Within the past two years, biotech leases and real estate activity in Lexington have dramatically increased, particularly along Hartwell Avenue, near the main campus of the MIT Lincoln Lab. This includes companies like T2 Biosystems, Bioscal and Quanterix – all moving from Cambridge to Lexington. Cambridge undoubtedly remains one of the largest life science hubs in the world, so, why the interest in Lexington? There are three key factors:
1. Route 2: easy accessibility to and from Cambridge
Located only 10 miles from Alewife Station, Lexington is on Route 2 and is easy for employees and scientists to get to from Cambridge. Also, a shuttle runs throughout the day from Alewife Station to Hartwell Avenue, where the majority of biotech companies are located in Lexington. Lab spaces are usually built in a cluster, and this cluster has become a hot spot. With major infrastructure improvements and easy access to the city’s talent by commuter rail and the Alewife shuttle, employees won’t complain that it’s hard reach. How often do you ever hear anyone complaining about their painful reverse commute?
2. There are stable properties with experienced owners
It’s best for a lab company to be located on the first floor, allowing easier deliveries and use of chemicals and other materials. The higher the floor, the less capacity for chemicals. Former industrial space is a perfect opportunity for lab conversion because they’re large, high-ceilinged, single story buildings. If there’s one thing that Lexington has it’s old industrial buildings, meaning potential tenants have plenty of options.
Lab-centric tenants also have the ability to work with experienced, building owners and managers in Lexington – a very important factor for biotech companies looking to move. Science is everything and the risk of having down time or having issues with the final build-out of a space is not an option.
3. It’s less expensive
It should come as no surprise that one of the major attractions of Lexington is its price, especially in comparison to Cambridge. For example, renting lab space in Lexington is usually in the low $30’s per square foot compared to the mid-$50’s in Cambridge. If a company is looking to retrofit a building into lab space, that can be even more expensive, usually running about $130-$150 per square foot. Cost savings can instead fund research, better equipment, and high-quality employees.
We’re not the only ones who noticed – I recently sat down with The Hive and the Boston Business Journal to discuss how Lexington is attracting more and more biotech companies from Cambridge. Read those pieces for even further detail on why it’s the new biotech hot spot in Greater Boston.
Evan Gallagher is an executive vice president/principal & director of emerging technologies & life sciences at NAI Hunneman