Promega Corp.’s new Feynman Center manufacturing building is not like any other factory around here, tech or otherwise.
Sure, there are clean rooms beginning to fill with gleaming, stainless steel equipment that will make some of Promega’s 2,500 products, used worldwide by researchers and drug developers, as well as for human identification.
But to a visitor, the two-story, $120 million building at 2780 Woods Hollow Road looks more like a retreat than a factory. And in some ways, that’s the intention.
Along the west side of the 262,000-square-foot Feynman Center is the Crossroads, a gathering space for visitors and for Promega employees. Its floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the prairie while casual seating areas feature unique carved-wood benches and Chinese antiques.
Striated boulders from the glacial era, dug out of nearby property, ruggedly grace the building’s entrance, and a “living wall,” studded with 7,000 native and tropical plants of 42 varieties, is set to bloom year-round through its own irrigation system. Sixty-three geothermal wells heat and cool the Crossroads, while a solar energy system supplements the standard water heater.
Wooden beams, pillars and stairs add to the rustic appearance. The wooden ceiling is the largest installation of cross-
laminated timber — a multi-
layered wood product — in the U.S., according to Promega.
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The Crossroads also has meeting rooms, demonstration labs, a cafeteria and a set of exercise rooms, complete with showers and lockers.
It is designed to be an area where all of Promega’s employees can “cross paths” and share ideas, said Jennifer Romanin, director of in vitro diagnostics operations and project manager for the building.
Manufacturing is the functional part of the building, while the Crossroads adds a “warm, humanized place for staff and clients,” said architect David Rousseau, of Archemy Consulting, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who worked with Uihlein/Wilson Architects, Milwaukee, and EwingCole, Philadelphia, on the building’s design. Kraemer Brothers, Plain, was the general contractor.
Fitchburg economic development director Michael Zimmerman said the Feynman Center — named for Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman — was “the largest single building permit in Fitchburg’s history — a game-changer, with at least 100 jobs paying well above (average) per capita wages.”
More than three-fourths of the jobs are expected to pay $80,000 a year or more, he said.
Manufacturing will begin in 2014 after some dry runs on the new equipment, Romanin said. She said about 50 of Promega’s current employees will work at the Feynman Center to start, and 100 to 200 more will be hired over the next five years.
Founded in 1978, Promega was one of the first local biotechs and is one of the largest. It has more than 1,200 employees; factories in California, South Korea and China; and revenues of $335 million in 2012.
“This is a great company,” Zimmerman said. “This is exactly where we should be positioning ourselves as a region and as a state.”
More than 1,000 guests and employees attended Friday’s grand opening for the Feynman Center, which featured fireworks and performances by the Cycropia aerial dance troupe.