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Will biotech investment help out NYC’s real estate?

Real Estate Developments

One of the many interesting things discussed at this morning’s “Offense/Defense: What’s the Late-Cycle Real Estate Playbook?” event at Fordham’s Real Estate Institute was the question of New York’s biotech sector. Biotech has been one of the bright spots in the US economy over the last few decades, and many cities have taken advantage of their endowments to bolster biotechnology investment. The best-known is Boston/Cambridge, which has long leveraged the presence of MIT and Harvard to create a thriving ecosystem of biotech firms. On a smaller scale, Pittsburgh’s post-industrial recovery was driven by its nexus of high-grade hospitals and universities, with healthcare now the largest employer in America’s historic City of Steel.

Speakers at the event pointed out that New York possesses as good a nexus of universities and hospitals as any US city, but the gravitational pull of the city’s financial services has perhaps led to underinvestment in the kind of infrastructure, including commercial space, that biotech firms need. There are strong signs that this may be changing, with Columbia University taking the lead and partnering with two different real estate investment firms, Deerfield Management and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, to invest hundreds of millions in new life sciences laboratories and office space. [1]

Economically diversified cities, like portfolios, are more resilient in the face of downturns. Chicago is the most diversified big city in the US, with no sector making up more than 14% of GDP. Although Wall Street will remain the center of US and global finance (along with London)—a more balanced weight of industries in NYC wouldn’t hurt. For the city’s real estate, which took a big hit in the third quarter of 2019, a boom in biotech can’t come soon enough. [2]

[1] Keown, A. (June 2019) Alexandria Real Estate Plans to Open New LaunchLabs at Columbia University from biospace Accessed October 2 2019

[2] Fortado, L. (October 2019) Manhattan apartment price slump worsens from FT Accessed October 2 2019

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