Middlesex 3 Speakers Laud Bedford’s Biomedical Performance, Potential

Jeffrey M. King, Bedford’s Bedford’s Director of Housing and Economic Development ~ Image, JMcCT (c) 2022 all rights reserved

 

DeAnna Murphy preaches like an evangelist about Bedford’s commercial real estate performance and potential.

“Bedford has done a wonderful job in setting the stage for a biotech boom,” she asserted last week at an in-person gathering sponsored by the Middlesex 3 Coalition. “Crosby Drive feels important. It feels smart – four lanes with sidewalks on both sides and lab clusters. This corridor is great.”

Murphy is general manager of Anchor Line Partners, the Boston-based investment firm with assets along Bedford’s Middlesex Turnpike commercial/industrial corridor. Her audience heard a program entitled, “What’s Going on in Bedford,” hosted at Anchor Line’s Core Crosby campus.

Stephanie Cronin, Middlesex 3 executive director, told the audience of more than 40 that the event was designed as “a casual conversation,” a format that she said has proven to be “more meaningful and authentic.”

“What’s Going on in Bedford” was all good news, delivered by real estate owners, a tenant, employers and other business representatives, and town government.

The theme most repeated was the transformation of Bedford’s office and technology space into biomedical operations. “We’re punching above our weight class,” Town Manager Sarah Stanton told the group. Her evidence? About one million square feet of potential development.

Murphy was ebullient. There are seven owners along Crosby Drive, and “all are repositioning to labs. There’s no shortage of new tenants; everyone is investing.” Her company’s site alone at numbers 20-26 has leased 130,000 square feet over the past year, primarily for labs, she stated.

The reason? “This whole area has found its own way,” Murphy declared, “Lab builds don’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of forward vision to see what is going to happen. In Bedford, you saw it coming.”

“One of the lessons we learned early is how government can make investment easier,” Stanton explained, citing a single point of contact, streamlining the permitting process, and ensuring that Code Enforcement Department staff members have some knowledge of the life science industry’s needs.

“And beyond that, make it a community where you can live and work and play,” she added.

Jeffrey King, Bedford’s Director of Housing and Economic Development, provided the statistical backdrop for Stanton’s presentation. The one million square feet comprise up to eight sites, including the former Doubletree Hotel at 44 Middlesex Turnpike, which after several years may accommodate 300,000 square feet.

He cited the infrastructure support the town provides, the corridor’s connectivity, zoning for retaining mixed-use; a “robust entrepreneurial and small-business network; and a culture of innovation.”

King also talked about the town’s “quality of life” advantages: the cultural district, inventory of affordable housing, the Minuteman Bikeway. Housing is the biggest challenge, Stanton interjected particularly “middle” housing. “Are we pricing ourselves out of our competitive advantage?”

The price of housing is an “undercurrent” and “it’s a problem we are all trying to solve,” the town manager asserted. Planning Board member Jacinda Barbehenn urged Middlesex 3 to support legislation to “expand housing opportunities.”

King reported that local employment surpasses 23,000, and two-thirds of that constitutes a skilled-labor force. The average annual wage is $110,000.

He broke down the composition of the workforce, the largest being 27 percent professional and technical; other leaders are 12 percent health care, 12 percent social services, and 11 percent manufacturing.

The town hosts 32 biomedical companies, ranging from start-ups to [established] giants like Millipore. He said Bedford has a “platinum biomedical readiness rating,” and the commercial real estate vacancy rate is less than 1 percent.

Also featured were two representatives from Ultragenyx, the California-based biopharmaceutical firm specializing in cures for ultra-rare diseases. Ultragenyx will occupy its first manufacturing and technical operations space in Bedford when it’s completed in about a year.

Ultragenyx has “a great partnership with the town,” said Sue Marrichi, executive director of engineering. The new facility is on the Bedford Woods campus off Middlesex Turnpike. Ultragenyx has a temporary office on Crosby Drive. “This is one of the largest investments by our company,” she said, and expansion is likely.

Dave Rousseau, director of facilities at Ultragenyx, said the building is now undergoing interior fit-out. “Ultragenyx wants to be a big part of the community,” he said.

Representing Hanscom Air Force Base, Patty Welch, acting chief of public affairs, summarized the installation’s history and mission, which since the end of World War II has been research and development. She emphasized the innovation that often results when the Air Force partners with the private sector, particularly smaller startups.

Also speaking was Glen Kernusky, the base’s chief of community engagement. He mentioned some major projects that will take place on and around the base, such as expansion of Lincoln Laboratory and the redesigned gate at the end of Hanscom Drive in Lincoln, including a new visitors center and vehicle search area.

Kernusky said a percentage of the base’s civilian workforce is considering continuing remote work. Officials are evaluating “who needs to come in, and when?”

Pete Bagley, executive director of the Bedford Chamber of Commerce, was also on the agenda. Bagley delivered a truckload of good news. He said:

  • The pandemic survival rate among local businesses was 89 percent and half of the remainder is “dormant;”
  • Large companies and franchises are affiliating with the chamber;
  • Businesses love the town’s cultural district; and
  • Business also has a “great relationship” with municipal government.
Chamber of Commerce director Peter Bagley spoke of Bedford’s recently established Cultural District ~ Image, JMcCT (c) 2022 all rights reserved ~ Click to see a larger image

About the Middlesex 3 Coalition

The Middlesex 3 Coalition is a public-private partnership to promote businesses and improve the quality of life along the Route 3 Corridor, offering a vast range of resources to meet the needs of its businesses and residents.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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