Grapevine: Still in Roche's sights

September 17. 2012 3:00AM

By NJBIZ STAFF

New Brunswick continues to be the leading New Jersey site proposed for a new Roche research center, sources said last week, although the Matrix-owned site in the Hub City is now off the table. Roche executives are mulling a state proposal for new construction on or adjacent to the campus of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in New Brunswick. The pharma company wants to be closer to the medical school and Rutgers, and the existing Matrix building that Roche had considered is several blocks away, at George and New streets.

Kim Guadagno and Dr. Robert Barchi reportedly made a strong case to a top Roche official for the site closer to the medical school.

"The lieutenant governor and Barchi were very, very good," a source said. The duo pitched that the newly realigned Rutgers and medical school would be a good environment for the research center Roche plans to site in New Jersey or New York.


A second source with knowledge of the process called New Brunswick's case "pretty strong."


A source said the leading competitor seems to be the Alexandria Center for Life Science, which was formerly called the East River Science Park. It's located near FDR Drive and East 29th Street, in Manhattan.


The Princeton area also was in the mix. Guadagno and higher education head Rochelle Hendricks met with top management of Roche to review proposals for "areas surrounding New Brunswick and Princeton," according to a third source.

N.J. still in the Hunts
Whether New Jersey still has a shot at landing the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market is anyone's guess, but state officials don't seem to be taking anything for granted.


One source said it was hard to tell whether the Bronx, N.Y.-based co-op was seriously considering the state's overtures, or just playing the "top this" game with city and state officials across the Hudson River.


There is, however, one bit of certainty in the process.


"One thing is for sure, the (lieutenant governor) doesn't give up until the whistle blows," the source said, referring to Guadagno, the state's point woman for economic development and business attraction.


Questions about whether New Jersey had a chance to lure the produce market resurfaced earlier this month. Aug. 31 marked the end of a period of exclusive lease negotiations between its operators and New York City's Economic Development Corp., the third time such a deadline had passed, according to a report in Crain's New York.


Last year, officials with the 115-member cooperative said they were considering locations in New Jersey — including the Meadowlands and Newark — for their new home once their lease ran its course.


But New York City and state officials reportedly are working on a plan to redevelop the current site at a cost ranging from $320 million to $380 million.

Hospital talks on life support
The proposed partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson system and Somerset Medical Center may be falling apart, according to two sources familiar with the talks.


The deal, announced in February, would have added the Somerville-based independent hospital under the RWJ umbrella, which already houses three hospitals in New Brunswick, Hamilton and Rahway — thereby solidifying the system's Central Jersey stronghold.


"We are still engaged in discussions with Somerset Medical Center," RWJ spokesman Peter Haigney said in an e-mail. Somerset did not have an immediate response.


If the deal is off, Somerset doesn't seem to be wasting any time. A tipster said three of the largest systems in the state — Atlantic Health, Barnabas Health and Virtua — are interested in opening talks with the hospital. Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and CEO of Barnabas Health, said he would not comment on discussions involving other health care organizations, and Michael Samuelsson, spokesman for Atlantic Health, said he had no information about potential discussions. Virtua leadership was unable to be reached for comment before publication.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.


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