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July 30, 2020

Life science thrives in urban hubs

  • Seattle has long been known as a mecca for incubators and startups, often driven by local scientists and business leaders.
    BioMed Realty


    Innovation happens in proximity, not in isolation. For life science and technology companies, the halo of nearby universities and research institutions, combined with the dynamic energy of urban hubs helps to foster unique synergies for discovery and collaboration.

    There is no better example of this synergistic urban development than Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington Medicine, Seattle Children’s Research and Benaroya Research Institute, along with many others, have created a robust and collaborative life science cluster that has developed life-changing innovations benefitting people around the world. Global technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and, of course, Amazon, who also call South Lake Union home, benefit from an international cohort of intellectual capital for computer science, AI, and web- and cloud-based services.

    Seattle has long been known as a mecca for incubators and startups, often driven by local scientists and business leaders who started their careers with any number of the established research centers. The intersection of established talent pools and thriving business communities creates a regional center of excellence and a life science ecosystem. These communities aspire to develop science, perfect it, and then grow into leaders of the life science world. Juno Therapeutics is just one recent example, having been taken under the umbrella of Bristol-Myers Squibb.

    Rendering courtesy of BioMed Realty [enlarge]
    Dexter Yard is the largest research and development and office project under construction in South Lake Union, and the only one over 200,000 square feet delivering next year.

    Having recognized the unique nature of the market, BioMed Realty has invested in and currently owns and operates purpose-built life science properties in Seattle. The portfolio houses a variety of life science businesses, from startups to well-established companies. Our asset, Dexter Yard, is under construction, with shell and core delivery slated for late 2021.

    Dexter Yard is located at what we consider to be the corner of “Main and Main” – just a block north of the intersection of Dexter Avenue and Mercer Street, and within blocks of the global leaders in technology and research, the Allen Institute and our existing assets in South Lake Union. Once complete, Dexter Yard will be comprised of two 15-story towers totaling over 500,000 square feet of office and lab space and an additional 20,000 square feet of retail.

    An urban environment is seamlessly connected to the vibrancy of the neighborhood, so we are extremely mindful that our retail partners need to consider the greater neighborhood. Additionally, there are thousands of multifamily units within blocks of Dexter Yard and we’ve worked very closely with their property managers every step of the way to be good neighbors.

    Dexter Yard is the largest R&D and office project under construction in South Lake Union and the only one over 200,000 square feet delivering next year. Our focus for future development in the region remains on South Lake Union, where at least 4 million square feet of office space is slated for development in the next five years.

    In general, urban development is more consistent in areas like Seattle and, specifically, South Lake Union. Resiliency is often found in urban economies, which tend to bounce back sooner in each cycle than suburban areas, and that can mitigate risk over the development timeline.

    Photo by Peter Howland [enlarge]
    BioMed’s focus for future development in the region remains on South Lake Union, where at least 4 million square feet of office space is planned in the next five years.

    We understand there are inherent challenges with urban development. First, the cost of building complex systems within a 500,000-square-foot vertical building can be much more expensive than a three-story low-rise campus. Second, the logistics of constructing a building in an urban environment are more complicated and require teams to leverage their collective experience and creativity to maintain schedules and budget allocations.

    These considerations are nothing new for BioMed Realty, as we have learned to take these and other factors associated with the logistics of managing a construction site in a dense urban environment.

    The good news is that, as a global company, we encounter these challenges daily and understand how to mitigate complications. We pride ourselves in partnering with companies that are collaborative and think big picture to propose innovative, cost-effective solutions to keep the development moving forward. This has become even more valuable in recent years with the progress the Dexter Yard project has made in overcoming recent challenges.

    We all had to transform our operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. BioMed has always made safety our top priority, and our thoughts are with our first responders, medical professionals and the communities’ families that have been impacted by the virus. Locally, Dexter Yard was one of the first developments allowed to restart construction, as the project was deemed essential and exempt from the state order requiring the shutdown of construction projects.

    In response, we collaborated with our partners at Turner Construction to create a safety plan that allowed our contractors and crews to return to work safely while adhering to social distancing guidelines and prioritizing the health of everyone working on the jobsite. Under this plan, the team has achieved new efficiencies every day and continues to learn to work in this new environment.

    We would not be where we are today at Dexter Yard without the trust and expertise of OAC Services, SKB Architects, PES Environmental, Turner Construction, and the many valued service providers and subcontractors on the job.

    As a company, BioMed builds large-scale complex developments as a core discipline. As an extended project team at Dexter Yard, we have been faced with hurdles, but have adapted and overcome challenges, all while remaining on schedule and staying on budget. It is an important reminder to choose the right partners. I am incredibly proud of the relationships that have allowed us to work together successfully to craft solutions to the challenges put in our path and have never encountered a similar level of creativity and problem solving in urban development.

    I am excited to have an innovative company move into Dexter Yard next year that can take advantage to this state-of-the-market facility including the efficient design and robust infrastructure. In the meantime, I will be looking for our next urban development opportunity to serve the life science and technology industries.

    Mike Ruhl is vice president with BioMed Realty.

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