(Infra)structured For Growth
New Haven has long been associated with medical innovation, and it’s easy to see why. The first use of anesthesia in dentistry happened here. So did the first successful use of penicillin. The first artificial heart pump was constructed here, the first X-ray was performed here, and cancer chemotherapy was first used here. Scientists and doctors at Yale School of Medicine introduced fetal heart monitoring, discovered the mechanism of protein folding, which is key to understanding neurodegenerative diseases, and developed the first reliable method for the early detection of autism.
As most of us know, though, medical innovations don’t usually work right out of the gate. Most require months, if not years, of scientific experimentation and refinement.
That’s where Carter Winstanley comes in.
Winstanley is a principal of Winstanley Enterprises, a real estate development and investment firm founded by his father that he runs with his brother, Adam. Winstanley has spent a quarter of a century building and managing biotech facilities in New Haven; he’s also the visionary behind Downtown Crossing, the city’s major revitalization initiative. Here, he tells us why he considers New Haven a great opportunity, and what he sees for its future.
Thanks for talking to us, Carter. Let’s dive in. You describe yourself as a “proud Massachusetts native,” and you own properties up and down the East Coast. What drew you to New Haven?
CW: I had watched Cambridge, which is close to my office in Concord, Massachusetts, transform from a warehouse district into a major life sciences hub—largely due to the transfer of technology coming out of Harvard and MIT. New Haven reminded me of Cambridge in those early years. Both cities have a medical university, hospitals and industry in close proximity. After learning that Yale officials wanted [the city] to become a major life sciences hub, I knew New Haven was a completely untapped opportunity.
You and your brother focus on many different asset classes. Why do you like the life sciences?
CW: I have a fascination with the life sciences in part because of the complexity associated with the buildings and partly because of the products they create. The industry creates vaccines and cures. Look what’s going on with COVID-19—it’s incredibly important. I’ve developed relationships with my tenants over the years and am constantly inspired by the scientists I work with.
How did your first New Haven project come about?
CW: There was pent-up demand for lab space in Connecticut. A lot of it was coming out of Yale and required close collaboration with scientists in the medical school and hospital, and I saw an opportunity to alleviate it. So we purchased 300 George Street, which had been office space for the former Southern New England Telephone company, and transformed it into a biotech facility.
I take it the project was successful?
CW: Sitting here today, you would have to say that it was. After the lease was up, we were still seeing a demand for lab space, and Yale continued to increase its efforts in technology transfer, so we continued to buy property. Our goal was to find buildings where we could facilitate the collaboration between the private sector and the medical school and hospital. We eventually went on to redevelop 340 and 350 George Street, parts of Science Park, plus garages. Eventually everything kept getting filled, so every couple of years we would move the bar higher.
Is that how Downtown Crossing came to fruition?
CW: Mostly, it came as a result of running out of good sites in close proximity to the medical school. It was a tenant who pointed to the 100 College site and said “that is the site I want to be on.” He described to me the importance of being as close to the medical school as possible. It helped me to see the potential to create a more robust life sciences community in New Haven, so we proposed a revitalization project to city officials. The initiative, which became known as Downtown Crossing, would reclaim 12 acres of space for redevelopment and reconnect streets that had been impacted by Route 34, a poorly planned highway that prevented people from easily getting around the city.
CW: It was. Initially we were just focused on the 100 College site, but the city and state made the crazy suggestion to shut the whole leg of Route 34 down. The thought was to apply for a federal stimulus grant as a public-private partnership. Together, we applied for a grant and won on our second attempt. At the time, we were in the middle of the housing crisis and the Obama administration was looking for shovel-ready, transportation-oriented economic development opportunities to try to kick-start the economy.
What do you envision for the outcome?
CW: When it’s completed in 2023, Downtown Crossing should create a connected, walkable community in New Haven’s life sciences district, ease traffic and bolster Connecticut’s economy. The first phase, which was completed in 2016, already transformed Route 34. That freed up room for us to develop 100 College, a 513,000-square-foot LEED Platinum, Class A life sciences building that connects Yale’s medical and central campuses and houses world-class life sciences companies and hundreds of skilled employees.
Can you tell us more about 101 College?
CW: 101 College isn’t built yet, but construction is scheduled to start this spring on the heels of the pandemic. City officials did a spectacular job shepherding the project through the public approval process in the first half of 2020. They were way out in front of it and approved it in four months, during COVID, over Zoom. It was remarkable. The property is a $200 million, 525,000-square-foot, LEED-certified office space and life sciences incubator. Scheduled to be completed in 2023, 101 College will have 10 floors of lab and office space of varying sizes. The idea is that if multiple tenants at different stages of growth are in one location, there is a greater likelihood that successful partnerships will form. Plus, tenants can put down roots here, knowing we can accommodate them as they grow.
Tell us more about the incubator.
CW: The incubator is an absolute necessity to retain talent and innovation in the city. Early incubators were rigid spaces with no equipment, but the industry has been slowly perfecting the model. Ours will be like other first-class incubators in other life science markets around the world, such as Kendall Square in Cambridge, Research Triangle in North Carolina, and San Francisco’s Bay Area. We’ll fully equip the lab with everything from glassware to benches and hoods. Companies will be able to take a short-term lease on a single bench and then grow within the incubator, and eventually out into standalone graduation spaces. The incubator can assist with everything a tenant needs to start up, making it an essential resource to starting a business in Connecticut.
With all this activity, do you see a shortage of skilled talent in Connecticut’s future?
CW: No. Connecticut has long been admired for its skilled workforce. We’re also working closely with Gateway Community College and Southern Connecticut State University on a bio-path initiative to ensure a steady pipeline of high-quality talent. Through the initiative, students can get a life sciences degree in New Haven knowing they have precisely the skills companies need, since those companies helped develop their curriculum.
What’s next for Winstanley Enterprises?
CW: Our goal is to create a sustainable life science industry that is recognized nationally but connected locally. It should contribute meaningful cures and scientific advancements but also connect to the local community with taxes, jobs and responsible development. With every project we complete, I’ve thought “there, we’re done,” and every year New Haven shows me that there is still so much opportunity left.
This is where talent meets opportunity.
Groundbreaking research. The latest medical tech. And advanced device manufacturing. Connecticut’s dynamic bioscience community has a place just for you.