What's Up Wednesday: The Woodlands Is Proving Its Potential

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What's Up Wednesday: The Woodlands Is Proving Its Potential As A Nationally Recognized Life Sciences Hub

World leaders in biomanufacturing setting up shop in The Woodlands over the past 12 months are burnishing the city's growing reputation as an emerging life sciences hub.

The Woodlands accounted for 60% of the Houston region’s life sciences leases of 10K SF or more last year, according to CBRE’s 2023 U.S. Life Sciences Outlook report released last week. And developers of the master-planned community and national researchers alike say it's all upside from here for the growing cluster.

“It's clear from the companies they've attracted that they developed a nice niche for life sciences,” said Matt Gardner, leader of CBRE’s Americas life sciences advisory group. “And in particular, they've attracted some of the world's leaders in biomanufacturing.”
The Woodlands accounted for two of the five largest life sciences leases in the Houston metro area last year, CBRE's report shows, including Nurix Therapeutics' lease of 20K SF, part of a 318K SF life sciences complex being developed by California-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., and San Diego-based Cellipont Bioservices, which broke ground in November on a 76K SF biomanufacturing facility at 9501 Lakeside Blvd.

Having a strategic location for transporting product to and from patients and access to scientific talent helped Cellipont, a cell therapy contract development and manufacturing organization, pick The Woodlands as the site for the facility, Cellipont President and CEO Deborah Wild said in a statement to Bisnow.

“We also found that The Woodlands is an appealing area because of the schools, activities, and restaurants, and that it would be easier to draw new employees there than other places we considered,” Wild said.

Quality of life, affordability, and safety and security are helping draw life sciences business to the city once better known for its energy-related companies, said David O’Reilly, CEO of The Woodlands’ developer The Howard Hughes Corp.

“We have the unique ability as the master plan developer, different from a lot of other folks that pitch relocations, because we're not just building the office building,” he said. “I'm partnering with those CEOs to help find them a great place to work, and to help them and their employees find great places to live … to find their houses of worship, to find the places where they're going to shop, dine, enjoy art, all those things that people do when they relocate from one city to another.”

Obagi Cosmeceuticals decided to relocate its headquarters last year, with the cost of living for employees among the main deciding factors, Obagi CEO Jaime Castle said. The company leased 16K SF at The Woodlands Towers at The Waterway, shifting its headquarters from Southern California.

“It's a business-friendly state,” Castle said of Texas. “I didn't know if, in California, we would be able to achieve our growth, and really our ambition as an organization.”

Biopharmaceutical company Nurix Therapeutics also inked its lease in Q4 of 2022, according to the CBRE report. Overall, the report shows the Houston metro absorbed about 72K SF of lab/research and development space in 2022.

The momentum of the new life sciences leases last year led Howard Hughes to form a joint venture with Vitrian to support development of biomanufacturing facilities in The Woodlands.

Howard Hughes had hoped to attract life sciences companies for a number of years and initiated the talks with Vitrian, a company dedicated to providing end-to-end solutions for biomanufacturing and current Good Manufacturing Practice, or cGMP, facilities, according to its website.

"[Howard Hughes has] land holdings within the award-winning, master-planned community of The Woodlands that are perfectly positioned for life science companies to come and locate themselves and do a build-to-suit or other building types for them," Howard Hughes Houston Region President Jim Carman said.

"Vitrian has the experience and expertise in the sector. So the combination of those two, we hope, will attract these companies to The Woodlands.”

Carman said the Houston region as a whole is a “sleeping giant” in terms of its place among life sciences hubs in the country.

“The healthcare industry is the No. 1 major employer in The Woodlands now,” Carman said. “We have a tremendously educated and skilled workforce around us.”

With about 1.6M SF of life sciences inventory in the metro, CBRE ranked Houston 14th in life sciences employment clusters in its report. Houston was one of seven metros, including Boston/Cambridge, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, that CBRE labeled as a major market with above average life sciences employment growth last year.

“Several of what we would call the submarkets around Houston, The Woodlands being one of them, there is an excellent resource of talent there that's feeding the industry's growth,” Gardner said. “The Woodlands is a great story, and it’s just the beginning.”

Considering it is home to MD Anderson and the Texas Medical Center, Houston has long had the pieces needed to be a life sciences hub, Gardner said.

“The sense around the world in the industry is that it's starting to come together now,” he said.


Source: Bisnow


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