Burlington Plants Biotech Flag
Headquarters ribbon cuttings attract headlines and VIP appearances, but Burlington developers say key to expanding suburban Boston’s new life sciences cluster will be providing a landing pad for start-up biotechnologies.
The 26,000-person suburb of Middlesex County has been overshadowed by growing submarkets such as Watertown and Waltham, catching life sciences expansion in recent years, but recent leasing and development activity is setting the recognition of Burlington’s name in industry circles.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard’s recent commitment to a new 146,000 square foot genetic sequencing facility at 25-27 Network Drive could have a transformative effect similar to the relocation of Vertex Pharmaceuticals to Boston’s Seaport District in 2014. said John Coakley, a partner at Cresa tenant representation brokerage in Boston.
“The cluster effect is huge. These start-ups don’t want to be the first and only in an area, and Burlington hasn’t had the focus we’ve seen in other Route 128 areas like Waltham,” Coakley said.
Ground floor and planned office conversions
Developers are offering and constructing a range of office builds and conversions to accommodate newcomers at different stages of the industry life cycle, from speculative clean rooms and R&D labs to biomanufacturing.
The Cambridge-based Broad Institute, which partners with Harvard-affiliated hospitals and global researchers, will use the Burlington site to expand its main Kendall Square facility. Vericel Corp. had previously leased 125,000 square feet on the property, being developed by Burlington-based Nordblom Co. and Starwood Capital Group into a 1 million square foot campus, for its own relocation and expansion.
Massachusetts’ economic boom in the 1980s was largely due to the expansion of the technology and defense industry into the suburbs, contributing to the growth of office parks along Route 128 and Highway 495. Many of these same buildings are repurposed for the state’s current economic engine and supply. proximity to retail businesses and an educated workforce, said Kris Galletta, chief investment officer at Nordblom Co.
“The same reasons the defense and software industries have been drawn to Burlington before are the reasons we believe it will succeed from a life sciences perspective,” Galletta said.
Nordblom Co. sees additional opportunities for lab conversions in the 1.1 million square foot Network Drive in Northwest Park, which has only a handful of current life sciences tenants, Galletta said. .
Another biotech-focused real estate model has already paid off for Nordblom and its partner Alcion Ventures at 60 Blanchard Road. Life sciences consultants Azzur Group has leased the 50,300 square foot facility for its sixth Cleanrooms on Demand facility, offering pre-built suites to biopharmaceutical companies to accelerate their manufacturing in early spaces. Moderna quickly leased 75% of the facility in mid-2021.
The Burlington site adds to the Azzur Group’s initial facility in Massachusetts, which opened in 2018 in Waltham, and is designed to meet growing demand from large pharma customers and start-ups, said spokeswoman Katie Brown. Labs are typically ready for occupancy within three months, and the Burlington facility currently has three clean rooms, averaging 760 square feet, always available.
“We absolutely needed to expand and we looked at Burlington essentially as an extension of this area of Cambridge. We want to be where our customers are,” Brown said.
We are looking for “dynamic” companies in the growth phase
Two dozen biotechnology, medical technology, biomanufacturing and health care companies call Burlington home, according to data compiled by the city’s office of economic development. Last year, Burlington officials sought to make commercial properties more suitable for life sciences conversions by enacting accelerated zoning approvals and higher densities for a 150-acre “innovation district” near road 128.
“It’s great to have anchor institutions, but the smaller, growing ones are much more vibrant and willing to collaborate with other businesses,” said Melisa Tintocalis, Burlington’s economic development coordinator.
At the Boston Marriott Burlington Hotel located at 1 Burlington Mall Road, Boston-based Pyramid Hotel Group offers a 96,000 square foot life sciences building on part of the parking lot.
And the Hudson’s Bay Company has filed plans to convert Lord & Taylor’s vacant former flagship store at Burlington Mall into a 120,000 square foot laboratory building.
Neighbor wanted for the EMDMillipore campus
EMDMillipore’s decision to consolidate workspace for 900 Greater Boston employees into a new, purpose-built 280,000 square foot campus that opened in 2017 on Summit Road has given Burlington an industrial anchor. leading. To expand the life sciences cluster, Burlington and city officials have sought to provide options for small businesses in growth mode.
It was Gutierrez Cos, based in Burlington. strategy when he added laboratory infrastructure to a vacant new office building at 4 Burlington Woods Drive, later renamed Burlington BioCenter. In less than 12 months, Gutierrez Cos. leased the entire 110,000 square foot facility to biotechs Ultivue, Protagene and CANbridge. Rare disease researcher CANbridge is expanding its research staff to 92 staff at the new 24,500 square foot headquarters after moving from Cambridge in June. The facility will also include laboratory space as part of a partnership with the Horae Gene Therapy Center at UMass Chan School of Medicine.
Next to the Burlington BioCenter, San Francisco-based GI Partners acquired a nearby office building at 3 Burlington Woods Drive for $58.1 million in February and is offering a 160,000 square foot lab conversion.
And a 291,000 square foot office-to-laboratory conversion is slated for completion in the spring of 2023 at 3 Van De Graaff Drive by Quincy-based Jumbo Capital.
Scott Weiss, Gutierrez Cos.’ vice president of development, said the company is extending its bet on biotech growth in Burlington with two upcoming projects.
Gutierrez Cos. converts the 110,000 square foot office building 10 Corporate Drive into lab space slated for tenant fit-outs in late 2022.
And an approved 250,000 square foot lab development pad at 300 Summit Drive adjacent to the EMDMillipore campus could launch speculatively later this year, Weiss said. The company is watching inflation and construction costs closely, but is optimistic that continued tenant demand will translate into higher rents.
“It makes things much more difficult with supply chain issues and the cost of labor and materials, but we believe there is still a market need, and therefore tenants will be interested in absorb the additional costs,” Weiss said.