September 14, 2020
By srmERNST’s Joe Ernst and Exelixis’ Dana Aftab
Exelixis, a growing life science company that develops and commercializes drug treatments for cancer, signed a 20-year lease with srmERNST Development Partners for a new build-to-suit building at Harbor Bay Business Park and relocated its headquarters from South San Francisco to Alameda, CA two years ago. Working together to create an integrated campus environment, srmERNST President Joe Ernst and Dana Aftab, Executive Vice President of Business Operations for Exelixis, are both focused on the expansion.
Q: How has the Harbor Bay location changed over the years?
Ernst: For a long time, the park only competed as a low-cost alternative, but now, companies are finding new value in the location. This transit-oriented property offers improved access to public transit and the ferry, and the quality of businesses setting up at Harbor Bay are raising the profile of the park, making it a better bet for businesses as they look for relocation options. Harbor Bay has always been an attractive, well-maintained environment, but the addition of new buildings and facilities, along with the quality of the location with close proximity to San Francisco and Oakland labor pools, provide more of the campus-like environment businesses want.
Aftab: We came to Harbor Bay in 2017, and in that time, Harbor Bay has gone from a sleepy, lesser-known spot to a much more dynamic and active location. There has been a significant amount of construction, and spaces that had been for lease are now filling up fast.
Q: Why are so many life science businesses looking to expand into Harbor Bay Business Park now?
Ernst: When I first started at Harbor Bay, it really wasn’t a safe bet for companies looking for a new location. Companies didn’t have confidence it would satisfy their various stakeholders. But with companies like Exelixis, Penubmra, and Abbott locating here and now expanding, it has become a very desirable location. The labor pool has really shifted to the East Bay. With the resurgence of Oakland and other East Bay communities, a lot of talent has come this way.
Aftab: I get a lot of calls from other biotech companies who can’t find adequate space elsewhere. There are so few spaces left in more typical life-science centers and the prices have gotten very high. Harbor Bay has turned out to be a great location for recruiting, and we actually have data to support this. Most of our employees are now East Bay residents, which was not the case prior to our move.
Q: What attributes make Harbor Bay so unique?
Ernst: At Harbor Bay, you get incredible value out of your location in terms of the tranquil waterfront environment, occupancy costs and plenty of free parking. Plus, Harbor Bay is on Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), which is 20% cheaper than PG&E. Over a ten-year lease, this can be a significant savings for major power users. Alameda is also not affected by PG&E’s PSPS blackouts, which can be a major benefit to businesses. There’s also still an opportunity for businesses to plant roots and expand here, and really control their own real estate.
Aftab: Weather, views, resort-like atmosphere, and a bike path around the waterfront. Harbor Bay feels safe and secure, unlike some of the more densely packed biotech centers. It’s perfect for nature-loving folks or anyone who wants to get out for a walk during lunch and enjoy a peaceful environment. Plus, the city government is eager to be helpful to new businesses moving in. It has been a breath of fresh air compared to other municipalities with whom we have dealt. We have found city staff to be responsive and flexible, working closely with businesses to quickly streamline approvals.
Q: What are some of the challenges for this area that are being addressed?
Ernst: While on par with other suburban business park locations, we’d like to build on amenities within the park in order to provide businesses with more lunch options, as well as the opportunity to socialize outside of the office setting and add more vibrancy to the park.
Aftab: There is further opportunity to improve transportation. Although access to public transit has improved over the years, there are some gaps to fill which will make it even better. There is ferry service to Harbor Bay and a shuttle to BART, and we’ve been happy to hear talks of improved AC Transit and expanded shuttle service connections with BART that may come together in the future.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser