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The 6 Boston-Area Localities That Saw The Most New Lab Construction This Year

Boston and Cambridge have seen an explosion of new life sciences development in recent years, and in 2022 that growth spread out into new jurisdictions.

Developers have ventured into emerging lab markets like Somerville, Watertown and Burlington as they look for nearby areas with more available land than the industry's hottest clusters. Many cities and towns have sought to benefit from this spillover by enacting new policies that make them more attractive to life sciences users and developers. 

New headwinds have emerged this year that make projects more difficult to start, such as the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes and rising construction and labor costs. But despite these challenges, developers still managed to move forward with more than a dozen new life sciences projects.

Greater Boston saw 15 new lab developments totaling 3.9M SF break ground this year, according to CBRE. New data the firm shared with Bisnow shows which cities and towns experienced the most new lab construction starts.  

1. Somerville

The site for Phase 1 of Assembly Innovation Park.

Number of projects: Four

Total square footage: 1,544,900

Cambridge and the Seaport have typically been seen as the top spots for new life sciences construction, but this year Somerville saw the most new development move forward with a string of new projects.

New life sciences developers like Greystar have begun work in Somerville to get in on the race for lab development. Greystar broke ground on a 465K SF life sciences project in June on Somerville's Middlesex Avenue that is planned to deliver in 2024.

Life sciences giants like BioMed Realty have also taken up projects in Somerville. In July, BioMed began construction on Assembly Innovation Park, a 12-story, 495K SF lab project near the Assembly Row development. Phase 1 is expected to complete in Q2 2024, with future phases bringing a total of 970K SF. 

2. Boston

250 Western Ave., one of the buildings in King Street Properties' Allston Labworks development.

Number of projects: Four

Total square footage: 1,117,000

While Boston has been a hub for life sciences well before this year, developers in 2022 expanded into new neighborhoods outside of the typical clusters: two new projects broke ground in Allston and Brighton totaling 618K SF.

King Street Properties broke ground on 250 Western Ave., one of the buildings in its $915M, 4.27-acre mixed-use project in Allston. When both buildings are complete, it will include 534K SF of lab space. The development is planned to be ready for tenants in the summer of 2024 and will also include 20K SF of retail, 35 residential units and a 12K SF public plaza with an additional 5K SF of open space.

Other life sciences construction starts in Boston included Lendlease and Ivanhoé Cambridge's FORUM development, a $500M, 350K SF project and Marcus Partners' 262K SF Foundry at Drydock project in the Seaport.

3. Cambridge 

Takeda Pharmaceuticals signed a full-building lease at 585 Kendall in Cambridge.

Number of projects: Two

Total square footage: 645,025

By far the most well-known life sciences cluster in the country, Kendall Square may have limited space for vertical construction, but the neighborhood has seen new major projects take shape to keep up with the demand of both Big Pharma tenants and smaller startups flush with venture capital funding. 

Blackstone portfolio company BioMed Realty broke ground on its 600K SF life sciences development named 585 Kendall. Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda signed a full-building lease in June for the project, which is planned to complete in 2026.

Along with the life sciences space, BioMed also plans to build a 300-seat performing arts venue and will relocate a gas transfer station on Third Street, where the project has taken place.

4. Watertown

Alexandria started construction on two buildings at its The Arsenal on the Charles devleopment in Watertown this year.

Number of projects: Three

Total square footage: 320,540

Watertown, like Somerville, has seen an onslaught of new activity with leading investors like Alexandria Real Estate Equities eyeing the town for biotech development.

Alexandria has started construction in the town at its The Arsenal on the Charles development, with two buildings totaling 248K SF that are set to complete in 2024. The developer signed a lease in July with Entata Pharmaceuticals for 73K SF of lab and office space at the development. 

The life sciences developer has additional Watertown plans in the works after buying the Watertown Mall for $130M in April 2021. The mall is located down the street from The Arsenal on the Charles, and its redevelopment is planned to include life sciences space. 

5. Burlington

A rendering of the project at 25 Network Drive in Burlington.

Number of projects: One

Total square footage: 150K

Burlington has emerged as a hub on the Route 128 corridor's blossoming life sciences cluster with the conversion of suburban office space into labs.

Nordblom Co. began construction on 25 Network Drive, a project that would add 150K SF to its existing Burlington campus. In May, Cambridge-based The Broad Institute signed a deal to lease 147K SF at the campus's 27 Network Drive building, after another biotech firm, Vericel leased 125K SF at the campus in February

6. Revere

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo speaking at the groundbreaking of Suffolk Downs.

Number of projects: One

Total square footage: 141K

Revere moved forward this year with the biggest development in the history of the city: HYM Investments' Suffolk Downs project. The first phase of its 161-acre, mixed-use project broke ground in May including a lab and biomanufacturing facility near the MBTA Beachmont Station.

The project totals 280K SF, with 141K SF of that being lab space and the rest being manufacturing space. The facility at 100 Salt St. is part of a two-building project that is the just the beginning of the 5.2M SF in overall life sciences and office space planned at Suffolk Downs.