Blackstone sells properties of Baltimore biopark developer for $1.5 billion

Baltimore biopark developer plans to sell its properties for $1.5 billion

A Chicago-based real estate investment trust has agreed to acquire the real estate assets of Baltimore-based biopark developer Wexford Science & Technology for $1.5 billion in cash.

Ventas Inc. said Tuesday it signed an agreement to purchase most of Wexford's life science and medical real estate properties from affiliates of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VIII L.P.

The Blackstone Group, a New York-based investment firm, acquired Wexford parent Biomed Realty Trust in an $8 billion deal earlier this year.

Ventas is acquiring 25 Wexford properties, including buildings in the University of Maryland BioPark on Baltimore's west side, that are leased by 11 universities, academic medical centers and research company partners.

In addition to acquiring the portfolio, Ventas, a REIT with about 1,300 senior housing communities, medical office buildings, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals, have rights to jointly develop future projects with Wexford.

The Baltimore company will be independently owned by its management team and will continue to manage the properties. Ventas plans to assume $33 million in liabilities as part of the deal.

"We are delighted to have Ventas, the leader in healthcare real estate, as our strategic capital partner to continue growing a portfolio where there is cutting-edge, institutional-quality life science research to meet the needs of a growing and aging population," said Jim Berens, Wexford's president, in the announcement.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

"This transaction also provides Ventas a unique opportunity to capitalize on increasing healthcare-driven research and development spurred and supported by top tier research universities," said Debra A. Cafaro, Ventas' chairman and CEO, in the company's announcement. "We believe the growth opportunity is significant."

Demand for space has been driven by growth in bio-pharmaceutical drug development to meet needs of an aging U.S. population, company officials said.

In November, the Baltimore City Council voted to eliminate property taxes for at least five years on a planned $110 million Wexford project in the Biopark. The council approved its designation as part of the Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise, or RISE, zone, which, when combined with other incentive zones, allows the developer to avert property taxes and get other tax benefits on the project.

The council in February also approved a $17.5 million tax increment financing subsidy for the planned building and required that the developer set aside $4 million in a fund to benefit the community.

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