A First of Its Kind Incubator Ecosystem in Chicago's Fulton Market Neighborhood: A Case Study

Mark Paskanik, CRB
John Flavin, Portal Innovations, LLC.

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In recent years, scientific advancements and personalized medicine have inspired millions of square feet of planned life science development on the coasts. How do we address the shortage of high-quality lab space in the Midwest to help nurture biotech and pharmaceutical companies? By offering the infrastructure that's needed to allow these companies to grow and scale.

Fulton Labs, a 405,000 square foot life sciences laboratory and office building, is the first of its kind in Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood. The building strategically draws on the area's industrial past and is located near top-tier research institutions and tech startups. This case study touches on how to enhance a thriving ecosystem full of tech activity to help keep and grow life science startups in the Midwest. The intentional and innovative incubator space builds on the strength and talent in the area. Designing an inspirational research facility within a high-rise building in an urban area comes with its own set of challenges. The innovative design provides column-free lab space, sustainable modular systems for changeover and the ability to convert between wet and dry labs. High-rise lab design requirements are mitigated with new technology. The amenity space on the 16th floor is designed to foster collaboration that will inspire discovery.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn the basics and key components of creating a sustainable life sciences ecosystem in a densely populated community;
  • Understand how innovative incubator design space can foster discovery and attract top talent;
  • Key design concepts for lab planning modules for ultimate optimization and flexibility; and
  • Understand the complexities and challenges of designing a lab in a high-rise facility.


Mark Paskanik, CRB Senior Architect and Laboratory Design Expert, has 20 years of experience programming, planning, and designing research facilities worldwide. With a focus on tested planning principles, Mark uniquely adapts each lab design to support the client's vision to create a collaborative, efficient, and safe environment. He has planned over 10,000,000 square feet of laboratory space and has completed many challenging renovation projects.

John is a proven leader with a stellar track record of building valuable corporate, academic, and civic enterprises. He has launched several successful life science-related incubators in the Chicago area. He has also worked closely with design and build firms to construct and operate over 200,000 square feet of research lab and office space on behalf of companies that he has developed. John possesses a deep knowledge of the Chicago and national life sciences ecosystem.


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