Illumina Opens Doors to New Anchor Campus in Foster City

By Meghan Hall

Genomics industry giant Illumina cemented its presence in the Bay Area this April when it opened the doors to its new campus at 200-850 Lincoln Center Drive in Foster City. The San Diego-based company, which has almost 7,000 employees worldwide, is leasing its 360,000 square-foot research and development campus from real estate developer BioMed Realty.

Illumina and BioMed Realty have worked with one another for over a decade; together, the companies have developed roughly 800,000 square feet of research and development space across major life science markets in the United States and the United Kingdom. According to Salil Payappilly, BioMed Realty’s vice president of development, working with companies like Illumina in the life sciences industry is exciting.

“We live vicariously through our tenants,” said Payappilly. “They’re the ones doing all of the cool stuff and moving the frontier in science and research. We’re glad to be affiliated with Illumina, and we’re excited to be working in this industry.”

The 15-year lease will continue to centralize and solidify Illumina’s operations in the Bay Area. Prior to the opening of the Foster City campus, Illumina’s employees were spread across several locations in Mission Bay and Hayward. The Mission Bay campus will be vacated and promptly re-occupied by the University of California at San Francisco, which will take over Illumina’s lease at that location.

According to Jenny Durbin, the senior manager of facilities, planning and workplace innovation at Illumina, creating a welcoming environment in a centralized location was key.

“Our growth over time in the Bay Area created a very disconnected environment,” said Durbin. “We are also conscious that employees are travelling from across the Bay Area to get to work, so we were quite intentional about creating a destination for employees to connect and collaborate.”

Illumina chose Foster City for its new built-to-suit campus because the company determined that it was not only a hot-spot for the life sciences industry, but also because after surveying its employees, the company found it was easily accessible and large enough to accommodate Illumina’s growing enterprise. The campus is located just adjacent to the San Mateo Bridge, Highway 101 and Interstate 280.

“Many of these anchor campuses end up being in key markets; they end up being located on prime real estate where all the action is,” said Payappilly of Illumina’s move. “In each of these locations what is unique is that the real estate is at the heart of big, thriving clusters. It’s very natural that that kind of location attracts companies like Illumina.”

The new campus was designed by Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins + Will, who also worked with Illumina to create the biotech company’s i3 Campus in San Diego. According to Durbin, Illumina wanted to focus on creating a well-connected environment for its employees; the building’s curved planar forms and specialized curved glass conference rooms in each building were inspired by Illumina’s genomics work.

“The design of the Foster City campus supports Illumina’s values of openness and collaboration,” explained Durbin. “Our vision for the site was to create a campus environment that fosters Illumina’s living energy, collaboration, and sparks innovation.”

Illumina’s new campus is composed of three buildings: two office facilities, each at 151,000 square-feet, and an amenity building, named the Hub, of 40,000 square feet. The amenity building, which is often perceived to be a staple in many Silicon Valley tech campuses, was a feature that both BioMed Realty and Illumina really strove to highlight.

“The amenities building represents the central connection point for all Illumina employees—those that work on the campus, those that visit the campus from our other Bay Area site and those that are visiting for the day or week,” said Durbin.

The Hub provides fresh farm-to-fork dining options for both breakfast and lunch for its employees via a partnership with Bon Appetit, an Equator espresso bar and a fitness center that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A game room with a large scrabble board, table tennis, foosball and video games are available for employee use as well. Wifi, AV and power outlets are also all readily available within the Hub, allowing employees to work wherever they choose.

Outside the amenities building is a patio for employees to use. The building, according to Payappilly, was designed to anchor the rest of the campus and give employees a variety of work spaces.

“It’s moving more towards hospitality, where the employees can have fun a little bit and collaborate and host meetings, which is different from a typically serious, science-based environment,” he explained. “Everyone is getting together and collaborating.”

Illumina welcomed roughly 400 employees to the campus in April 2018, and with its current facilities can continue to expand its workforce. The current site also has the option to develop an additional 235,000 square feet of space, almost doubling the campus’ size. Even given the Bay Area’s tight life sciences real estate market, neither Illumina’s spokesperson nor Payappilly would say if there were immediate plans to develop the parcel. Payappilly did say, however, that BioMed Realty would be ready to develop the remaining portion of the site in the near future.

“It’s shovel ready, and it’s a fully-entitled ready-to-go 235,000 square-feet,” he said. “All we need to do is start, and it’ll be done.”

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