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Crescent building

The Crescent Building as viewed from Duncan Avenue. (photo by Christina Clagett for its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places). 

A St. Louis economic development agency is working with BioSTL to procure $1.5 million in Missouri tax credits to support the development of new lab space in the Cortex district.

BioSTL operates BioGenerator Labs, which offers affordable lab space to growing companies. Those labs are currently based in the Cortex 1 building at 4320 Forest Park Boulevard, but the building’s owner says it must leave by August, according to a city report.

The building is owned by Chicago-based Ventas, which in 2016 acquired all of the real estate assets held by major Cortex developer Wexford Science and Technology and partnered with Wexford to manage that portfolio. Silicon Valley payment processing firm Square said in May that it would lease an additional 56,000 square feet of office space in the Cortex 1 building as it grows its St. Louis workforce. It will have the capacity for as many as 800 people over the coming years.

BioSTL hopes to consolidate its offices and lab space under one roof at the Crescent building at 4340 Duncan Avenue, a former Post-Dispatch printing plant under development by BOBB LLC, a company affiliated with Washington University.

A lease is still being negotiated for the Crescent space, said BioSTL CEO Donn Rubin, but he hopes it will be finalized in a few months. In the meantime, BioGenerator has turned offices into laboratories and its break room into offices to help as many young biotech firms as possible, Rubin said.

“We’re bursting at the seams right now,” he said.

The Missouri Development Finance Board will have to approve the tax credit allocation for Biogenerator’s project. The authorization for up to $1.5 million in tax credits would be used to raise up to $3 million in donations for the project. The MDFB board is expected to meet in December.

Aclaris Therapeutics, the biopharmaceutical company from Pennsylvania that acquired St. Louis startup Confluence Life Sciences last year, has already said it plans to move into 20,000 square feet of office space in the soon-to-be rehabbed Crescent building. Confluence was started by ex-Pfizer drug hunters in Biogenerator labs.

Mary Campbell, associate vice chancellor for real estate at Washington University, said the Crescent building has leasing commitments for over 80 percent of its space. She said she hopes to be able to announce other tenants at the building soon. Construction on the building is still on track for a summer 2019 opening, she said.

“We’re in active discussions with other companies for about 15 percent of the remaining space,” she said. “We’re really doing well on our leasing activity.”

The new Crescent building would be the latest addition to the booming Cortex district. The recently completed 4220 building, where Microsoft and professional services Aon are locating their St. Louis offices, is nearly full. Cortex is developing a 678-space parking garage, while Wexford considers another office building and an Aloft Hotel from Midas Hospitality.

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Jacob Barker is a business reporter for the Post-Dispatch. 314-340-8291