Ground broken for new building to spur biotechnology in St. Louis

New state-of-the-art structure will be gold standard for biotech companies

Renderings of the new CORTEX building
Shown here are renderings of the new CORTEX building: view from the north (top); arial view from the south (middle); and view from the south with loading docks (bottom).

Efforts to develop a significant biotechnology industry in St. Louis got a major boost with the groundbreaking for a new laboratory and office building that will provide space for growing companies.

The new building, at 4300 Forest Park Avenue in midtown St. Louis, is being developed by CORTEX, the Center of Research, Technology & Entrepreneurial Exchange. The non-profit organization is a collaboration of Washington University, Saint Louis University, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Speakers at the groundbreaking included St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay; Dr. William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of Washington University and chairman of the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences; John Dubinsky, president of CORTEX; and Lewis Levey, president of real estate development for CORTEX.

“St. Louis is undergoing an unprecedented building boom,” Mayor Slay said. “What’s happening in midtown will accelerate the momentum. It will also make us more competitive in biotechnology and create the good jobs of tomorrow. St. Louis is becoming a great city again in many ways.”

“The cooperation that’s been demonstrated in the development of this building is really remarkable and bodes well for future development,” Dubinsky said. “We have seen the region come together as it rarely has before.”

The City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri (the Missouri Development Finance Board), Civic Progress, the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association, the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences and 17th Ward Alderman Joe Roddy all provided key support for the development of the new structure, Dubinsky said. He also noted that the entire CORTEX project has been developed in coordination with plans for infrastructure improvements planned by McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc. as part of the Chouteau Lake and Greenway project.

“This new state-of-the-art building will help us grow biotech firms that have already taken root in St. Louis and attract firms from outside the region,” Dr. Danforth said. “It is exactly the step forward this region needs to stake a claim in the future. Special thanks go to Sen. Kit Bond, the U.S. Economic Development Administration and our corporate and philanthropic donors, all of whom made indispensable contributions to this project.”

The three-story, 170,000 square foot, $36 million building is being built on the site of a former Markwort Sporting Goods Co. building, which is being razed. HOK is the design architect and the Forum Studio is the collaborative architect. Clayco Construction Co. is the design and construction manager.

The building’s north façade, facing Forest Park Avenue, will feature a contemporary glass cantilevered façade. The south façade will be made of site-cast concrete wall panels set at varying angles from the perpendicular.

Inside, a dramatic three-story atrium lobby will be warmly finished in stone, wood, and fabric.

The building is being designed to meet the highly challenging scientific and technical needs of its tenants. It also is being designed to be energy-efficient and environmentally sensitive. An application has already been filed to have the building designated by the U.S. Green Building Council for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. It would become one of only a very few buildings in St. Louis to meet that standard.

“This initial CORTEX building will be unlike anything else in St. Louis,” Levey said. It is ambitious and cutting-edge, and will compare favorably to buildings recently developed in the leading biotech centers of Boston, San Diego, and the Bay Area.”

The building is expected to be completed by next December. Two tenants have leased more than 50 percent of the space already.

One of those tenants is Washington University Medical School. The other is Stereotaxis, Inc., which designs, manufactures, and markets a cardiology instrument control system used to treat coronary artery disease and arrhythmias. Stereotaxis is currently housed at the Center For Emerging Technologies, 4041 Forest Park Avenue, but recently completed an initial public stock offering and is seeking to relocate its headquarters, as well as its St. Louis-based research and assembly.

CORTEX is building the new structure because various studies have identified additional wet lab/office space as one of the area’s key needs in biotechnology. When young companies are ready to leave business incubators, such as the Center For Emerging Technologies, they need more space but typically still are not ready to invest in their own bricks and mortar. Private real estate developers have been unwilling to take the risk to develop such buildings here on speculation.

CORTEX believes the building’s success will demonstrate the strength of the market, and thereby stimulate future investment by private real estate developers. Levey estimated that the building will be fully leased by the end of 2006. At that time it will house an estimated 500 to 600 employees.

CORTEX expects to work in the district for decades. In this first phase of its activity, it will selectively acquire and assemble for development parcels covering a total of more than 50 acres. CORTEX projects that its efforts will lead to the creation of more than 4,000 jobs in the next five years.

This story was originally released by CORTEX Dec. 16, 2004.