Lt. Gov. Polito Convenes Biotech Real Estate Professionals at Polar Park
By David Sullivan, Director of Economic Development and Business Recruitment
The Worcester Red Sox’s second season at Polar Park may have just ended, but the development of parcels abutting the ballpark has only just begun. The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, with help from Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, the Worcester Red Sox, the City of Worcester, Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, and the Worcester Business Development Corporation, are working hard to get biotech developments at Polar Park down the final stretch to home plate. On September 15, Lt. Gov. Polito convened real estate professionals from around Massachusetts at Polar Park to discuss how Madison Properties, the developer of several properties surrounding the ballpark, can attract biotech tenants that are significant enough to commence construction.
Madison Properties is currently constructing a six-story, 228-unit housing development across the street from the ballpark’s main entrance. This is just the first phase of a massive campus, which will include another residential building and a hotel. The development also includes plans for a 200,000-square-foot biotech lab and office space, as well as a six-story lab and office building that is essentially inside Polar Park overlooking the outfield. The crux of Worcester’s recruitment efforts to date — specifically the efforts of Madison Properties’ broker Jones Lang Lasalle — has been focused on finding anchor tenants for the two lab and office buildings. During the September 15 event, real estate professionals not only heard from Madison Properties’ principal Denis Dowdle and JLL Managing Director Bob Maguire, but also the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, Acting City Manager Eric Batista, Chamber President & CEO Tim Murray, and other key decision-makers.
Kenn Turner, head of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, was also in attendance and spoke of how he wields the power of the state’s biotech agency to champion Worcester as a site for biotech development. “We are behind Worcester 150%,” said Turner. “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Worcester thanks to the efforts of Tim Murray and the others here today.” Turner made note of a $25 million effort by the MLSC to bring biotech outside the Boston area to diversify and regionalize R&D and biomanufacturing. Jon Weaver of Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, a fast-growing biotech incubator based in Worcester that houses over 50 startups, highlighted why Worcester is the next big place for biotech. Weaver made note of CBRE’s decision to rank the Worcester area — not including MetroWest or Greater Boston area — as the 15th best place in the country to find biotech workforce talent. He also noted that Worcester has become an anchor in a geographic corridor of biotech that starts with Kendall Square in Cambridge.
For Murray’s part, he explained how a crucial part in attracting major biotech companies to the city, like WuXi Biologics’ new $300 million biomanufacturing facility or AbbVie’s plant which employs hundreds of Worcester residents, was giving them an understanding of how Worcester is an attractive place to be. The Canal District and Polar Park have become a central part of Worcester’s attractiveness as a lively destination for residents, workers, and visitors. This is all not to mention that Worcester is home to 30,000 college students, with Massachusetts’s flagship medical school in Worcester, UMass Chan Medical School, being ranked as the #1 recipient of NIH funding out of all research institutions in the state – beating out Harvard and MIT. The medical school pulled in nearly $300 million in NIH research funding last year. The message was made clear — Worcester offers new biotech companies pad-ready sites and cheaper prices per square foot, the clusters and talent needed to sustain them, the vitality of an urban setting, and the support of the highest levels of state leadership.
“Worcester is open for business,” said the Lt. Gov. “Not only are we open for business, but we know how to do business.”