Developer proposes largeish life-sciences development for Charlestown, a neighborhood suddenly awash in large development proposals
A Seaport developer says it will soon file plans to replace a parking lot at 60-66 Cambridge St. in Charlestown with a two-building, 812,000-square-foot complex aimed at the life-sciences companies that developers are betting will need more and more space in the Boston area.
In a letter of intent filed with the BPDA today, the Fallon Co. says it's working with the parking lot's owners, Eddie Owens and Ed Owens Jr. on a proposal that will also include ground-floor retail and open space to, of course, the greater benefit of the Sullivan Square area. The complex is, of course, transit oriented, being near the Sullivan Square T stop.
Recent months have seen numerous proposals that could completely remake the small neighborhood, including life-sciences labs, offices and residences on a 25-acre site along the Mystic River, with some buildings rising 22 stories, life-sciences labs, residences and offices on three parcels totaling 13 acres on the northern and western sides of Sullivan Square, a 25-story residential tower on Mystic Avenue and the addition of 240 residential units to the Bunker Hill Mall. This is in addition to the $1-billion redo of the Bunker Hill development, and ongoing development at and near Hood Park along Rutherford Avenue.
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what the hell
What the hell is a life sciences building. I've been hearing about them more and more recently
I keep using the phrase and not defining it.
It's basically the sleeker, hipper term for what we used to call biotech: Companies that experiment with drugs and microorganisms and stuff to come up with new medications. Or, in basic English: Pharmaceutical companies.
Time was, it was mostly confined to Kendall Square, but then Tom Menino convinced Vertex to move to what was then the World's Largest Collection of Parking Lots, plus Anthony's Pier 4, but which is now the Seaport (minus Anthony's Pier 4).
I should probably do a roundup of all the biotech, um, life-sciences projects that have been proposed in Boston over just the past year.
Even as demand for traditional office space has collapsed (due to the pandemic) and even luxury housing has slowed (ditto), developers have found salvation in life sciences. We have tons of universities and hospitals doing groundbreaking work in the field and all sorts of start-ups and even existing pharmaceutical companies wanting to get in on the local act, so developers have been trying to build space for them. All three of the Covid-19 vaccines, for example, have roots here (Moderna and Pfizer have research facilities here, Johnson and Johnson's is based on some work done at one of our "B" hospitals - can't remember if it was the Brigham or Beth Israel and it's late and I don't want to look it up right now).
In terms of impact, it seems the big issue is the larger HVAC systems life-sciences buildings need. The larger the HVAC system, the more noise it makes - and that becomes a particular issue in places like Fort Point, where developers are now proposing life-sciences buildings (whether new or repurposed) basically right next to residential buildings.
I think Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty have also made some noise about the issue of allowing potentially infectious microbeasties in buildings in residential areas, but so far all of the proposals have been for "biosafety levels" well below that of the BU Biolab in the South End - which is licensed to handle the deadliest organisms in the world (they're at Level 4, the proposals I've seen so far for other buildings never get above Level 2).
Also worth noting
Life science buildings and companies require a lot of infrastructure to operate and many of the jobs they create don't require a highfalutin graduate education to do. All of these labs require an incredible amount of support in terms of building operations and management, shipping/receiving, admin-level jobs, entry-level jobs for recent grads, etc etc etc. Life science buildings require so much human support and this create demand for restaurants and coffee shops.
Boston does life science better than any other city in the world. This kind of industry puts us on the global map. All of this creates a positive feedback loop where the scientists and investors from around the world are all attracted here to connect with this unique scene.
To top it off, when these companies are successful they start to build manufacturing facilities in the smaller towns outside of Boston (think Norwood, Andover, etc) and support communities there in the same ways. All of these kinds of buildings need so much non-scientist support and these are decent-paying middle-class jobs.
In conclusion, biotech/life science good, thanks for listening to my ted talk.
It's not ALL pharmaceutical,
It's not ALL pharmaceutical, unless your definition of pharmaceutical includes all medical research regardless of whether medication is involved.
Life sciences also includes interesting non-medication things like:
- Trying to create a bacteria or other small organisms that will eat microplastics
- Genetic study and modification of plants for yield, resistance to conditions, or even increased carbon uptake
- The continued study of the origin of life at the cellular and bacterial level
- Non-pharmaceutical medical research like learning about how genes impact later diseases, the development of integrated machinery and robotics / prosthetics, immunotherapy, etc
- Development of bioweapons and other DoD funded research
It's a big field doing lots of things! And that doesn't include the fact that by building out all this lab space, fields that aren't technically life sciences but have similar needs benefit. An associate who is chemical engineer who works with metals got a swanky new office because her company acquired more space when their life-sciences neighbor moved to a newer nearby building.
Adam, what are the death sciences?
I’ll hang up and listen.
I'm glad something is finally
I'm glad something is finally being built in Sullivan. This property will still be next to an off-ramp from a giant hulking elevated highway, but at least it won't be a gravel and chain link fence parking lot any more.
All one has to do is check
Lydia Edwards' OCPF. Charlestown has three sets of low income developments. Watch how those disappear someday under the guise of mixed use.
One is a co-op. Another is in the midst of a billion dollar rehab.
There is About 9.4 million square feet of life science space is under construction in Greater Boston, with another 52.3 million proposed, according to research from brokerage Colliers International. Boston’s office market, comparatively, has just over 3.1 million square feet under construction, with an additional 1.4 million square feet under construction in Cambridge, Colliers data show.
I can't imagine all this space will be absorbed by new lab tenants but maybe.