Exploring Boulder’s Burgeoning Life Science Market and Maturing Tech Industry
by Scott Crabtree - Broker Associate with The Colorado Group, Inc.
Many wheels start turning as we see a greater number of institutional investors entering the Boulder marketplace to chase the burgeoning life science market and the ever-expanding tech industry. Whether you’re among them or are an average investor looking to target growth-oriented markets, you should be actively exploring the market.
If you’re curious to learn what’s happening in the market, you’ve come to the right place.
Updates and Insights into the Life Sciences and Tech Industry
With the current income in mind, acquisitions in and for the life sciences market seem unjustified. Investors view the industry with add-value opportunities and substantial growth by pushing rents to record levels through value-add portfolio investment. When examined with other growth-oriented life science and tech markets like Boston, Raleigh, CA, NY, etc., the market rates in Boulder have remained relatively compressed, leading to great potential upside.
This raises the question: With a massive jump in expense for assets, particularly taxation, would local companies still be able to afford to remain in Boulder? According to Jason Flynn, the President of Catalyst Property Tax Consultants, the taxes for many of these portfolios are expected to double or triple in the upcoming assessment.
Over the next few years, it’s no wonder that Gross Rents for Boulder properties can more than double. This stems from the increase in base rent to justify the sale prices and to justify purchases. But not for the faint of heart as not only is the price to play in this market substantial but the capital needed to bring these properties up to market standards for life science another animal. Base building improvements to an older asset can be in the $100- $300/SF on top of the purchase price and the tenant improvement packages can be in the $150- $250/SF plus for buildout of the specific tenants needs (which in many case the tenants will match or exceed the TI package to complete their buildout.
The latest sign that Boulder is becoming a hub for pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries is that a unit of Blackstone Inc., a real estate company, acquired a sprawling flex/industrial and office campus in the city to convert to life science and add additional tech office. Moreover, the real estate owner, BioMed Realty Trust Inc. of Blackstone, which targets life science buildings, is was paid over $600 million (~$600 a SF) for the 22-building complex, Flatiron Park.
Both large investors and tenants have been reported to show interest in surrounding markets, such as:
o Niwot/Gunbarrel: The deal for Boulder Flex Portfolio of Gunbarrel offered by Newmark is still pending, with rumors of the associated bid exceeding the recommended sale price of $30M by 30%.
O 36 Corridor: The market includes Westminster, Interlocken, and Broomfield.
o CTC of Louisville, representing the Starwood acquisition of Etkin Johnson Portfolio.
Like in Boulder proper, rates in these markets are rising quickly, and prices are undergoing incredible spikes, with a rise in taxation expected not too far into the future. The smaller markets along I-25 and Ft. Collins are also grabbing investor interest in the Northwestern Corridor. This bodes the question- If local companies can’t afford these skyrocketing rents, will they still be able to stay in the front range of CO, or will they need to relocate?
Most investors are looking outside the core markets such as Boulder proper and Denver and are scrambling to jump on to the wave, while others might either be too late in the game or spend money to play. It also can be tricky to get new investors educated on the market. And if they attempt to understand the playing field from other comparable markets or get up to speed in a hurry, they can easily miss out on transactions.
Interestingly, large office tenants such as Google, Twitter, and Apple have been exploiting these times to expand their footprint in Boulder. But what about smaller and midsize tenants? Once the dust settles, will they have large floorplates available at their disposal, or will they be able to afford the new market?
This was our take on the burgeoning life science and high-tech markets in Boulder and surrounding areas. After perusing these industry insights, you may have already guessed that it’s a fast-paced, vibrant market, and not having your pulse on the game means it may just pass you by. However, suppose you’re an investor looking for lucrative investment options in Boulder and surrounding markets. In that case, we genuinely hope that the updates shared in this article help you pick the right assets to achieve your goals.
Crabtree Team feels fortunate to be doing business in this market since the early 00’s and call it home! Please reach out – we would be happy to talk to you more about life science in our area.