A new $95 million home for Agensys, a biotech firm that manufactures antibodies to treat cancer, opened Thursday on city-owned property near the Bergamot Arts Station.
The 160,000-square-foot research and development facility centralizes and expands the company's operations, which were formerly located in three separate buildings. Over the next few months, 250 employees and contractors will move into the former railroad yard at 1800 Stewart St.
At Thusday's grand opening, City Councilman Bob Holbrook, a pharmacist, said he hopes a cure for cancer "can someday come from Santa Monica."
"There was a point in time when this project hung in the balance," said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, who was on the City Council when the project was approved. "This is a business, this is an agency, that needs to remain in this city."
After signing a development agreement with the city in the fall of 2010, Agensys paid an undisclosed sum to take control of the land lease from real estate investment firm Lionstone Group, according to published reports.
Under the agreement, Agensys agreed to build a pedestrian pathway connecting its campus to the arts center and a café open to the public. It will also host a job fair and internship program.
Then-council member Bobby Shriver voted against the agreement, contending the city wasn't getting a good enough deal, in part because Agensys refused to guarantee it would hire Santa Monica residents, the Santa Monica LookOut reported. Cycling advocates also lost their fight for a bike path through the property.
"In Santa Monica, we like to think that we are business friendly, but we are not business easy," said City Manager Rod Gould. "You chose to stay in Santa Monica and for that we are deeply, deeply grateful."
Agensys was founded in Santa Monica in 1997 by oncologists at UCLA. In 2007, it was acquired by Tokyo-based Astellas Pharma Inc.
Its employees will see major changes in the Bergamot Arts Station area over the next few years.
Construction is underway next-door to build a train stop for the Expo Light Rail, set to open in 2016. The arts center will get a major redo, and across the street, a 766,094-square-foot" transit village"—a mix of residences, office space, shops and restuarants—is awaiting city approval. Just east of the "village" will be an even bigger project consisting of more homes, creative offices and cultural art outlets.