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December 11, 2023 Deal Watch

New Haven’s 101 College St. bioscience tower nears debut, as demand for lab space slows

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Carter Winstanley is the lead developer of the 101 College St. bioscience tower in New Haven that is set to debut early next year. In the background is 100 College St., another New Haven bioscience tower that Winstanley’s firm developed.
New Haven’s life sciences real estate footprint
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The 101 College St. building in the heart of New Haven is set to debut in early 2024, providing new research and laboratory space for the city’s growth-minded bioscience industry.

Two-year-old construction on the 525,000-square-foot life sciences tower is wrapping up. Tenant fit-outs are now underway, after core and shell work was completed in September.

The building’s first tenant, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, is set to move in at the start of next year, with another major tenant, BioLabs, up and running by Feb. 1, said Carter Winstanley, principal of project developer Winstanley Enterprises.

The 10-story building was 60% to 70% leased when ground was broken on June 1, 2021. When the property debuts, 90% of its space will be leased to life science companies, including Arvinas, as well as industry group BioCT and Yale University.

Interest in the property reflects New Haven’s attraction as the state’s bioscience hub, helped significantly by the presence of Yale, experts say.

Robert Motley

However, the building will come online at a time when demand for lab space in New Haven, the state and nationwide has declined due to broader economic conditions, including a high interest rate environment that has slowed venture capital investment, which serves as the lifeblood of the bioscience industry, said Robert H. Motley, a senior director at real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Also dampening the sector’s short-term growth is continued fallout from this year’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, a key lender and money manager for the bioscience industry, Motley said.

“How would I characterize the demand for life science space in New Haven? Right now, it’s a little slow,” Motley said.

About 12.1% of New Haven’s 3.1 million square feet of lab space was vacant at the end of the second quarter, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

Comparatively, Greater New Haven’s 10.8 million square feet of office space was 17.5% vacant at the end of the second quarter, Cushman & Wakefield data shows.

Winstanley said demand for lab space naturally ebbs and flows over time.

“At this moment, we are experiencing a slowdown in the market due to a decrease in the availability of both public and private investment dollars,” Winstanley said.

But the decrease is being offset, in part, by new ventures being spun out of Yale, he added, a trend that is expected to continue — and potentially accelerate — in the years ahead.

New Haven’s transformation

Carter Winstanley has been a key player in helping transform New Haven into a life sciences hub. He was recently appointed to the board of directors of BioCT, a statewide life sciences group.

A quarter-century ago, his firm — Winstanley Enterprises — acquired for $27.5 million the largely vacant 518,940-square-foot Southern New England Telephone Co. office building, at 300 George St., and redeveloped the property into life science and medical office space that is now fully leased by Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital.

Yale University in late November bought 300 George St. for $139.7 million, more than five times the price Winstanley paid for the building in 2000, city land records show.

In 2015, Winstanley Enterprises debuted its 513,000-square-foot, 14-story office and laboratory building at 100 College St., next to its new property at 101 College.

Since then, other bioscience projects have been built, proposed or are underway, including several in nearby Science Park as well as “Square 10,” a proposed 11-story, 200,000-square-foot bioscience building with medical labs for Yale and other companies on the old coliseum site on South Orange Street.

Landlord The Hurley Group a few years ago converted its 8-story, 105,500-square-foot Class B office building at 55 Church St., into the Elm City Bioscience Center, now leased by several life science companies.

“What we’ve found is, the more we build and bring space online, the more it creates essentially a center of gravity for tenants in the region,” said Winstanley, whose firm owns more than 1 million square feet of lab space in New Haven.

New research and development space plays a pivotal role in creating a life sciences hub that can draw talent from around the globe, Winstanley said.

“It’s an industry that once it takes hold, it does really feed on itself,” he said. “Additionally, what we really like to see is this industry has solid reemployment opportunities for individuals who work in this sector.”

The life sciences industry has a high failure rate, so having a strong base of bioscience companies and startups gives talent the chance to stay in the market locally.

Helping that effort will be 101 College St.’s 50,000 square feet of incubator space, which is important in the recruitment of life science companies because it helps startups defray lab space costs.

It also allows bioscience companies to “spend all their time and effort on the development of science, instead of constructing space,” Winstanley said.

Chris Ostop, a managing director at brokerage and consulting firm JLL in Hartford, said he expects long-term demand for lab space in New Haven to continue to grow.

As startups from Yale and elsewhere outgrow incubator space, they will need a larger, more permanent home, hopefully choosing to remain in the Elm City, he said.

Josh Geballe, a senior associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation at Yale University, said the creation of new, state-of-the-art lab space helps Connecticut better compete for companies that may be attracted to larger bioscience hubs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York or California.

Geballe, who previously worked for Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration, noted that New Haven is also far less expensive than those markets, while still offering a high quality of life.

New Haven lab space rents range from $30 to $50 per square foot, according to Cushman & Wakefield.

The proximity to learning institutions like Yale also helps increase the chances of a company’s success, Geballe said.

Bullish outlook

The current slow down in leasing activity doesn’t mean there won’t be a need for additional life science space in the near- or long-term future, experts agree. But there likely won’t be a building boom, given the high cost to construct lab space.

Infrastructure at buildings like 101 College St. — from power supply, flooring and air filtration systems — must be robust and is expensive, experts said.

When the 101 College St. project was pitched, core and shell work was estimated to cost roughly $100 million, but tenant-specific fit-outs brought the overall price tag to $250 million, Winstanley said.

New construction also has a lengthy lead time, typically two years, Winstanley said, meaning prospective tenants “have to think pretty far ahead because there’s not a lot of vacancy in New Haven. When new construction is announced, it’s typical to see high demand right away.”

The organic growth from Yale, Yale New Haven Hospital and other companies in the state’s life sciences sector, including from UConn in Storrs and Farmington, will ensure that demand for new or converted lab space continues, Winstanley said.

But efforts to add new lab space will occur in a “highly measured, highly calculated and extremely thought-out way,” said Motley, of Cushman & Wakefield.

Winstanley did not disclose any potential new life science-related real estate developments in New Haven, but he said he remains open to additional opportunities in the city.

“There are very few markets in the country and the world where you can grow a life sciences cluster,” Winstanley said. “Overall, we remain very bullish on the New Haven market and continue to look for additional opportunities.”

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