Therapeutics, which has been operating out of the Delaware Innovation Space, and leased labs for DuPont.

In April, it was also selected for a $1 million state Site Readiness Fund grant to support lighting and utility work at the site as well as paving and demolition work. The total project cost is nearly $40.9 million.

The future Chestnut Run Innovation & Science Park is envisioned to be a comprehensive campus for tenants. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MRA GROUP

Mike Wojewodka, MRA Group executive vice president and partner who is leading the CRISP project, said Prelude’s future home has been gutted on the campus and Wilmington-based construction firm Bancroft Construction will soon begin the work of building the final product.

Meanwhile, MRA Group is actively negotiating about 200,000 square feet of additional leases, all of which are centered around biopharma, research and development or light manufacturing uses, Wojewodka said. That includes some locally and regionally known companies as well as some outsiders, including one West Coast-based firm and one international company that are both looking to establish East Coast presences, he said.

“We’re seeing a lot more leasing activity and interest in the campus than what we had originally expected,” he said.

Some of those interested tenants would occupy Building 702, which MRA Group is redesigning as its first multi-tenant lab facility. The 200,000-square-foot building will accommodate up to a dozen companies with spaces ranging from 2,000 square feet to 60,000 and is anticipated to open in about a year from now.

Like other commercial developers, MRA Group is contending with rising material costs and supply chain delays as it embarks on the project. Wojewodka said electrical gear, roofing and insulation are all among the most difficult materials to source at the moment while nearly all material prices rise.

“We’re attempting to absorb as much of that as possible, but ultimately it’s going to be reflected in the rents that we have to charge,” he noted.

MRA Group’s future tenants could also benefit from a recent increase to the terms of the state’s Graduated Lab Space grant program. As soon as this month, Prelude is expected to seek additional grant funds due to that increase to support its fit-out of the new lab space.

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