Real estate trust Ventas Inc. has formed a joint venture with a Singapore sovereign wealth fund to finish developing $930 million in research and lab space, including projects on West Philadelphia’s uCity Square complex and with Drexel University, as the life-science sector proves resilient to a downturn in other property types.
The newly formed venture between Ventas and Singapore’s GIC Pte. Ltd. will own 1.4 million square feet of lab-and-research space across four projects under development in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix, Ventas said in a release Friday.
“We are pleased to establish this partnership ... and look forward to scaling our venture together," Lee Kok Sun, GIC’s real estate investment chief, said in the release. “We are confident that the life-sciences sector will continue to flourish, driven by the growing and aging global population, as well as increased public and private funding."
The deal comes as Philadelphia finds itself an integral part of a life-science cluster stretching from the Boston region to metropolitan Washington, which together last year claimed a lion’s share of the nation’s funding from both the National Institutes of Health and from private venture-capital firms, real estate services firm CBRE said in a research report this week.
Over the last five years, nearly 3 million square feet of space has been leased to life-science tenants either moving into the Philadelphia region or expanding here, according to a separate report last week from commercial real estate firm JLL.
“Across the Philadelphia market, the life-science sector has become a driving force of leasing, development, and optimism,” Lauren Gilchrist, JLL’s Philadelphia research chief, said in the report.
The projects in the Ventas-GIC joint venture are part of what Ventas has classified as its “Research and Innovation” portfolio, a bundle of health-science buildings that it has been developing in collaboration with U.S. universities.
Among them are the 400,000-square-foot One uCity Square building that’s part of West Philadelphia’s growing uCity Square complex and the College of Nursing and Health Professions tower on Drexel-owned land at 36th and Filbert Streets.
Also included in the venture are early phases of the Pitt Immune Transplant & Therapy Center, a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and a research-and-lab center on Arizona State University’s new biomedical campus in central Phoenix.
All have been under development by Ventas in partnership with real estate firm Wexford Science & Technology LLC of Baltimore, which specializes in collaborations with research universities.
The four projects are about 65% pre-leased and are scheduled to open between 2021 and 2023, Ventas said. Previously announced tenants have included biotechnology firm Century Therapeutics LLC, which will occupy space in One uCity Square.
Under its deal with GIC, Chicago-based Ventas has contributed its ownership interest in the four projects to the new joint venture, Ventas said. GIC reimbursed Ventas for a share of the roughly $180 million in development costs already incurred at the development sites.
Ventas will own an “over 50% interest” in the projects, while GIC will own a 45% interest, Ventas said. Wexford remains the developer of — and a minority partner in — the projects, it said.
Additional Research and Innovation projects in Ventas’ development pipeline could expand the joint venture to encompass over $2 billion in new construction, which would also involve Wexford, Ventas said.
“With GIC and Wexford, we look forward to successfully completing our in-progress R&I projects and launching additional R&I developments from our existing pipeline together,” Ventas chief executive Debra A. Cafaro said in the release.