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Alexandria Capturing Surge In Life Sciences Leasing Activity

One Investors Way in Norwood.

Life sciences developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities has made the most of its dominant position in the fast-growing asset class with one of its best leasing quarters in years, executives said this week.

It has already generated significant leasing activity at two acquisitions it made in 2021. Vaccine manufacturer Moderna signed a 12-year lease at Alexandria’s One Investors Way in Norwood, a 240K SF redevelopment opportunity it purchased for $105M earlier this month from U.S. Realty Advisors and Bain Capital Real Estate.

After paying $1.5B to acquire the two-building Fenway Center from Samuels & Associates in January, it brought one of the two buildings from 17% leased to 84% with letters of intent, executives said. Those deals were part of a three-month span in which tenants signed 1.7M SF across Alexandria's portfolio.

“This is a testament to the trust life sciences companies have in our best-in-class brands, as these opportunities came to 201 Brookline in large part because of Alexandria,” Alexandria co-CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer Peter Moglia said on the company's earnings call Tuesday.

The life sciences giant reported $25.5M in net income in Q1 2021, a slight decrease from the first quarter of 2020. Alexandria’s funds from operations increased 19% from $221.4M in the first three months of 2020 to $263M last quarter, according to its first-quarter 2021 earnings released Tuesday.

The firm spent $328M on acquisitions, the majority in Greater Boston, while selling last week a 70% stake in 213 East Grand Ave. in the Bay Area for $301M. 

Executives declined to comment on future plans for the Watertown Mall, which Alexandria purchased for $130M last week. Moglia described the firm’s appetite for Watertown, doubling down on comments last quarter about avoiding other thriving life sciences submarkets because of transportation issues. Just blocks away from the mall, Alexandria is redeveloping an 11-building former Athenahealth campus it has dubbed The Arsenal on the Charles.

“What you're looking at is kind of a mega-campus in Watertown,” Moglia said. “I think if you look at that versus some of the submarkets in and around the Greater Boston Market, where transport is really, really difficult, I think, Watertown is one which is, I think, easier to both ingress and egress.”

Executives also dismissed the office-to-lab conversion trend exploding around Boston, despite Alexandria itself leading the market in such efforts. The life sciences developer is responsible for at least 2M SF of the 4.7M SF of total office space under conversion, according to Hunneman. Moglia said conversion assets are unattractive compared to build-to-suit space for first-in-class tenants.

“Inevitably there will be a handful of 50K to 100K SF offerings, but nothing that really competes with the million-plus SF, mega-campus that's fully amenitized with brand-new, or newly redeveloped Class-A product that we're offering,” co-CEO Stephen Richardson said.