Colliers: Boston lab market in ‘transformative’ year
Boston’s biotechnology and laboratory property market is in the midst of a “transformative” year that has positioned the city as a formidable rival to neighboring Cambridge, long the location of choice among drug developers and researchers operating in Massachusetts.
That’s according to a new report by Colliers International, which measured and parsed many of the local biotech community’s leasing trends and development activities since Jan. 1.
While Cambridge still boasts the state’s largest cluster of lab and research space, its star has dimmed in recent months amid an aggressive — and, to date, successful — push by Boston officials and developers to bolster and reposition several neighborhoods as biotechnology hubs.
To date those efforts have largely focused on the Longwood Medical Area, the Allston-Brighton neighborhood and South Boston, which solidified itself as a research and biotech hotbed with this year’s deal to bring Vertex Pharmaceuticals to a 1.1 million-square-foot space on Fan Pier.
As of June 30, Boston’s lab market consisted of 3.5 million square feet of rentable space, of which a mere 2.5 percent was vacant. A net 52,000 square feet of space was absorbed during the first two quarters, lowering the city’s vacancy rate from 4 percent as of Dec. 31, according to Colliers.
By comparison, Cambridge’s lab-vacancy rate ticked up to 16.9 percent from 15.1 percent during the same six-month span. The city had 8.9 million square feet of rentable lab space as of June 30. Suburban vacancies also increased, rising to 10 percent from 8.9 percent at the end of 2010. Boston’s suburbs boast around 6.1 million square feet of leasable lab space.
Among Colliers other findings: The biotech industry’s continued growth — it added 46,500 Massachusetts workers over the past decade — and massive pipeline of nearly 1,000 new drugs in development have positioned the region to absorb a wave of new construction projects and expansions in the months ahead.
For example, Harvard University appears ready to resume development of a new health and life sciences center in Allston. While the university’s initial plan to build a 1 million-square-foot science center was halted by the onset of the 2008 credit crisis, it is expected to forge ahead with a pared-down version of the plan that will add between 500,000 square feet and 700,000 square feet of new lab and research space to the area.
Likewise, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has signed on as an anchor tenant for a proposed 350,000-square-foot research facility at the corner of Boston’s Longwood and Brookline avenues. The project is being advanced by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, National Development and Charles River Investors.
In Cambridge, a litany of proposed projects are in advanced stages of planning and are expected to add 1.9 million square feet of lab and research space to the city’s existing supply. Major efforts involve a two-building, 500,000-square-foot facility for Novartis AG; a 250,000-square-foot building for the Broad Institute, which is working in partnership with Boston Properties; and a seven-story, 230,000-square-foot building at 610 Main St. that will be developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leased to Pfizer Inc.
MIT also plans to build another 230,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the Pfizer site.