It was a gut punch -- and not surprising -- at the same time.
I’m talking about Alexandria Real Estate Equities' announcement that it is abandoning plans to convert Riverside Center in Auburndale into lab space.
The California-based life science development firm will instead sell the three-building complex at a loss.
That follows the December announcement that the two life sciences buildings Alexandria was developing with Mark Development just next door on Grove Street at the Riverside T station is on hold (along with the rest of the mixed-use project), due to soaring construction costs and interest rates.
What a difference a year can make
Last spring we were celebrating. Between the two Grove Street projects; the Bulfinch Co’s project at the former Muzi site; a pair of Beacon Properties projects in Wellesley; and Greatland’s Riverside Labs in Weston, it looked like our section of I-95 just south of the Mass Turnpike was well on its way towards developing into a substantial life science cluster.
It could still eventually happen. Some of those projects are still moving forward.
And it was encouraging this week to learn from the BBJ that Gov. Maura Healey plans to reauthorize the state's Life Sciences Initiative, paving the way for a third iteration of a multimillion-dollar spending bill to incentivize the biopharmaceutical industry.
But it’s going to take time (years, not months) before market demand and economic conditions improve.
As for the gut punch...
And here’s the part that stings: If not for the slow-turning wheels of municipal approvals, the Riverside T and Muzi projects could have broken ground and be operational, or close to it, by now.
- Efforts to rezone the 10-acre former Muzi Motors goes back to 2019 when it was first rejected by Town Meeting. Then it seemed to take forever to get through the Planning Board.
- The Riverside Station project dates back even further, to at least to 2011. An even better version from Mark Development surfaced in 2018. But due to the predictable neighborhood teeth-grinding, threatened lawsuits, and city-mandated vision sessions (such a waste of sticky notes!), the project kept getting pushed back. At Riverside, that's meant putting 550 desperately needed apartments on hold too.
Instead, we have two big, ugly heat islands.
Inaction has consequences folks.
Meanwhile at 275 Grove Street
A new buyer has reportedly been lined up, or is close, with the sale expected to be finalized by the middle of this year.
Meanwhile Riverside Center is home to a healthy mix of Newton employers, including Atrius Health’s administrative offices, Siemens Healthineers, Parexel and Regus.
And some good news along Kendrick Street
The property has seen an increase in activity after repositioning the asset from office to life science. Recent leasing brings the building to 92% leased.
Bulfinch plans to repurpose an additional 18,000 SF of existing office space into lab. New leases include 15,000 SF of space with ABio-X Holdings, Inc., a 17,000 SF lease with Xenon Pharmaceuticals, and a new long-term lease with Evolved by Nature, Inc. for 43,000 SF.
Additionally, Workbar (home to your favorite chamber) is expanding in the building from approximately 16,000 SF to close to 27,000 SF to meet increased co-working demands.
Finally, long-time tenant Warner Bros. Entertainment had previously announced plans to leave Needham. Instead, fresh off the company's biggest launch ever, they've extended their lease (for a reduced space from 30,000 SF to 20,000 SF).