JAM News
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

New York Blood Center Plans Expansion on Upper East Side

WALL STREET JOURNAL - Kate King

The New York Blood Center is planning a major redevelopment and expansion of its 90-year-old building on the Upper East Side, as city officials say they are eager to build up the life-science industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The project, which is subject to zoning approvals, calls for replacing the Blood Center’s current building on East 67th Street with a 16-story, nearly 600,000-square-foot campus built by Longfellow Real Estate Partners, a private life-science developer. The New York Blood Center would be an anchor tenant, occupying five floors, with the upper stories marketed to startups, industry groups and venture-capital firms.

The Blood Center, which started in the early 1960s, provides blood products to hospitals across the five boroughs. Blood Center scientists work on vaccines and treatments for ailments such as HIV, SARS and sickle-cell disease. The nonprofit is also responding to the coronavirus pandemic, operating a convalescent plasma bank and with two vaccine candidates currently in preclinical trials.

 
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration is focusing on public health and the life-science industry as the cornerstone of the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic, and it supports this project, said Deputy Mayor Vicki Been.

 
“We need to make very serious progress on making New York City the public-health capital of the U.S.,” she said.

The Blood Center project would add needed research space, Ms. Been said. New York City, home to nine academic medical centers, has a large talent pool but has struggled to add enough laboratory facilities to expand the industry.

Investment in New York-based life-sciences companies was growing a year ago but has exploded since the pandemic hit, said Steve Purpura, vice chairman at CBRE Group Inc., a real-estate services firm. The health crisis has drawn significant attention and investor capital to the importance of genomics-based research. At the same time, the city’s office and residential real-estate markets have softened, making life-sciences development more attractive.

“Companies need to do their research in the laboratory. It can’t be done from home or in an existing office building,” Mr. Purpura said. “Your ability to scale in New York City is unlike anywhere else.”

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Christopher Hillyer, president and chief executive of the Blood Center, said the organization needs more space for its research and to expand the number of companies it incubates in its offices. The Blood Center expects to more than double the number of jobs it has on-site, to 580 from its current staffing level of 210 employees.

“We had all the elements already to be a mini life-sciences hub,” Dr. Hillyer said. “We were deep in research and development, focused on the life sciences.”

Jamison Peschel, managing partner at Longfellow, said that design, financing and building will take several years and that the Blood Center will need to be relocated during construction. The developer hopes the new campus will be ready for occupancy by the end of 2026.

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