By Meghan Hall
The life sciences sector has grown rapidly in recent years, and developers are barely keeping pace with demand for real estate. With available space at an all-time low, Longfellow Real Estate Partners and PGIM Inc. are moving forward with massive plans to revamp the Redwood Lab and Innovation Focused Environment (LIFE) in Redwood City. This week, the two firms filed a pre-application with the Planning Department that, if approved, would nearly triple development on the property.
“[We submitted] our pre-application to the City of Redwood City for the next evolution of Redwood LIFE campus, escentially bringing our 84-acre campus from a 0.3 floor area ratio (FAR) closer to a 1.0, which is consistent with the city planners and general plan guidelines there,” said Longfellow’s Managing Director Evan Schwimmer to The Registry Tuesday. “We’re clearly optimistic about the sector and we look forward to working with Redwood City and the local community on that project to create a world class home for the next generation of life sciences.”
The property is located at 800, 1400, 1600 and 3400 Bridge Parkway. Currently, Redwood LIFE totals just over one million square feet spread across 20 buildings constructed throughout the 1990s. The Class A campus operates as the world headquarters of Shutterfly, and is home to a number of other major companies such as Nevro, Procept Biorobotics and Proteus Digital.
Under the newly proposed plans, 16 new buildings would replace the existing building stock. A large mix of public conference facilities, meeting rooms, mezzanine floor area, and a child care center are also designated in the preliminary plans. The buildings will all range between four to seven stories in height.
In addition, Longfellow, PGIM and architecture firm HOK envision a 150-key hotel, and multiple amenity-centric spaces throughout the campus. Preliminary plans indicate that the project’s amenity center will total about 82,000 square feet. Parking will also shift from surface parking to a mix of above-grade garages and podium parking. Doing so will accommodate for the expansion of the property’s open spaces to nearly 9.2 acres, plus additional open spaces on podiums, as well as space allocated for plazas, sidewalks and other infrastructure.
Upon completion, it is expected that the campus will be able to accommodate just under 7,600 employees, based on 350 square feet of office space per employee and 650 square feet of research and development/lab space per employee.
Competition for available lab space or life sciences space in the Bay Area remains fierce, even post-pandemic. According to experts at The Registry’s most recent Life Science Development Forum, between four to 4.5 million square feet of demand has been consistently tracked over the past several years. Demand is also coming from a wide variety of users, from those in their seed stage to well-established, multinational firms.
“Demand is as strong as it’s ever been,” said Kidder Mathews’ Managing Director Gregg Domanico. “…Our market here has transitioned from what I’d call its infancy during the first 20 years, [to now] I think our local market here is in a huge growth phase.”
Vacancy, as a result, remains incredibly low–around two to three percent in most markets.
“Vacancy in almost all of these primary and secondary markets are approaching zero,” added Domanico. “There’s not a lot of direct space available.”
Experts believe that in the coming years, the life sciences industry in the Bay Area will continue to thrive, provided companies can find space. Venture capital and public funding levels also remain incredibly high. Experts note that capital being raised translates into higher headcounts and subsequent demand for real estate.
Longfellow and PGIM have a long way to go, however, before their re-envisioned plans will be able to accommodate new tenants, as the multi-phased project could take up to 20 years to fully entitle and build-out. However, Long term, Longfellow and PGIM are more than willing to bet that the future of life sciences in the Bay Area will be good.
As of this writing, PGIM has not yet returned The Registry’s request for comment.