2021 | Business

1.6 million square feet of lab space in the works in Montgomery County

Developer praises county’s life science presence, but calls for quicker processes

share this

A rendering of the new Novavax campus in Gaithersburg.

File image

An additional 1.6 million square feet of lab space in Montgomery County is in development, according to the county’s economic development agency.

The space will be an addition to the 10.6 million square feet of existing lab space in the county, according to a press release from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC).

The MCEDC said a number of companies based in Montgomery County have been developing COVID-19 vaccines during the pandemic, including Novavax, Qiagen, Altimmune and Emmes. About $8 billion was invested in life science companies within the county last year for research on COVID-19.

The economic development agency cites the presence of a “highly educated workforce,” competitive rents and the presence of federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Heath as factors for why life science companies are attracted to the county.

Among the projects in development are:

  • A lab facility at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda that will house clinical manufacturing and research and development. The project is a partnership between the county, Federal Realty Investment Trust and the commercial real estate agency Scheer Partners.
  • The renovation of a decommissioned National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease facility in Twinbrook. Real estate firm GlenLine Investments is in charge of the project and is seeking “middle stage companies” to occupy the space.
  • Developer Matan Companies has started constructing a 500,000-square-foot biotechnology campus at 700 N. Frederick Ave. in Gaithersburg on the site of the former Leidos campus. The developer is also building a 532,000-square-foot campus for bio manufacturing in Germantown.
  • Novavax is renovating a 170,000-square-foot office building that will open in early 2022.

The MCEDC noted that some international companies have chosen to locate their U.S. headquarters in Montgomery County or have established a large presence. Those include Aurinia, Autolus, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Qiagen.

Matan Companies Principal Mark Matan told Bethesda Beat in an interview Thursday that he thinks Montgomery County has a positive story to tell about the presence of life sciences companies.

Matan said the county has a workforce that can respond to the changes in technology that have occurred in medicine.

”So those factors together have made the I-270 corridor … one of the top five clusters in the country,” he said.

Matan expects construction on the Gaithersburg campus to start in the next 30 days, and work on the Germantown campus will follow.

The county’s next step to improving its business climate is to expedite processes for construction and renovation of buildings, Matan said.

“It’s not a secret that Montgomery County traditionally has fallen short there. And this is a new opportunity to really tell the county that ‘hey, we’re open for business,’” he said.

Matan said Interstate 270 is “fundamentally broken” and needs to be fixed. He said he supports widening the interstate, which Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed.

“We have these companies that are looking to bring a lot of companies to Montgomery County, and they need to get around,” he said.

Bike lanes and bus routes are an “auxiliary help,” but not the entire solution, Matan said.

MCEDC President and CEO Ben Wu said in the press release that the county is “fast becoming an international Immunology Capital.”

“The investment by local developers in these projects demonstrates how quickly the demand is rising for life sciences companies looking to locate, expand and grow in Montgomery County,” he said in the press release.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com