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Pfizer negotiating to lease former data center to state

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published September 05. 2013 4:00AM
Agreement would keep Groton building on tax rolls as demolition of firm's Building 118 continues

Groton - Pfizer Inc. is clearing out its former data center off Eastern Point Road in anticipation of leasing the building to the state.

The lease, still under negotiation, would keep the Pfizer campus structure known as Building 230 on the tax rolls. City Mayor Marian Galbraith said the state plans to occupy the entire building.

"The state will use the facility to house computing equipment," said Jeffrey R. Beckham, staff counsel and director of communications for the Department of Administrative Services, in response to email questions from The Day.

The leasing of the building would come at a time when Pfizer is downsizing locally and planning on demolishing some of the buildings on its Groton campus. The company's massive former research headquarters known as Building 118 is being demolished. The pharmaceutical giant also has confirmed that it is "nearing a final decision" on a small, vacant building that it has been marketing for two years. Pfizer has received a Coastal Area Management waiver that would allow it to proceed with demolition of Building 288.

The data center building would be used by the state's Bureau of Enterprise Systems and Technology, which provides tech support for the executive branch. The state Bureau of Properties and Facilities Management is handing the transaction.

"The state's current data center is in a leased facility that no longer serves the state's purposes, and a cost-efficient alternative is required," Beckham said.

Pfizer emphasized that a deal has yet to be finalized.

It is not known how many people would be employed at the data center or how it would be staffed, but the building is not expected to be fully up and running until early 2015. A request for proposals for lease of at least 15,000 square feet of office and data-center space was due this past January.

"This data center building provides a secure, in-state, cost-efficient location," Beckham said. "It is a more cost-efficient alternative than constructing a new data center."

Beckham said the building would require only minor renovations to improve energy efficiency and reconfigure layout of the data center area. The state also would have to pay for installing a new fiber-optic line that would connect the local technology group to the state network.

The state has been helping Pfizer market several of the buildings on its Groton campus that have been offered for sale or lease over the past couple years.

The demolition of Building 118 is expected to cost the town and city about $2.5 million a year in taxes.

Pfizer had an active proposal from a prospective buyer of the 750,000-square-foot building earlier this year but turned it down, despite Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's intervention. Some economic-development officials cited Pfizer's security concerns as the main reason the acquisition fell through.

Demolition of Building 288 would be the third at the campus in the past year or so as Pfizer continues to downsize its local presence. The nearly 16,000-square-foot space - about half of its laboratories - overlooks the Thames River.

Building 126, a 46,000-square-foot facility featuring laboratory space near the company's power plant, was the first structure to fall. It was torn down last spring after a year of marketing efforts.

Groton site leader Rod MacKenzie, in a note to Pfizer employees earlier this year, said Pfizer is planning to consolidate its operations to two-thirds of its 160-acre campus. The company reduced its workforce at the Groton campus by more than 1,100 during 2011-12 as it moved discovery scientists to Cambridge, Mass., and converted the local site to its worldwide development hub.

In 2010, Pfizer sold to Electric Boat its former worldwide research headquarters off Pequot Avenue in New London - a move that initially expanded employment in Groton as workers were consolidated to the local campus.

l.howard@theday.com

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