Allen Institute Moving to South Lake Union as Growth Continues

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is in the midst of an audacious $300 million expansion, as it plans to grow to 350 employees, and recruit neuroscientists from around the world to tackle some of the toughest questions in biology. Those people need someplace to work together, and no surprise, that place is going to be South Lake Union, the neighborhood Allen has been developing for more than a decade.

The nonprofit Allen Institute said today in a statement that it will be moving from a couple of buildings in Fremont to a new 245,000-square-foot life sciences building at the northwest corner of Mercer St. and Westlake Avenue North. Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, committed another $300 million to expand the brain research center in March, and now Allen’s real estate company will be in charge of developing the new facility.

By moving to South Lake Union, the Allen Institute’s scientific staff will now be able to work together in close quarters, and by the time they move in, they will be within walking distance of peers at every other major academic research center in the city, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the University of Washington, the Institute for Systems Biology, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and the Infectious Disease Research Institute. The Allen Institute, founded in 2003, has created functional maps of the wiring in the adult mouse brain, the developing mouse brain, spinal cords of mice and humans, and the human brain. All of those maps are out in the public domain for scientists to use freely.

Paul Allen (left) with Allan Jones at a March press conference

“The Allen Institute’s expansion is a testament to its groundbreaking work and the promise of the ambitious research it’s staffing up to undertake,” said Paul G. Allen. “For me, it is especially gratifying that the Institute will be moving to South Lake Union, which has become a vibrant new neighborhood and a center for life science research.”

Vulcan, Allen’s holding company, said it plans to break ground on the new building in the third quarter of 2013, and that it should be finished after about two years of construction. The building will be six stories tall, have ground floor retail like many other new buildings in the neighborhood, and have two stories of underground parking, Vulcan said in a statement.

Allan Jones, the CEO of the Allen Institute who I profiled in July, made clear several months ago when the expansion was announced that he wants the team all working together in one place, and that working in several buildings in Fremont has been less than ideal for fostering collaboration. He made the point again in today’s statement.

“We are very excited at the prospect of bringing our entire team together under one roof,” Jones said in a statement. “Having everyone in one place will greatly facilitate and enhance the kind of close collaboration across disciplines, projects and departments that is essential to the success of the large-scale research initiatives we undertake.”

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