Coming into focus: It’s been a big year — already — for HELIX. And it’s just getting started

Excavation work on the first tower of the nearly $1 billion transformative HELIX project in New Brunswick will begin this spring. Construction will begin shortly thereafter. The current timeline puts an opening by the end of 2025.

“It’s coming along nicely,” Chris Paladino, president of the New Brunswick Development Corp., the master developer of the project said.

In fact, the nearly $1 billion three-tower project that will be a center for translational life science research and more that is formally called the New Jersey Health + Life Science Exchange, clearly is coming into focus.

Two weeks ago, DEVCO took advantage of an opportunity to grab two television spots on the Big Ten Network that opened during a show on a Rutgers sports team, hiring MediaCutlet to produce a 30-second ad.

Paladino said DEVCO likely will bring the ad back in the fall — and use it on social media in the meantime.

This week, Paladino announced that the third tower of the project will include 37 floors and 220 units of housing.

The tower not only will be the tallest in Middlesex County, but it will bring a work-life-play feeling to a four-acre project that will include open space and restaurants in the heart of New Brunswick, just a few blocks from the Rutgers campus.

HELIX will consist of three towers:

  • H1: Which primarily will house the translational research space, the medical school and the New Jersey Innovation Hub;
  • H2: Which is seeking large corporate life science and technology company tenants;
  • H3: Which will have traditional office space for smaller service providers on the bottom floors, topped by the residential units.

It’s the type of placemaking that Gov. Phil Murphy – long a champion of the project — talked about during the groundbreaking ceremony last October.

“It is here where we will leverage and put on clear display and under one roof everything New Jersey offers — our world-leading institutions of higher education; and our world-class health networks; our access to global markets and venture capital; and our diverse, highly educated and highly skilled workforce,” he said.

Those are just some of the reasons why the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in February approved a $271 million tax credit – the first-ever Aspire award — to support HELIX.

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, said the award shows Murphy’s commitment to have the state reclaim and rebuild its reputation as a center for innovation.

Sullivan said the state feels the HELIX will enable New Jersey to better complete with Cambridge (near Boston) and Silicon Valley (in Northern California).

“When you combine the big capital investments with things like Evergreen and the angel tax credit, with spaces like the HELIX and with some of the tools that we’ve introduced to support new incubator spaces and accelerator spaces, we think we’ve got a winning strategy to realize the governor’s vision for making New Jersey the most innovative state in America,” he said.

Paladino agrees.

A potential ad campaign, he said, certainly will include targets from Boston to New York City, Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Its reach, however, will go beyond that.

“It’s a pure marketing play,” he said.

One that already is paying off.

The names of additional top tenants are expected to be announced this spring — with each announcement helping to create more of a buzz and more interest, Paladino said.

It’s why the project, still waiting to put in its first beam, already appears to be building momentum.