It has been a long road from her early years as an architect working in Canada to taking over development at one of the largest life science real estate firms in the United States. For Elizabeth Paden, however, the journey makes perfect sense.
The Canadian native was hired last month as the vice president of development for BioMed Realty, the life science real estate arm of private equity giant Blackstone. Paden, based in BioMed’s Bay Area office, now oversees a pipeline with more than 1.1 million square feet of projects under construction and another 2.6 million square feet of future development.
Between her early days in Toronto architecture and the new job in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paden’s career has taken her around the world.
Her new BioMed role in development “was a natural career progression as it allows me to blend my background in real estate investment and architecture,” Paden told CoStar News. “I’ve worked in both real estate private equity and design. The development world ties these quantitative and qualitative skill sets together.”
She was able to satisfy her travel bug shortly after graduating from McGill University School of Architecture in Montreal, when she won the Prix de Rome grant from the Canadian Council for the Arts to study architecture in Norway and research Nordic design. She was in Oslo for a year, curating international exhibitions and editing several major publications, before returning to Toronto — only to realize that she wanted her career to veer in a new direction.
Her next stop: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan business school across the river from Boston for a graduate degree.
“I realized I wanted to work in real estate at a broader scale, so I re-tooled by getting an MBA,” which she said was her “gateway into real estate investment and development.”
She landed a job in Boston, the nation’s largest life science hub, as a vice president at the lab-focused real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners. A series of promotions eventually led to her moving with her family to the San Francisco area in 2020 just as the pandemic shifted the region’s real estate market away from its focus on high-end office space to cater to fast-growing life sciences tenants.
From her time as a managing director for Beacon’s West Coast development to moving to BioMed Realty, the Bay Area’s life science market has ballooned to encompass roughly 36 million square feet, not including the nearly 8 million square feet that’s now under construction, according to Newmark data.
Despite the macroeconomic concerns, demand for lab and research space in the Bay Area continues to climb, and competition among both investors and developers like BioMed has heated up in recent years as they race to expand already vast portfolios of biotech-focused space. A growing list of high-profile transactions, many of which have included pricey office deals slated to be converted into lab and development space, underscore the market’s strength and appeal.
Paden sees the growth as the latest runway for her career, even if it launches an adventure that focuses on the community she now calls home instead of adding another stamp to her passport.
“Being based in the Bay Area allows our BioMed development team to be immersed in the highest levels of science and tech research and development,” Paden said. “Our projects are a platform for their critical work. There is nothing better than realizing a development project that transforms a neighborhood, enhances a community and creates economic value.”