Ancora Partners’ approved lab building is part of the initial phase of the Square 10 project at the former New Haven Coliseum property. Image courtesy of Pelli Clarke & Partners and Jacobs

Newly-approved plans for office and medical research space point to potential expansion of New Haven’s life science ecosystem at a time when developers in other cities are having trouble filling space in many of the nation’s largest biotech clusters.

As tenants move into Winstanley Enterprises’ newly-completed 525,000-square-foot lab tower at 101 College St., a New Haven developer received approval in March for a new 47,000-square-foot development that would include a mix of office and medical research space. RJ Development + Advisors LLC’s project received approval from the City Plan Commission for the 149 Legion Ave. project, replacing surface parking.

Designed by New Haven architects Svigals + Partners, the proposed medical building is the last element of a Route 34 site being redeveloped under a 2014 master plan that included the Cambria Hotel, social services center and a daycare.

Recent feedback from trade industry group BioCT members confirmed the need for more graduate space for companies expanding out of incubators, including facilities equipped with vivariums for animal testing, BioCT CEO Jodie Gillon said this week.

“We need to make sure space is available in the right locations at the right prices,” Gillon said.

Tenants including Yale University, Alexion and Arvinas leased space at the 101 College St. tower, and life science incubator BioLabs is offering early-stage companies flexible space to grow after leasing 41,000 square feet and opening its newest facility in February.

The incubator rents lab benches for $2,500 per month and individual workstations for $400 per month. The trade organization moved into its new headquarters within the BioLabs space this month.

Single-Digit Vacancies Prompt Growth

Developers’ continued optimism about the prospects for absorption of additional life science space could reflect the city’s relatively low vacancy rate for lab space despite a downturn in venture capital funding.

Developers Spinnaker Real Estate Partners and Ancora Partners received approval for a mixed-use development on the former New Haven Coliseum property, including a 277,435-square-foot life science building.

According to data compiled by brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, New Haven’s lab vacancy rate is 4 percent and the current building inventory totals approximately 1.5 million square feet. Average asking rents are $52 per square foot on a triple-net basis.

New Haven’s measured growth contrasts with the soaring lab vacancies in the nation’s largest life science clusters, where the post-COVID biotech funding boom prompted exuberant development activity that outstripped tenant demand following interest rate hikes.

At the end of 2023, lab vacancies topped 18 percent in the 38.4 million-square-foot San Francisco Bay area market, neared 11 percent in the 55.6 million-square-foot Greater Boston market and approached 13 percent in the 24.6 million-square-foot San Diego market, according to CBRE research.

RJ Development + Advisors Principal Yves-George Joseph did not return emails and voicemails from The Commercial Record seeking comment on the Legion Avenue project. Developers are targeting bioscience researchers but have not received any tenant commitments, Joseph told commissioners at a March meeting, according to an account in the New Haven Independent.