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Pacific Research Center buildings on Gateway Blvd in Newark. (File Photo)

Tech firms have wolfed down big chunks of office space in Silicon Valley and San Francisco lately, and that's prompted some smaller firms to shift operations to Newark.

Synarc, StemCells and iMANY are among the latest companies to rent space in Newark's nine-building Pacific Research Center, a 1.4 million-square-foot complex near the Dumbarton Bridge.

More companies located in Santa Clara, San Mateo or San Francisco counties are feeling the squeeze of rising rents and scarce office space because a number of big high-tech firms are grabbing buildings at a rapid pace.

StemCells will move out of Palo Alto and Synarc will depart San Francisco. IMANY was in Redwood City when it signed its lease.

And that has helped Pacific Research Center attract tenants, said Gregg Domanico, a broker with Kidder Matthews, a commercial realty firm that is seeking tenants for Newark office and research complex.

"Activity is crazy on the Peninsula," said Domanico, who added that the Pacific Research Center is still two-thirds empty even after these signings.

Several tech companies have agreed to big expansions in Silicon Valley that will fill at least 1.6 million square feet of office space. Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) leased 394,000 square feet in Sunnyvale, Cornish & Carey and CB Richard Ellis brokers said. A few weeks ago Motorola Mobility leased 236,000 square feet in the same city. VMware is expected to occupy 966,000 square feet in Palo Alto.

"That has absolutely played into companies moving in here" Domanico said. "We are getting a lot of activity coming across that bridge."

Palo Alto-based StemCells said the ability to expand at a reasonable rental rate helped to propel its move to the East Bay.

"Our lease was coming due, and we wanted to reduce our expenses," said Megan Meloni, a spokeswoman for StemCells. "The real estate prices on the Peninsula and Palo Alto are quite a bit higher than what we were finding in the East Bay."

The activity is bringing more jobs into the East Bay. StemCells will shift about 75 employees in July to the Newark complex. iMANY brought 50 workers to Newark when it moved March 1. It could add an additional 25. Synarc is also bringing new employees to Newark.

The deals also filled up significant bits of space in the Newark project, according to Domanico:

n"‚Synarc leased 50,000 square feet. The company provides medical image analysis services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

n"‚StemCells rented 43,000 square feet. The biopharmaceutical company is engaged in research and commercialization of stem cell therapeutics and related technologies.

n"‚Envia Systems, which moved from Hayward, leased 20,000 square feet. The company makes an advanced lithium ion battery that's gaining interest in the vehicle and other industries. It's raised $25 million to $30 million in private financing.

n"‚iMANY leased 12,000 square feet. The company makes software to manage contracts.

"The move allows for expansion of people and training facilities for our growing customer base on the West Coast," said Jerry Inman, a vice president with Philadelphia-based iMANY.

After scouring the Bay Area for a new location, Synarc decided it would be best to leave the San Francisco high-rise where its headquarters were, said Matthew Hart, a broker with the Studley commercial realty firm's San Francisco office.

"Synarc selected the Pacific Research Center in Newark as the optimal, long-term headquarters for the company," Hart said. "So moving to a single floor in a creative/life-science park near clients unlocks opportunity for the company."

One of the companies that's been in the office complex since last year, Envia, says Pacific Research Center is a good fit for the firm.

"It's a beautiful facility and there's plenty of space," said Atul Kapadia, chief executive officer and chairman of Envia. "The amenities are good for the employees."

Envia also will be able to expand in the complex if its business allows it to do so. When the company was in Hayward about a year ago, it had 10 workers, Kapadia estimated. Now it has 30.

The company could be expanding even further and might want to hire more employees.

"Once you get to the point where you reach escape velocity with your product, you get noticed and you can expand," Kapadia said. "We are orbiting around the Earth, but we are getting close to escape velocity."

Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477.