Planning Board OKs EMD Serono Expansion
BILLERICA -- A $70 million expansion of a research and development facility for cancer research was approved without protest by the Planning Board Monday night.
The Germany-based parent company of biopharmaceutical firm EMD Serono proposed the 146,000-square-foot facility, located at 45A Middlesex Turnpike, to include laboratories, office space and a cafeteria.
EMD Serono is operated by Merck KGaA, in Darmstadt, Germany, and currently employs between 600 to 700 employees. Over the next few years, that number could increase by roughly 50 employees, it was revealed during Monday night’s presentation on the project by company representatives.
“The goal is a cutting edge oncology research and development center, not only designed to keep the top scientists they now employ, but to attract top scientists from all over the world in the future,” said James Dangora, an attorney with Shea, Dangora and Nelson, based in Billerica.
The company’s investment in the project includes roughly $55 million in construction costs and an additional “several million dollars” in laboratories and equipment, according to Dangora.
Construction on the roughly 47-acre plot would last approximately two years.
In addition to unanimously approving the expansion project, the Planning Board also approved a waiver of a formal traffic study with the agreement the company provides a traffic memorandum. The memorandum will be reviewed by a peer consultant employed by the town.
The board also voted to waive the 20-foot strip of green space that would typically be required around 75 percent of the building. The waiver was agreed upon because of the extensive green-space landscaping throughout the site, according to Dangora.
The new building will be constructed to LEED and WELL certifications, building standards promoting low-environmental impact and enhancement of people’s health and wellness.
It was revealed during Monday night’s presentation that solar power has been contemplated by the company but is not included in the initial design for the expansion project. Solar panels could be accommodated in the future.
Earlier this month, Tom Manager John Curran said the town has been working with the company regarding drafting an agreement that will include specifics like the number of new employees promised by the company and tax breaks from the town providing relief, “on the front end.”
The document is expected to come before a spring Town Meeting as a Tax Increment Financing Agreement, Curran said.
“It’s creating jobs,” Curran said. “It’ll bring in tax revenue for the town. It’s just a winner for everybody.”
EMD Serono opened its $65 million research center in Billerica in 2011. Five years later, the company announced a $12 million expansion to its facility.
With the latest expansion, Curran said the company may become the town’s largest employer.
In a press release issued earlier this month, Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, said the expansion is a testament to the state’s “global” leadership in the field of life sciences.
“In working collaboratively with the town of Billerica, the company’s campus expansion over the past decade has not only helped attract and retain top talent in the area, but more importantly, contributed to improving the lives of people with serious medical needs,” McCready said.
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