Life Sciences/Lab Space: What You Should Watch Out For

Scientist in a lab space seated at a table with a microscope

Looking for the perfect lab space in New York City for your scientific work? You’re in the right place. This city is a treasure trove for everything from biological research to personalized medicine labs. Need a cleanroom facility or a bio-manufacturing center? The city’s got those, too. Imagine a space where your work isn’t just accommodated but truly thrives. That’s what New York City offers. So, let’s find that special place where your next big discovery comes to life.

Manhattan’s Top Neighborhoods for Life Science/Lab Space

  • Upper East Side: Picture yourself strolling through Manhattan’s Upper East Side, surrounded by charm and some of the world’s leading research powerhouses. Places like Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell, and Rockefeller University aren’t just names; they’re writing the future of healthcare. This neighborhood is a hotbed for life sciences, blending the energy of New York City with groundbreaking growth and medical innovations.  
  • Upper West Side: The Upper West Side of Manhattan stands out in the life sciences sector. Think of it as a hub of innovation, where a recent $600 million recapitalization supercharged a significant life sciences center at 125 West End Avenue. Beyond this, the neighborhood is full of groundbreaking work from institutions like the New York Stem Cell Foundation, HiberCell, and Mount Sinai West. It’s also a thriving home for numerous midsize life science companies.  
  • Midtown Manhattan: Midtown Manhattan, particularly the Kips Bay area, is a life sciences haven. Imagine this: right in the heart of busy New York, you have this zone perfectly wired into some of the most prestigious hospitals and academic centers. We mean connections to giants like NYU Langone Health and Bellevue Hospital. These aren’t just hospitals; they’re incubators of medical innovation. And it’s not just about the healthcare powerhouses. Kips Bay offers over a million square feet dedicated to lab space, making it a dream come true for startups and rapidly growing life science companies. 

Current Average Leasing Costs for Life Science/Lab Space

  • Upper East Side: $90.00 to $170.00 per square foot
  • Upper West Side: $90.00 to $170.00 per square foot
  • Midtown Manhattan: $80.00 to $150.00 per square foot
Biochemist working in NYC laboratory.

What You Should Look for in Life Science/Lab Space 

Think of finding the perfect life science/lab space as setting up a base camp for your scientific explorations. You’re on a mission to find a place where your ideas can grow, evolve, and change the world. It’s not just about finding four walls and a roof; it’s about discovering a space that breathes life into your research. So, what should you look for? Here are five key points:

  • Location, Location, Location: You want to be where the action is! Look for a spot close to other research hubs, hospitals, and universities. Networking and collaboration are easier when you’re in the heart of the scientific community.
  • State-of-the-Art Facilities: This is your lab’s backbone. Ensure the space has the latest technology and infrastructure to support your cutting-edge research. You don’t want to be held back by outdated equipment!
  • Flexible Design: Science is all about evolution, and so should be your space. Opt for a lab that can adapt to your changing needs. Flexibility is key, whether expanding your team or upgrading your equipment.
  • Safety First: This is non-negotiable. Ensure the space adheres to all safety regulations. Proper ventilation, chemical and bio-waste storage, and emergency protocols are necessary for your peace of mind and your team’s well-being.
  • A Supportive Community: You’re not just renting a space but joining a community. Look for a place that offers support services, networking events, and collaboration opportunities. Being surrounded by like-minded innovators can make a huge difference.

The Challenges of Leasing Life Science/Lab Space in New York City

Leasing life science/lab space in New York City still has its own unique set of challenges. While the demand for such spaces is high, several factors make the process tricky. Here’s what tenants should be aware of:

  • Unique Development Challenges: Life science/lab space in New York City has a unique blend of development challenges. First, there are higher development costs compared to traditional office spaces, due to extensive requirements like sophisticated plumbing, electrical systems, HVAC, and essential backup power and refrigeration. Plus, NYC’s historical focus on office leasing has led to a scarcity in lab-ready spaces, impacting the growth of the life sciences sector.  
  • Regulatory and Compliance Hurdles: Dealing with the maze of regulations and compliance in New York City’s life science/lab space is no small feat. It’s akin to playing a high-stakes game of Tetris, where every piece must fit perfectly. Life sciences companies must meet rigorous safety, equipment, and operational requirements. These standards go beyond typical building codes to ensure a safe and efficient environment for sophisticated scientific work.
  • Choosing Compliant Lab Spaces in NYC: You’ll likely lease in buildings already designed for such life science/lab purposes. Yet, understanding NYC’s specific building codes and zoning regulations is a challenge. Requirements like zoning districts, floor load capacities, ceiling heights, and ventilation systems, are vital for lab safety and functionality yet change often. Rules for storing hazardous materials are also stringent. Even if brokers show you pre-equipped lab spaces, be sure you have the necessary knowledge.
  • Economic and Funding Challenges: After years of incredible growth, NYC’s life sciences industry is experiencing a more regular and slower growth rate. Economic slowdown, banking turbulence, and a decline in venture capital funding have impacted the industry.
  • Physical Infrastructure Limitations: Transforming existing buildings into suitable lab spaces poses significant challenges. Not all buildings have the necessary infrastructure to support a lab. Factors like floor load capacity and the building’s physical infrastructure are vital considerations. 
Hispanic scientist in lab coat, studying under microscope and using laptop in a lab

Top Considerations Before Signing a Lease

Setting out to lease life sciences/lab space in New York City demands keen attention to detail. It’s more than just acquiring a space; it’s about securing a launchpad for innovation and discovery. Here’s a concise guide to walk you through the crucial considerations for this critical decision:

  • Zoning and Infrastructure Compatibility: Confirm that the building’s zoning is appropriate for life sciences and biotech, typically within M1-5 zoning for light manufacturing. Additionally, check for specialized infrastructure like advanced electrical, plumbing, and air filtration systems vital for lab functionality.
  • The Right Building, Landlord, and Location: Look for buildings in New York City already set up for life science. These places have the right infrastructure and meet all the tough regulations, making your life easier. Also, a landlord who gets the life science and biotech world can be a huge plus. And don’t forget location – being close to manufacturing, medical, and research hubs means better collaboration and easier access to resources.
  • Customizable Lab Spaces: In NYC, find a lab space that’s ready for your specific needs. It’s all about having a spot that’s adaptable for your unique equipment and research activities. And good news – landlords often agree to modify existing lab spaces. This flexibility is key for smooth, effective research operations in the city.
  • Security and Safety: Building security and neighborhood safety are paramount. A secure environment is essential for the well-being of your staff and the integrity of your research.
  • Practical and Financial Considerations: Consider practicalities like sufficient parking for staff and visitors. Also, analyze the lease terms and overall leasing costs to ensure they align with your long-term financial and operational goals.

Ready for More Insights?

Since 2004, our team has represented hundreds of tenants and helped them lease life sciences/lab space. Contact us at (212) 444-2241 for any questions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the zoning requirements for leasing life science/lab space in New York City, and how do they differ from standard commercial leases?

In New York City, life science/lab spaces follow unique zoning rules. Unlike standard commercial spaces, they have different needs. These include handling hazardous materials and specific ventilation systems. Also, waste disposal is a key factor. Moreover, the building must be zoned for biotech or pharmaceutical use. Therefore, consider consulting a real estate expert in life sciences to ensure compliance with these special requirements.

2. How does the high-density urban environment of New York City impact the availability and design of lab spaces?

The high-density urban environment of NYC limits the availability of large, contiguous lab spaces, leading to more compact and vertically integrated designs. This often results in shared resources, like central autoclaves or communal cold rooms, and requires innovative solutions for storage and equipment placement. Prospective lessees should expect a different layout than what’s found in less urbanized areas.

3. Are there specific neighborhoods or districts in NYC that are more conducive to life science/lab spaces?

Yes, certain neighborhoods in NYC, like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, and parts of Midtown, like Kips Bay, have emerged as hubs for life sciences. These areas often have a higher concentration of ready-to-use lab spaces. They are near academic institutions and hospitals and also foster a collaborative environment.

4. What are the typical lease terms for life science/lab spaces in NYC, and how do they compare to traditional commercial leases?

Lease terms for life science/lab spaces in NYC can be more complex and longer than traditional commercial leases. In fact, they can span 10-15 years. Often, the reason is due to the significant investment in specialized infrastructure and equipment. Additionally, leases might include clauses specific to lab operations. Think provisions for handling hazardous materials and ensuring proper ventilation.

5. What unique challenges should one expect when seeking to lease life science/lab space in NYC, particularly regarding regulatory compliance and safety standards?

Renters of lab spaces should anticipate strict adherence to regulatory compliance and safety standards. The standards include meeting city, state, and federal regulations for lab operations, waste disposal, and handling of hazardous materials. Successfully navigating the complexity of these regulations in a city like NYC, with its high public and environmental safety standards can be challenging. Moreover, you may want to consider expert guidance.