A couple of months ago, Chicago received some major news: Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, are investing $250 million in a biotech hub in the city, CoStar reported. The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Chicago will involve Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Chicago.

That investment is one of many in recent years in the realm of life science real estate in Chicago. Other notable projects include Hyde Park Labs, a 302,388-square-foot building under development by Trammell Crow and Beacon Capital Partners, according to CoStar. Developer Sterling Bay also intends to incorporate life sciences into a mixed-use megadevelopment on the North Side.

Life sciences commercial real estate has clearly become a hot commodity in the Windy City. In the blog entry “Top 20 US Metros for Life Science Companies in 2022,” the commercial real estate news source CommercialCafe ranked Chicago as the sixth best metro area for businesses in the life sciences sector. Confirming the city’s status as a hot spot, the intro to a 2022 Crain’s Chicago Business “Roundtable on Life Sciences” noted that “demand is quickly growing for research and development space in Chicago which is emerging as a major life sciences market.”

Numerous factors have fueled this surge in popularity. Here are a few reasons why the Second City has emerged as a prime location for biotech and life sciences.

1. Top research universities (and the talent they produce).

Chicago contains various educational institutions that can conduct biotech and life sciences research, such as the three mentioned earlier in this blog entry in connection with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Chicago. The high concentration of universities also means that the area has a large population with life science degrees: Approximately 1 million Chicago metro area residents aged 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree in science, engineering, or a field related to engineering, according to CommercialCafe.

2. Central location.

As detailed in our previous blog entry, “Why Chicago Is One of the Best Cities for Commercial Real Estate Investment,” the Windy City appeals to companies in life sciences and other industries because of its convenient centralized position in the U.S. It serves as a major hub due to the many highways and railroads that connect it to the rest of the country.

3. Affordability compared to the coasts.

Real estate costs are lower in Chicago than they are in large coastal cities, Crain’s notes. For instance, as of April 2023, Chicago asking rents for office space were $27.92 per square foot, which was $10.31 less than the national average, according to the May 2023 National Office Report from CommercialEdge. That makes it appealing for companies in life sciences (as well as other industries) that want to expand or establish themselves in a major metro area without breaking the bank.

4. Pre-existing life science real estate and infrastructure.

As of 2022, Chicago already had almost 2.9 million square feet of office space devoted to the life sciences industry, making it the ninth-largest life sciences commercial real estate market out of the 45 metro areas CommercialCafe analyzed. Additionally, 1.1 million square feet of that space was also LEED-certified, adding to the city’s appeal for environmentally conscious companies.

These are only some of the elements spurring interest in Chicago life sciences commercial real estate. If you’d like to explore available space for your life science business, the Avalon Realty Associates team would be happy to help you find your ideal commercial property. Peruse our property listings and visit our contact us page, call us at 847-506-1000, or email info@avalonreal.com to connect with our team of experienced real estate brokers.