Solae is the St. Louis-based provider of soy ingredients for nutrition bars, processed meats and other products.
The company plans to move to a 165,000-square-foot complex one block south of the intersection of Forest Park Parkway and Boyle Avenue, consolidating research and business operations that are now scattered around the Nestlé Purina complex in downtown St. Louis.
Crews could begin work on the building's foundation by March 1, said Kirk Warden, who leads the project for developer Clayco.
The building will include labs where scientists can make beverages, experiment with hams and sausages, create protein bars and chocolates and break down molecules to determine why substances taste the way they do.
The headquarters will house about 330 people who now work in the Nestlé Purina complex as well as approximately 30 people from a small pilot plant in Hazelwood, where Solae makes protein bars and tests how they taste after shelf aging.
"Right now, there's separation between our research people and our commercial people," said Tony Arnold, Solae's president and chief executive. "We're trying to create an open environment where people can collaborate."
The new headquarters is being developed under the aegis of the Center of Research, Technology and Entrepreneurial Expertise, or Cortex.
The venture is trying to use new construction and redevelopment to create a high-tech research corridor for biotech efforts in St. Louis. John Dubinsky, the group's chairman, said it was realistic to hope that five or six additional companies would sign leases by 2008 as Cortex adds office space.
The group has redevelopment rights for 185 acres sprinkled across an area bounded by Forest Park Parkway, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Taylor Avenue and Grand Boulevard.
Cortex sold the development rights for what will become the Solae building to Clayco. Solae already has signed a 15-year lease for the building, which could cost $32 million to build, not including Solae's relocation costs, said Clayco's Warden.
Solae, a joint venture between DuPont and Bunge Ltd. with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, is planning to beef up its staff. It has more than 30 positions open.