RTP set for growth and new development even as UT’s brutalist Evans-Hitchins building is demolished

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=Drone photo taken of Elion Hitchings building on 11/29/2020 Photo by Getharding (Wikipedia)

The demolition of the brutalist-style Elion-Hitchings Building in Research Triangle Park (RTP) has dismayed architecture lovers, but could indicate a major expansion and redevelopment of the property’s 132-acres will happen within the next few years.

United Therapeutics (UT) considers RTP to be its co-headquarters, even though it was founded in Metropolitan Washington’s Silver Springs MD in 1996.

Dewey Steadman, UT’s head of investor relations, told the Raleigh News & Observer that  the company is currently weighing where it might grow its manufacturing capabilities in the U.S., as it prepares to launch new products.

“It could be pretty significant expansion,” he was quoted as saying, adding the company is looking at options “either in RTP or Maryland.” The company believes strong growth is possible in one of its new pulmonary hypertension treatments, Tyvaso DPI, for pulmonary arterial hypertension.

“United Therapeutics plans to submit a new drug application for Tyvaso DPI with the FDA in April. If it gets FDA approval, the company would likely need to expand its headcount and facilities to handle its growth,” the published report said.

The RTP site could have a major role once the drug is approved — and further along, RTP RTP also could play a key role in the company’s organ manufacturing programs, once they gain FDA approvals, Steadman said.

Scott Levitan, the president of the CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation, said he is “thrilled” that United Therapeutics is considering further investments into the Park.

“They have options about where they want to grow, but I get the sense they would like to grow in RTP,” Levitan said. “And I think our community and our board really want to make sure they feel comfortable here.”

Levitan said the Elion-Hitchings building is no longer suitable as lab space because it was built with asbestos for insulation an less-than-durable materials,  “I think the building served its purpose and lived its time,” he said in told the News & Observer. “But it wasn’t able to sustain physically.”

Several other biotech companies have already announced expansion plans in the RTP area, despite (or perhaps because of) the COVID-19 pandemic.

Levitan said $3.5 billion worth of projects were announced in RTP alone last year — a figure that doesn’t include the Research Triangle Foundation’s own investment into Hub RTP, a development that will include office towers, apartments, restaurants and retail, the published report says.

The continued investments into RTP “indicate the Park has entered a new era to be able to accommodate R&D companies that are on the cutting edge,” Levitan said. “The investment we are making in Hub is driven by a desire to make the Park more interesting and desirable for the workforce.”

He said the office towers at Hub RTP could begin construction in 2022. The foundation is still a big believer in the future of large mixed-use developments, despite the fact that many workers are stuck at home because of the pandemic, Levitan said.

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