The University of Connecticut is reaching out to companies it has affiliations with to try to come up with a joint use of Pfizer’s sprawling vacant research facility, the University’s economic development director said.
Mary Holz-Clause, director of economic development for U-Conn, said the university has been working since a recent tour of the facility to speak to private businesses. The university has also been speaking to the state Department of Economic and Community Development, she said.
She said it’s too early to know what will come of it.
“We don’t have those big ideas back yet,” she said. “But we do understand the clock is ticking, believe me.”
the grounds of Pfizer and Building 118 - the 750,000-square-foot complex on Eastern Point Road. Pfizer has warned it might demolish if it does not find a buyer.
Holz-Clause said the challenge is the space is large and includes lab facilities that would be costly to retrofit and use another way.
She said groups that might use the facility include small pharmaceutical start-up firms the university might have a connection with.
“I hope that some magic will happen that we can have that conversation in six weeks, or something, and I think everyone’s really trying to see how we can bring people and groups in,” she said.
Ann Bucklin, head of marine sciences at U-Conn, said the university has directed faculty and others to think of every potential use that might work; then it will assemble those ideas.
“We’re researchers,” she said. “Everybody saw potential. The issue is that no one entity can fill all that space.”
Bucklin said representatives from liberal arts, pharmacy, engineering and others attended the tour.
“Initially, I think the intent was to cast a very broad net to let people from every corner of the university see the space and the facilities and help U-Conn think about how to take advantage of the opportunity in some way that is sustainable, reasonable and consistent with our mission.”
She said uses could be varied, because the university’s mission is varied; it includes education, research, community and economic development.
She said there was a sense of excitement and opportunity about the space, despite the challenges and nature of the large buildings.
“The space that Pfizer is relinquishing is state of the art in some cases,” she said. “It’s an incredibly valuable facility.”