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Developer Plans To Build 2M SF Of Spec Lab Space On I-270 Corridor

A rendering of one of Matan Cos.' Progress Labs buildings on the I-270 corridor.

Montgomery County's I-270 life sciences corridor has experienced a surge in leasing activity this year amid the efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and one developer is building aggressively to capture that demand. 

The Matan Cos. plans to deliver six projects totaling more than 2M SF of lab space along the I-270 corridor on a speculative basis. 

The projects encompass more than 200 acres across separate sites in Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Frederick. The developer said the first buildings will begin delivering in June.

Three projects totaling 300K SF broke ground this summer, two in Rockville and one in Frederick, and they are scheduled to deliver June 1, a Matan spokesperson said. The developer plans to break ground on two more projects totaling 700K SF by June, the spokesperson said, and it aims to deliver all 2M SF within the next three years.

The buildings, branded as Progress Labs, are being designed with the features necessary for biomanufacturing, the developer said, including 30-foot ceiling heights and optimal column spacing. They will also include parking, electric vehicle charging stations and outdoor amenities. 

The developer said the available supply on the market is limited and largely consists of converted office buildings, and it sees strong demand for ground-up lab space. This gives it the confidence to break ground on spec. 

“We have seen a noticeable uptick in the demand for biotech manufacturing and support space in the I-270 Corridor, even before the pandemic,” Matan principal Mark Matan said in a release. “What has become clear during the pursuit of these opportunities is that there is very limited or no new inventory, prompting our decision to move forward with these projects ahead of the arrival of an end user.” 

The federal government, through the Operation Warp Speed program, has pumped billions of dollars into companies working to develop COVID-19 vaccines. Many of these companies have Montgomery County facilities, including Novavax, Emergent BioSolutions, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.

Some of these companies have expanded their leased footprints in the area this year, such as Novavax signing a 122K SF deal in Gaithersburg. Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. announced Friday that Dutch life sciences company QIAGEN is expanding its Gaithersburg manufacturing facility and leasing additional space to accommodate production of COVID-19 testing products. 

The vacancy rate for suburban Maryland's life sciences market has dropped to around 4% as of September, according to JLL, compared to 17% in the area's office market.