How a Former Parachute Factory in Queens Became Life Sciences Space

Among the challenges for Longfellow Real Estate Partners' Hatch Life Sciences project? Disassembling a rooftop billboard.

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Six years ago, Commercial Observer toured a decaying 1920s warehouse near Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City, which then-owner Normandy Real Estate Partners planned to convert to offices.

In 2021, life sciences developer Longfellow Real Estate Partners purchased a $95 million majority interest in the seven-story property at 43-10 23rd Street with plans to install a mix of life sciences labs and offices. A private real estate fund controlled by Cannon Hill Partners — which acquired Normandy’s real estate funds in 2022 — and Kassabian Realty still has the minority stake in the building. 

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Longfellow named the project “Hatch Life Sciences,” in a throwback to the building’s former life as a parachute manufacturing plant. Suffolk Construction oversaw the conversion and renovation work, which involved replacing all the windows, repairing damaged rebar and concrete on the facade, and installing a tank in the basement to alleviate flooding from storms. 

“The existing stormwater capacity of the neighborhood is overwhelmed, so this basement floods when there’s a big rain event,” said Suffolk’s Justin LaPoint. “We got pumps in there and realized we needed to build a large leaching galley in the courtyard — a place to channel overflow stormwater below the new parking lot we built. It’s a retention tank that slowly leaches [stormwater] into the environment.” 

The building’s roof also had a large billboard visible from the 7 train and the Queensboro Bridge, which workers had to disassemble piece by piece to allow access to part of the roof. The utility work required for labs is also extensive, requiring upgrades to the building’s gas and electrical lines, along with the installation of chemical storage areas, fume hoods, air compressors, reverse-osmosis water filtration, chillers, boilers, generators and electrical transformers.  

Suffolk documented all the work with a piece of technology called OpenSpace, a 360-degree camera that superintendents can wear on their hardhats when they do their weekly site walks. 

“It creates a 3-D map of the site on that day,” said LaPoint. “You can click within this drawing and see the history of each spot. It allows us to look at the history within the walls, and it creates a good monument for the ownership to know what is in the wall here. They have actual footage of the development of the project throughout time.” 

The first floor also has an amenity area off the lobby with conference spaces and a cafe that serves coffee, beer and wine. The rear courtyard was paved for a 15-space parking lot with electric vehicle charging. 

Longfellow opted to build about 70,000 square feet of prebuilt lab space, which can be split into suites ranging from 14,000 to 21,000 square feet. The upper floors remain unfinished shell space with the hookups for lab equipment. Construction began in July of 2022 and wrapped in December 2023, though workers are still putting finishing touches on the interiors.

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Cannon Hill Partners now controls a minority interest in this property, after taking over Normandy and Columbia’s stake.