La Jolla Life science complex is model for employee well-being


By Pat Sherman

Think scientists are boring, bashful or un-athletic?

One hour with the life science pros at the state-of-the-art Nautilus business complex in La Jolla should dispel any lingering myths of pocket protector-sporting researchers.

The four-building complex in the Torrey Pines Science Park — the latest addition to Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ 43-property San Diego inventory — features a fully-equipped fitness center, a bistro serving organic produce from an on-site garden, a lawn for lunchtime croquet games and barbecue patio where employees of Verenium Corporation hold a Friday afternoon beer club.

“If you want to have a party, it doesn’t really take any special planning — you just come out here and do it,” enthused Tom Todaro, a senior manager in Verenium’s robotics department, during a costumed “Wig Day” lunch on the patio.

When not holding themed potlucks, Nautilus employees avail themselves of the Green Acre café, operated under the auspices of chef Brian Malarkey of Enlightened Hospitality Group, whose fabric-inspired eateries include Herringbone in the Village and Searsucker in the Gaslamp district. The café is open to the public.

When the brain is reaching overdrive, a stem-cell scientist with Fate Therapeutics or genomics researcher with Novartis can unwind in an Adirondack chair within the verdant confines of the garden, where Swiss chard, lettuce, golden beets, beans and an array of herbs and lettuces grow.

During a recent visit, Chef Joel Cammett served up a “Goddess Salad” with seared albacore tuna and lettuces and miniature cucumbers from the Nautilus garden, as well as a flatbread pizza with prosciutto and blue cheese aged in a Northern California mine shaft.

“They serve a salad with almost everything (from the garden in it),” Todaro said. “The flavor is just so much better than what you would get out of the grocery store.” The Nautilus sustainability cycle is completed via a ma- chine that turns food waste from the kitchen into phosphorus rich soil that is used on the grounds.

Though a single tenant occupying 18,000 square feet might not be able to afford all these amenities, Alexandria provides and manages them as a fully integrated wellness program, which reduces the tenants’ health insurance costs.

The fitness center offers regular yoga and zumba classes. “We’re making it very easy for them to participate.” said Daniel Ryan, the company’s San Diego regional marketing director and executive vice president.

“We accommodate and encourage people biking to work (and) surfing — just that lifestyle and activity,” he said.

Verenium’s chief executive officer, Jamie Levine, said readily accessible fitness options encouraged him to start exercising regularly.

“When I bike to work, I’ve got a place to shower when I get in,” he said. “I would say at least 25 percent of our employees are actively taking advantage of it. It’s really made a big difference.”

Alexandria, a Pasadena-based real estate investment trust that redesigns or constructs buildings to fit the specific needs of life science tenants, hopes the Nautilus complex at 3535 General Atomics Court will become a model for employee wellness and architectural sustainability.

The company either owns its buildings or manages them for other property owners.

The 215,000-square-foot Nautilus complex is designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. The rating system provides building owners with a framework to implement environmentally friendly practices.

Another of Alexandria’s San Diego-area life science complexes, Campus Pointe in UTC, achieved platinum LEED certification. A second Green Acres Café is scheduled to open there.

“It’s not just the building — it’s also a lifestyle,” Ryan said. “What’s unique about this is the ability to really accelerate discovery. It’s making the tenants happier, healthier and more interested in coming to work. “It’s also a consistent philosophy with what our tenants really do, which is working on the human condition,” he said.

Alexandria was formed in 1994. Some of its first acquisitions were in San Diego, including the Nautilus property, which was home to Merck and Pfizer before recent renovations. The company maintains 17 million square feet internationally,

including properties in New York, Greater Boston, San Francisco Bay, Seattle, China and India.

About 18 percent of Alexandria’s properties are in the San Diego area. Tenants include the UC San Diego, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and DNA-sequencing giant, Illumina, which signed a lease on its new 346,600-square- foot UTC-area headquarters last year.

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