Aggie Square plans to make Sacramento a center for life sciences
Elected officials and officials at the University of California, Davis were set to dig ceremonial shovels into the dirt on Wednesday to dedicate a new $1 billion, 8-acre life sciences campus that they say will will reshape Sacramento’s reputation as a government city into a center of innovation.
Proponents of the project touted its new jobs and the power of a new economic engine in Sacramento. That said, most tenants in the $1.1 billion project on Second Street and Stockton Boulevard on the UC Medical School campus are not aligned.
Construction will officially begin in April.
Still, UC Davis Chancellor Greg May is optimistic, saying in an interview with The Sacramento Bee last Friday that officials are negotiating with at least 12 different companies for space in the project.
“I can’t say much more about it because they’re in various stages of development,” he said, “and some information is a bit sensitive.”
May said he is confident that his university’s reputation as a leading research university in areas such as food and agriculture will help attract life sciences companies – much like what Stanford and UC Berkeley have done for Silicon Valley.
He will also have a partner. Wexford Science and Technology, a company that partners with academic institutions to build technology and research parks, has built other successful parks across the United States
That said, Sacramento competes with other cities with their own technology park projects, all of which aim to attract thousands of well-paying jobs to their community. While there may not be jobs for everyone, May said this region will prevail.
“Other cities want to do this,” May said, “but they have to have the right university partner and the right niche that will attract business.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg believes in the project’s future efforts on the city.
“I consider Aggie Square to be the biggest economic initiative in the city in decades,” he told The Bee in an interview last week.
The 8-acre Phase I – officials expect it to be completed by the end of 2024 – will consist of two main buildings, a nine-story 313,000 square foot life sciences and engineering building and an eight-story, 253,000 square foot continuous learning building. .
The second UC building will contain classrooms and purported opportunities to collaborate with education provided by UC Davis faculty, labs, and businesses within the buildings.
A smaller 50,000 square foot building will house the Alice Waters Institute for Edible Education. The remaining buildings will provide housing for UC medical and research students. A parking lot will be the last building.
The 8-acre site is currently vacant, or places parking lots or industrial buildings.
The Waters Institute brings a touch of celebrity to the project. It was founded by Berkeley gourmet chef Alice Waters, a pioneer of the slow-food movement.
The other announced tenant is Cytiva, a biopharmaceutical brand owned by GE and sold to Danaher Corporation Life Sciences in 2020. The company is expected to work on stem cell manufacturing in Aggie Square, but few details have been revealed.
It is unclear how much office and/or lab space this would take up. The company has offices around the world.
The City of Sacramento is a third partner in the project, doling out nearly $70 million in tax relief, filling project funding gaps and helping the developer improve roads, storm water and sewers.
Wexford Science and Technology will lease the land from UC Davis and pay for the construction, but will also have some kind of collateral. UC Davis will pay the developer for its own classrooms and labs within the complex.
The project had a major obstacle. Originally, housing and jobs advocates opposed it, fearing Aggie Square would increase gentrification in the nearby Oak Park neighborhood.
Several lawsuits were dropped after the city agreed to provide tens of millions of dollars in new affordable housing and a $5 million fund to help displaced tenants. In addition, Rexford has agreed to job guarantees which he says will secure a wide range of jobs in the new companies, including 20% for those without a college degree.
Aggie Square will help not just downtown, but the entire Sacramento metro area, says Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council.
“This is our best chance to relieve the low-wage economy,” he said. “Thirty-five percent of household incomes earn less than $55,000 a year.”
While the government will always play a major force in Sacramento, Broome said, the city needs to diversify its economy. Aggie Square, according to its supporters, is a great start.