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Life Science Facilities Flourish in NYC

Published on 10/29/2019

New York City's healthcare real estate professionals are finding growing demand for life science space, leading to a fast-growing new industry. Derek Brand, COO, NewYorkBio, commented at the 2019 New York Hospital, Outpatient Facilities & Medical Office Buildings Summit in September, co-hosted by and AMFP, that the city's tremendous pipeline of talent coupled with its strong network of hospitals, lab space and academic institutions make the study of life sciences a natural fit for the city.

Nishta Rao, Managing Director, BioLabs @NYULangone, noted during the event that people are, for the first time, considering spinning companies out of their studies. Grad students are excited about the biolabs at NYUlangone, as it's now a platform to help them transplant their work into potentially commercially viable products.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is already seeing growth and unlocking more lab space. Sue Rosenthal, NYCEDC vice president, says the organization first identified a gap in wet lab space. After clarifying zoning laws to define what was allowed, the doors were opened for developers to change more buildings to wet labs.

Meanwhile, the Janus Property Companyis developing over a million square feet near Columbia University, according to firm founder and principal Scott Metzner. He sees this as setting the stage for the industry's growth. Too often, Metzner said, organizations are looking for lab space the day before they need it. Early start-ups and step-out companies tend to not have the capital necessary to secure space right out the door. Larger organizations, he added, don't want to sit on inventory, but "we view ourselves as nimble enough company to see a spot in the market to take an investment chance that the broader market is nervous about taking."

Jessica Vitali, RA Associate with Jack L. Gordon Architects, cautioned that there is a lack of space to develop near academic institutions, so adaptive reuse is dominating this sector as well. In fact, she said, even undesirable spaces are being quickly scooped up. For example, her firm renovated an older brewery into a high-tech lab.

The challenge Vitali has seen is that life science organizations are demanding both highly specific space to met unique needs and space that's flexible enough to allow growth.

However challenging, these firms are making it work. Rosenthal predicted that in time New York City will have several mini clusters for life science, in Harlem, Soho and the East Side with the Alexandria Center for Life Science. "We will dwarf these other cities because we have so much academia and talent," she said. "We have the special sauce of talent and connectivity."

To read the full Summit takeaways, visit