With major expansion projects already underway at several of its Madison-area sites, Exact Sciences Corp. is also in line for a new corporate headquarters at University Research Park that could add 200 to 440 new jobs there over the coming years.
Aaron Olver, director of University Research Park, said the organization proposes to build a five-story, nearly 140,000-square-foot building, tentatively called Innovation One, and lease it to Exact Sciences for the company’s administrative offices.
The project would be built next to and would connect with the cancer test company’s existing research and development building at 501 Charmany Drive, and would include a 338-stall underground parking ramp and 134 surface stalls.
Estimated cost: about $60 million.
University Research Park is asking the city of Madison for $2.6 million in tax incremental financing to help with construction costs — money that would be repaid later through higher taxes collected for the finished structure.
For Exact Sciences — whose Cologuard stool-based home test kit screens for colorectal cancer — the new building is a chance to consolidate administrative employees who are now divided among three buildings in the research park, Exact spokesman Scott Larrivee said.
“The idea there would be to try to get folks all into one place so you can have greater collaboration and sharing,” Larrivee said.
The TIF proposal says the project would help Exact Sciences relocate more than 200 employees to the site, create another 88 to 184 jobs when the building is finished and occupied in 2020, and add another 130 to 260 jobs over the following five years for positions that will pay, on average, between $45,000 and $150,000.
Exact Sciences has most of its operations in three locations in the Madison area:
- University Research Park, with the R&D building, which already is getting an addition built; marketing and physician support staff at 5801 Research Park Boulevard; and test kit chemical reagent manufacturing at 441 Charmany Drive.
- 1 Exact Lane, the former Spectrum Brands headquarters site, where a Cologuard processing lab is under construction and an office building that houses customer support staff and technology employees is being renovated.
- 145 E. Badger Road, in the town of Madison, where the current Cologuard processing lab is being doubled in size.
In a recent report filed with federal regulators, the publicly traded company said it had $50.9 million in construction contracts in progress as of March 31 with another $256.8 million worth of projects expected to be completed between now and the end of 2019.
That doesn’t include the new headquarters building, since the research park would build it, Larrivee said.
Exact, whose Cologuard test has been used by more than 1 million people since it was approved for use in 2014, is working with Mayo Clinic to design screening tests for numerous other types of cancer. Exact and Mayo released a report earlier this month showing a blood test they have developed correctly identified 95 percent of the cases of a common form of liver cancer. Exact CEO Kevin Conroy said after a larger test is conducted, if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration eventually approves, the liver cancer test could be on the market within three years. Conroy predicted it will be the first blood-based screening product his company will offer.
Exact has 1,500 employees, including about 1,100 in the Madison area, with another 300 open positions, 200 of which are in metro Madison.
“We have had really positive discussions with University Research Park,” Larrivee said. “We share the excitement about their vision.”
Urbanizing the park
The new Exact headquarters is the first project proposed since University Research Park adopted new guidelines that call for changing the ambiance of the grounds from a park-like setting to more of an urban street scene, with more development and the addition of retail shops and restaurants. It would meet high standards for office construction and energy efficiency, Olver said.
“It’s a major development for the park — a class A, LEED-certified, glassy office building that will feel different and set a new tone,” Olver said. “We hope (it will be) the first building block in a series of infill development projects here in the park.”
Plans also call for establishing a new road into University Research Park along the west side of Whitney Way, tentatively called Endeavor Lane, just north of the new building.
“That liberates a Whitney Way corner ... that we hope to develop for amenities for the park,” Olver said.
He said a bicycle and pedestrian path would be extended south to the corner of Research Park Boulevard and Whitney Way, and then on to the Madison Metro West Transfer Point at Tokay Boulevard.
“It will be designed to make it feel walkable,” Olver said.
As part of the plan, University Research Park probably will buy back Exact’s research and development building “to unify the development,” he said.
The research park’s request for $2.6 million in tax incremental financing from the city of Madison already has gotten approval from the City Council’s finance committee and goes to the full City Council for consideration on Tuesday.
Established in 1984, University Research Park is home to 142 companies and 15 nonprofits that employ 3,800 people in all.
Last fall, the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin, which has partial authority over the 260-acre business park, approved new covenants shrinking setback requirements for buildings and allowing more service and retail businesses to take up residence there, from coffee shops to yoga centers, as well as opening the door to housing in the park.
Exact’s Larrivee said no final agreement between Exact and University Research Park has been signed yet. Olver said if plans for the building, financing and new road go through, construction could begin this summer.