Helix Construction Launches to Bolster Chicago Life Sciences Market


San Francisco-based GCI General Contractors and Chicago-based BIG Construction have announced a new joint venture called Helix Construction to tap into the growing biotech industry in Chicago.

The leaders of the JV said they have seen rising demand for lab space, as well as the potential for the city and the Chicagoland region to become a new biotech hub. The COVID-19 crisis infamously accelerated the need for both life sciences funding and available lab facilities, with life sciences companies seeking more than three times more lab space now than in previous years.

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Helix is launching with a $25 million research and development facility in Lake County, as well as a lab expansion and renovation in Skokie and a $30 million chemical lab facility development in the northern suburbs.

“As of last year, companies were seeking 658,000 square feet of lab space in the Chicago area, up from 175,000 square feet the previous year, and we expect that growth to continue exponentially,” said Tony Iannessa, co-founder of Helix and CEO of BIG Construction. 

According to CBRE (CBRE)’s most recent report on the national life sciences market, there is an estimated 864,500 square feet of lab and bio space under construction in the Chicago market, and demand continues to climb steadily in campuses such as Fulton Labs, with tenants that include Talis Biomedical and Vanqua Bio.

GCI has also built more than 1 million square feet of life sciences space in the Bay Area, while BIG has delivered the headquarters for GrubHub and Home Chef.

Gregory Cornfield can be reached at gcornfield@commercialobserver.com.