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WS Opens 16-Story Seaport Lab Building As New Construction Slows

WS Development, along with city and state officials and development partners, celebrated the opening Wednesday of its new 635K SF lab building in the Seaport, a major new delivery in a market that has seen construction cool considerably. 

The 400 Summer St. building is anchored by Foundation Medicine, a subsidiary of Swiss company Roche Pharmaceuticals. The project was developed in partnership with PSP Investments and KKR, which made a $232M investment in the development in 2021.

The 400 Summer St. ribbon cutting in the Seaport.

"I know I speak for every person on our project team when I say how humbled we are to welcome Foundation Medicine to this neighborhood" WS Development Senior Vice President Yanni Tsipis said at the event. "Thank you for trusting us with your journey across the river to join the Seaport ecosystem where so many life sciences companies are now coming to put down roots and grow and find success."

Foundation Medicine signed its 580K SF lease at the 16-story project in 2019, marking the biggest life sciences deal in Boston since Vertex's 1.1M SF lease in 2011 in Fan Pier

The opening of the development also marks the first air rights project in the city since Back Bay's Copley Place development in the 1980s, Tsipis stated. The project occupies air rights over I-90 exit ramps. 

"The promise of air rights development over our Commonwealth highways has tantalized the development industry in recent decades" Tsipis said. "Not until today has such a structure been completed and open to the public in this century."

Foundation is consolidating its roughly 1,100-person workforce that has been spread across four locations in Cambridge and Boston into this one building. 

"This new building is just an incredible feat and a wonderful example of what happens when we support and invest in Massachusetts," Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said at the event. "Foundation got a start through some of our Life Sciences Center funding and look at it now taking this entire building up, consolidating all of their locations right here in this neighborhood."

The development also includes 30K SF of retail space on the ground floor and a public gathering space known as the Summer Street Steps. 

WS Development Senior Vice President Yanni Tsipis at the ribbon cutting for 400 Summer St. in the Seaport.

"Home doesn't mean just more housing," said Stephen Chan, senior advisor for partnerships for Mayor Michelle Wu. "It means extending our notions of home outside of our residences and workplaces into delightful, safe and accessible public spaces where we can come together."

The development also features artwork from three local artists who are part of the Boston-based art dealer ArtLifting, which promotes artwork from disabled and homeless artists nationwide.

The lease came at a time when space in the booming Kendall Square neighborhood was limited, and the Seaport emerged as a viable option for many life sciences companies looking to create their own clusters outside of Cambridge.

In the years that followed, the life sciences boom began to slow, with tenants taking up less space and putting blocks up for sublease, leaving the market oversaturated with new product.

In the first quarter, supply far outweighed the demand in the market, with over 50% of the 9.7M SF of under-construction development in the market set to deliver by the end of the year, according to CBRE. In the next couple of years, researchers estimate there will be a significant decrease in new deliveries.

Foundation put roughly 120K SF of its space at the new headquarters building up for sublease, the Boston Business Journal reported in November. Foundation moved into its new space in March, with the new sublease space planned to be occupied by four tenants, the Boston Globe reported.

Also in November, WS Development paused construction on its 420K SF project at 350 Summer St. next door, the BBJ reported. 

The developer has finished the garage and foundations for the building and could complete it in less than two years, Tsipis told Bisnow Thursday, but the company is still searching for a tenant to occupy the space before it starts construction. 

"We are, by definition, long term owners and long term investors," Tsipis told Bisnow. "We take a long term view on every market sector, whether it's office, whether it's life sciences, whether it's multifamily, whether it's retail. In both of our major projects in Boston Seaport and Fenway, we take a long-term view of the build out of those master plans"