Gap Widening Between Supply and Voracious Demand for New US Life Sciences Real Estate: CBRE Report

15 Dec 2021

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Demand for new lab space more than double available supply in Denver area

Demand for new life sciences lab space is outpacing speculative construction in the top 12 U.S. life sciences hubs as the industry rapidly expands amid a global race for new drug development, according to a new report from CBRE. In the Denver-Boulder area, over 35 tenants are seeking nearly 1.5 million sq. ft. of lab space, compared to a construction pipeline of 635,000 sq. ft. Voracious demand is pushing lab vacancy rates to record low levels—4.9 percent across the U.S. and just 1.8 percent in metro Denver.

The Denver-Boulder region is the 10th-largest life sciences market in the U.S. by lab/R&D inventory with 3.4 million sq. ft. dedicated to the sector. The largest markets in the U.S. are Boston-Cambridge (42.2 million sq. ft) and the San Francisco Bay Area (32.7 million sq. ft.).

“Barriers to entry in the nation’s largest life sciences markets are compelling companies to expand to places like greater Denver, which is known for its highly educated talent pipeline. The region’s universities, medical and research facilities, and biotech destinations like the Fitzsimons Innovation Community are creating an ideal ecosystem for the industry to grow in Colorado,” said David Saad, executive vice president with CBRE in Denver specializing in the life sciences.

Life sciences companies collectively sought nearly 23.8 million sq. ft. of new lab space across the 12 leading U.S. markets in this year’s third quarter. That exceeds the amount of lab space under spec construction – meaning space being built without a tenant already signed – by nearly 2.8 million sq. ft. That gap has widened steadily since last year; even as construction has ramped up considerably, growth in demand continues to outpace it.

Many factors are fueling the life sciences market, including global demand for vaccines for COVID-19 and viruses like it. Initial public offerings for life sciences companies in the U.S. are on pace for a record year of raising roughly $13 billion. Venture-capital funding for U.S. life sciences companies exceeded $30 billion, the most on record, in the 12 months ended in September. In metro Denver, $332 million was directed to life sciences companies, a record high for the market. Job growth in U.S. biotech and research & development sectors registered a 12.1 percent gain in September from a year earlier.

Those factors have boosted the lab-space market in U.S. life sciences hubs to varying degrees.

Life Sciences Real Estate Metrics By Market

Market* TIM** activity by sq. ft. Spec construction Lab vacancy
Boston-Cambridge 6 million 9.3 million 1.1%
Chicago 350,000 583,454 19.7%
Denver-Boulder 1.5 million 635,000 1.8%
Los Angeles 446,000 65,269 5.3%
New Jersey 1.3 million 222,500 9.1%
New York City 1.6 million 1.6 million 1.1%
Philadelphia 2 million 916,726 13.9%
Raleigh-Durham 897,000 1.2 million 17.4%
San Diego 3.8 million 1.9 million 2.2%
San Francisco Bay Area 3 million 3 million 2.6%
Seattle 1.2 million 1.1 million 7.1%
DC/Baltimore 1.8 million 544,000 1.9%
Total 23.8 million 21 million 4.9%

*Alphabetical order
** Tenants in Market: A measure of the amount of new space tenants are seeking

To read the full report, click here.

About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2021 revenue). The company has more than 105,000 employees (excluding Turner & Townsend employees) serving clients in more than 100 countries. CBRE serves a diverse range of clients with an integrated suite of services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at www.cbre.com.