Firms in the life sciences sector confront a number of hurdles. They include locating enough high-quality lab space for their research, ensuring current space can be scaled when future expansion is warranted and attracting a continuous supply of exceptionally well-educated biotech talent. Among the nation’s up-and-coming technology clusters, Boston Seaport is emerging as one of the most promising urban lab markets, one that can allow life sciences firms to vault every one of those hurdles.
The Hub’s most ambitious project now under development, Boston Seaport seeks to blend history and modernity in its transformation of 23 acres of waterfront land into a lively, multi-faceted, 24/7 life-work-play community combining office, retail, nightlife, residential, cultural opportunities and open spaces.
A project of WS Development, Seaport has in the past 18 months drawn office and lab commitments from more than 60 companies, including Amazon, Foundation Medicine, Crimson Hexagon, Puretech Health and Vertex to name a few. Approximately 1.5 million square feet of life science space has been built to date in the Seaport.
With three million square-feet of space in the pipeline, and another 1.8 million square feet of space available for immediate occupancy, Seaport has the capacity to address companies’ concerns for current needs and future expansion.
The present and future of the Seaport district of Boston didn’t always look so rosy.
“For generations, the Seaport was little more than parking lots and a construction zone as part of the new highway and transit projects that serve the area,” says Yanni Tsipis, senior vice president, Seaport, WS Development. “It wasn’t viewed by anyone as a vibrant, thriving ecosystem or a community that could aspire to be a national hub of the knowledge-based economy. As the neighborhood grew and matured, both the perception and reality have changed dramatically.”
The emergence of Seaport has been well-timed to a recent surge in the Massachusetts biopharma industry, which from 2017 to 2018 witnessed its largest growth in a decade.
The industry added more than 4,300 new jobs, accounting for a growth rate of 6.4%. Investment in the Massachusetts biopharma industry attained an all-time peak last year, when $4.8 billion of venture capital investment was made in state companies.
Part of the appeal of Seaport for life sciences companies is its ability to appeal to top talent inclined to work in one of the nation’s two leading metro areas for biopharma careers, the other San Francisco. “Attracting and retaining top talent is the primary driver of employer real estate decisions today,” Tsipis said. “And today’s brightest talent is seeking the best place to live, work and grow.
“Part of the reason Seaport has seen such success is that it offers employees work-life integration, by blurring the lines between work, living, recreation, wellness and entertainment, all in such close proximity to the traditional centers of knowledge like MIT and Harvard.”
Seaport features hundreds of art and performance events, community gatherings and family activities each year. Fashion retailers, a new supermarket, daily fitness classes, an ice skating rink and assorted restaurant options from fast-casual to fine dining are among initiatives that benefit both neighborhood employers and residents.
As life science tenants continue to search for space in Boston, Seaport appears to be responding to a determined quest by employers for immediate Bay State occupancy.
“The value and appeal of Seaport amenities and access to the waterfront, combined with the emerging talent base from many top Boston colleges, have led major companies directly to Seaport, with future lab sites here in high demand,” Tsipis says.
“The biggest challenge for life science tenants today is finding enough high-quality lab space in close proximity to other amenities such as outdoor recreation, a strong sense of community and plentiful housing, all of which are top attracters of talent.
“And we are filling that void.”