3 things fueling Downtown San Diego’s urban pocket of life sciences growth

May 21, 2024 - Downtown San Diego Partnership

You’ve heard of Downtown San Diego’s perks. The sunshine. The ocean. The active lifestyle.

But what is it that really makes Downtown something special? What are the building blocks for a bright future that can be found coming together in a new pocket of life sciences innovation at this intersection of the Pacific Ocean and urban living?

Here are three things you might not know that are driving the next chapter of Downtown’s growth.

Photo credit: Studio Serra Photography

You’re in good company

First, it’s the people. Downtown’s population of residential talent is growing three times faster than the greater region with more than 37,000 calling Downtown home.

In fact, the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s recent Demographics Study revealed that Management, Business, Science and Arts was the largest and fastest growing occupational group for residents, at more than 41 percent of Downtown’s working residents. And if you’re working in biotech or life sciences, you’re in especially good company—the number of Downtown residents working as Life Scientists has more than tripled in the last two decades.

Some other quick hits:

  • 61 percent of residents highlight Downtown’s walkability as a primary reason for living there
  • 60 percent of Downtown residents are 25-54 years old
  • 52 percent of Downtown residents (18+) have a bachelor’s degree or higher 
  • 86 percent of working residents would prefer to work Downtown 
  • 50 percent of residents have lived in Downtown for more than five years

A region of innovation and connection

In 2023, we saw more than $4 billion in venture capital funneled to the San Diego region, driven by everything from life sciences and tech, to consumer products and everything in between. In fact, Inc. called San Diego the #2 most inventive city in the world and one of the hottest cities for startups. This reputation has helped drive our plans to better match San Diego’s future needs, especially in industry-leading innovation hubs and growing hot-spots like Downtown.

Better yet, these innovation hubs are now even better connected through the recently-expanded Blue Line trolley, which creates ties to existing university, research, and corporate partners through public transit. Residents and employees in both markets are just a 20-minute, air-conditioned, wifi-enabled, hands-free trip away from collaboration. After all, we know 60 percent of Downtown residents use public transportation to commute to work.

And even if you prefer jumping in your car, the average drive to other life sciences and tech hubs from Downtown is only 20 minutes.

Room to grow

We know all that innovation needs a place to be—and entrepreneurs, you’re in luck. In Downtown San Diego, there is currently more than 2 million square feet of life sciences lab and office space planned or under construction.

Whether your company is just an idea or you’re enjoying successful clinical trials, you’ll be among friends who understand the life sciences industry. Genesis San Diego, the first to deliver lab space in Downtown, has already leased 50 percent of its eight-story building with several biotechnology tenants including AnaBios, Novoron Bioscience, Excellos, and Native Microbials.

The Campus at Horton (a former mall covering 7 blocks of the city) is billed as the largest adaptive reuse project in the country with more than 1 million square feet of sustainably designed office and retail, more than 2,000 parking spaces, and several planned retailers for your convenience, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Sweetgreen, Rumble Boxing, and more.

Rounding out the area’s growth, IQHQ’s Research and Development District is transforming more than five acres of San Diego’s iconic waterfront with 1.7 million square feet of lab, office, retail, green space, outdoor dining, and event space.

Support for life sciences growth in Downtown doesn’t stop there. The City of San Diego recently established its Life Science Industry Accelerator Pilot Program, providing the necessary resources and expedited permitting needs to help you grow your company in San Diego through active project management and assistance.

The final piece: You

Some may say our Downtown is growing up. Others say that it’s starting its next chapter or rising to the occasion of San Diego’s many homegrown innovation successes.

But no matter how this next chapter is described, we know the only piece that’s missing is you.

Learn more about how you can become part of the bright future in Downtown San Diego.

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