Taconic Investment Partners and Silverstein Properties are betting big on a 10-story office building they co-own on Manhattan’s Far West Side as a hub for life science tenants.

The duo, which bought a majority stake in the former industrial building at 619 West 54th Street last year, is pumping $20 million into the site to turn it into a life science center. Rather than holding meetings in boardrooms, tenants will huddle around petri dishes and microscopes, discussing everything from DNA to stem cells.

Features in the building include a generator with 1 megawatt of emergency power, electrical capacity of up to 25 watts per square foot and a pH neutralization system — all necessary to ensure that the sensitive materials tenants are working with are not compromised.

The L-shaped property, which is valued at more than $180 million and sits between Eleventh Avenue and the West Side Highway, was used by Warner Brothers in the 1930s as a film production studio. But Silverstein and Taconic are now eyeing research and pharmaceutical tenants for the space.

That, however, wasn’t the original plan. When Taconic bought the roughly 327,000-square-foot building for $112 million six years ago, the firm was not thinking about the life science sector. It viewed the purchase as a good opportunity to invest in an emerging neighborhood.

“We like the area, we see it’s getting better and better, and we thought that this building was really high quality,” said Taconic’s senior vice president, Matthew Weir, who noted that the firm also like the block’s liberal zoning.

But then the New York Stem Cell Foundation came knocking. The nonprofit, which focuses on stem cell research, now occupies 42,100 square feet in the building. Other tenants include the Manhattan Surgery Center and the Rogosin Institute, which treats kidney disease.

Silverstein’s CEO, Marty Burger, said the goal is to have more than half the building leased to tenants in the fast-growing field by next year.


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