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Laboratory Conversions Defy Pandemic-Era Narratives

Written By Belfort Group

January 24, 2022

Laboratory Conversions Defy Pandemic-Era Narratives

The news that up-and-coming life sciences startup Prime Medicine will fill the former Sears location at the rapidly evolving CambridgeSide Galleria shopping mall should confirm to all doubters what we have long been preaching: no space in Greater Boston, especially in red-hot Cambridge, is safe from a lab conversion. The laboratory market is so tight in this area and tech space is at such a premium that developers are being forced to be more creative in what they can reimagine to be the workplaces of the future.

This trend runs counter to the general narrative that physical office spaces have diminished in value due to the Covid-19 pandemic pushing remote work to the forefront. And indeed, many of our commercial real estate clients and contacts have confirmed that demand for their properties has cooled, driven by companies that —by choice or by circumstance— aren’t bringing their employees into the office anymore. But the great exception to this remains laboratory space. Why?

Put simply, many aspects of lab work rely on in-person equipment and collaboration that cannot be duplicated over Zoom. The experiments that fuel the biotech industry need highly specialized, physical spaces that Boston builders have become experts at providing. And the life sciences industry itself is booming, driven by investor appetite for not just pandemic treatments, vaccines, and tests, but a wealth of cures that the industry continues to churn out.

For developers, this combination of high demand and low availability means just one thing: any building that can be converted into a laboratory in Greater Boston will likely snap up tenants fast.  These tenants will pay much more per square foot than any retailer, brewery or residential tenant they’re replacing. Smart developers should be on the lookout for any underutilized properties near the biotech hubs springing up in the area. Although Cambridge’s Kendall Square is the most well-known biotech hub, groundbreaking work is also being done in Boston’s Seaport District and nearby suburbs like Somerville, Watertown and Lexington.

With our real estate expertise, BG Strategies can help with bringing lab conversion property projects to life.  For years, we’ve helped clients win community and political support for tech and lab spaces across Massachusetts — most recently for BioMed Realty in Cambridge. We have the experience and team to guide your lab conversion through the rezoning and permitting process at this critical time in the biotech industry.

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