Taconic and Silverstein Bring New Lab Space to the Far West Side


Despite an influx of state and city funding for the life science industry, New York City is starved for lab space that serves private companies.

On the Far West Side, Taconic Investment Partners and Silverstein Properties are trying to tap into that market by transforming a former warehouse at 619 West 54th Street into a mix of science labs and creative office space known as the Hudson Research Center. Although they eventually plan to convert 150,000 square feet of the 320,000-square-foot property into scientific research facilities, the developers have decided to start by building out 15,000 square feet.

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“New York City has always been behind hubs like Boston, San Francisco, even South Carolina” for life science development, said Taconic Senior Vice President Matthew Weir. Medical research is a “a rising tide, and New York is looking to address it by an aggressive initiative with the city and state,” he added. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $650 million in state funding for biotech and pharmaceutical companies in 2016, including $100 million for early stage life science initiatives. At the same time, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a $500 million life science initiative, which was expected to generate 16,000 “new, good-paying jobs.”

In the year and a half since, a handful of research hubs have opened their doors. The Alexandria Center for Life Science opened its 1.1-million-square-foot campus last year on a city-owned site at 430 East 29th Street, between First Avenue and the East River. It also features a 15,000-square-foot “LaunchLabs” facility, which houses relatively young biotech startups. A life science incubator called JLabs also opened a few months ago at 101 Avenue of the Americas in Soho with the aim of providing research space for smaller companies.

Silverstein and Taconic hope to do something similar on West 54th Street, by building out 15,000 square feet of “step-out” or “graduation” space, for firms that need more than one lab bench but don’t have the cash or the credit to lease a large lab. It could house two tenants, each of which would get their own wet lab and then share a communal area with desks, kitchen conference rooms and casual seating. But Taconic and its broker, CBRE’s Steve Purpura, are in negotiations with a single user who would take the whole thing. Asking rent for the space is in the mid- to high-$80s per square foot.

Designed by Perkins + Will, the lab will have a clean, simple feel, with exposed concrete columns, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and suspended wood paneling along the ceiling above the seating areas.  

Construction is expected to start next month and wrap in January 2019.

Weir explained that many companies coming out of academic institutions struggle to find smaller lab spaces. In the past, landlords had few incentives to build out labs. Zoning often forbids scientific research space in office buildings, and these kinds of buildouts tend to be pricey.

“It’s very challenging for these kinds of tenants to build and invest in their real estate, and that’s why it’s crucial for landlords to deliver this kind of space that’s flexible and adaptable,” he said.