BY DAN SCHERE
A biotech company that is involved in the federal government’s initiative to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine next year might move into a building in Gaithersburg.
City officials won’t disclose the name of the company, but Assistant City Manager Tom Lonergan told Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that it is involved in Operation Warp Speed — a partnership between federal government agencies to produce more than 300 million doses of the vaccine.
The building, at 700 Quince Orchard Road, is in an area of Gaithersburg near multiple biotech companies and adjacent to the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus.
News of the biotech company’s interest in the property was initially reported this week by the real estate publication Montgomery Newsletter.
The three-story building’s ground floor is currently a parking garage.
Lonergan said on Wednesday that the company, the city and the building’s landlord, Rock Creek Property Group, started talking in July about leasing the space in the building to the company. To do so, the first-floor parking garage would need to be enclosed and made into office space. That space would instead be used as office space for research and development.
“It was a very old building in need of substantial renovation, and Rock Creek Property Group put in significant capital to upgrade the building. And as part of that upgrade, they did convert the lower floor to parking and converted the upper two floors to occupancy by a tenant,” he said.
If the conversion back to offices occurs, the building’s space would expand from 120,000 to 180,000 square feet, and alternative parking would be made available in an adjacent lot, Lonergan said.
Last month, the City Council initially approved the proposal to convert the space, so the Planning Commission could discuss and possibly approve it at its meeting in a few weeks, Lonergan said.
“The council agreed, in the spirit of moving this process along as quickly as possible, that the changes that were being proposed for this space were characterized as minor changes and could be approved just by the Planning Commission. And that was done to get this accomplished in a more timely manner,” he said.
Representatives from Rock Creek Property Group could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.