Architecture, Office Building, Laboratory, Chicago, Illinois, Waterfront, Life Sciences
Gensler / HANDOUT
Sterling Bay plans to break ground on the $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment early next year, starting with an eight-story, 320,000-square-foot building along the Chicago River.
The building, which will house offices and lab space, will be at the south end of the sprawling former industrial site, CEO Andy Gloor said. The Gensler-designed building will be just north of a Home Depot store at 1142 W. North Ave., which is not part of the 55-acre Lincoln Yards parcel.
Work on the long-anticipated and controversial project, expected to bring thousands of employees and residents to the property, is nearing despite a pandemic that has all but stopped new real estate projects from getting underway.
No tenants are signed but Gloor said interest from biotech tenants gave Sterling Bay the confidence to begin work on the project.
The Lincoln Yards plans are moving forward after Sterling Bay signed molecular engineering technology firm Evozyne to a 30,000-square-foot lease at a separate life sciences building it owns at 2430 N. Halsted St.
The 120,000-square-foot facility is more than 50% leased and is expected to be full by the end of the year, Gloor said.
The facility is expected to serve as a tenant pipeline for Lincoln Yards, which also expects to sign large, well-established biotech and pharmaceutical companies, Gloor said.
â€śWe think there can be millions of square feetâ€ť leased to biotech firms in Lincoln Yards, he said. â€śThe demand is there.â€ť
Some tenants in the life sciences building are expected to grow large enough to expand into Lincoln Yards a mile west. That is the expectation of Evozyne, which has fewer than 25 employees but anticipates having more than 100 by yearâ€™s end, said Jeff Aronin, chairman and CEO of Paragon Biosciences, Evozyneâ€™s parent company.
â€śWe expect this company and this office to grow rapidly,â€ť Aronin said.
Sterling Bay is one of the few developers to kick off a big project during the coronavirus pandemic, after last month securing construction financing for a 47-story apartment and hotel tower at 300 N. Michigan Ave.
Lincoln Yards has been in the works for years, and Sterling Bay last year won city approval to build as much as 14.5 million square feet of mixed-use buildings on the sprawling riverfront site along the Lincoln Park and Bucktown neighborhoods. The City Council approved up to $1.3 billion in tax increment financing to help pay for infrastructure such as new roads and bridges on and around the project.
Even before the pandemic, Sterling Bay was among several Chicago developers looking to tap into the costly to build but underserved sector of life sciences lab space.
Sterling Bay bought the five-story Halsted Street building from Lurie Childrenâ€™s Hospital, which has since moved research workers to its Gold Coast campus, for almost $20.5 million in October 2018.
Other tenants signed in the building are Exicure and Vanqua Bio. CBRE broker David Saad represents Sterling Bay in leasing the building.
Evozyne, founded by Aronin last year, creates biotechnology, agricultural, industrial and sustainable energy products. Innovations include using synthetic enzymes to create a range of products including drugs for rare genetic diseases, new types of batteries, pesticides and seeds.
Aronin declined to disclose revenue figures for Evozyne, but he said it will become profitable next year.
Previous companies Paragon has launched in Chicago have moved to cities including Paris and Philadelphia in order to expand, Aronin said.
â€śWeâ€™ve had to leave Chicago because Chicago didnâ€™t have the facilities we needed,â€ť he said. â€śNow that Sterling Bay and other companies are building them, we think Chicago is an emerging global city for innovation.â€ť