Projects Transforming NC’s Biotech Scene: Via Labs & Chapel Hill Project

Home | News | Projects Transforming NC’s Biotech Scene: Via Labs & Chapel Hill Project

A threat to Boston’s dominance? 9 projects transforming the Triangle’s biotech scene

For over two decades, greater Boston has been hailed as the world’s “mecca” for biotech and innovation.

But roughly 700 miles southwest, Raleigh-Durham is posing a serious threat to its dominance, The Boston Globe noted earlier this month.

Most of the major real estate players in Boston’s life-science world — King Street Properties and Longfellow, to name two — either have a presence in the Research Triangle area or are considering one. “They have to. It’s where their tenants are looking to grow,” Globe reporter Catherine Carlock wrote.

According to CBRE’s latest estimates, some $8.9 billion has been invested in the region’s life-science real estate since 2018, totaling more than 29 projects proposed or underway from companies like Fujifilm Diosynth and Amgen.

Rising interest rates and softening economic conditions have tempered tenant demand slightly over the last year, CBRE said in its 2023 fourth-quarter market report. But the region remains poised for continued growth.

Some 310,366 square feet of lab space — and 581,467 square feet of GMP/biomanufacturing space (GMP) — is currently under construction.

Separately, real estate firm JLL ranked Raleigh-Durham – not Boston – the No. 1 biomanufacturing market in the country, and a top five life-science cluster in the United States.

“It’s not overbuilt,” said Eric Forshee, JLL’s executive vice president, in an email. “Compared to the larger markets like Boston and the Bay Area, our market has been conservative. We have a lot of room to grow.”

Research Triangle Park

Project: Via Labs at Hub RTP

Description: Inside Hub RTP, a “mini-city” in the middle of Research Triangle Park, Boston-based life-science real estate firm Longfellow is planning an eight-story tower called Via Labs.

Details: The building will sit next to a parking garage near the Hub’s I-40 entrance. Its first-floor ceilings will be higher than the rest to accommodate manufacturers in addition to research and development.

“We continue to work in tandem with RTP,” said Greg Capps, Longefellow’s managing director, in an email.

The firm hopes to break ground on the building sometime this year, though it’s seeking pre-leases for roughly 20% to 30% of the tower before starting construction.

“There are no finalized pre-leases. We continue several advanced talks with companies,” Longfellow spokesperson Casey Angel said.

Longfellow has a nationwide development portfolio, including roughly 5 million square feet in the Triangle. This includes the Durham ID building in downtown Durham. Six other life-science locations are proposed, including a 380,000-square-foot research lab, office and retail building in the 300 block of West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. (See below).

Chapel Hill

Project: 306 W. Franklin St.

Description: Longfellow Real Estate Partners is planning for up to 380,000 square feet of research lab, office and retail in the 300 block of West Franklin Street.

Details: The 1.84-acre site is between West Franklin and West Rosemary streets, between the Bicycle Chain store and Cholanad restaurant.

Though the project’s architects are still finalizing designs, the Boston-based developer said it is expected to include a public plaza on West Franklin Street and a walkway between West Franklin and West Rosemary streets.

The project will rely primarily on off-site parking but includes 100 to 120 underground parking spaces on site.

The future of the Blue Dogwood Public Market and other small businesses remains unclear. The developers have reached out to current tenants along the block and are negotiating possible solutions though weekly discussions, a Longfellow spokesman told The N&O.