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Cambridge City Council Approves New Lab Tower for Kendall Square

Posted By: Boston City Properties

One of the last available developable parcels in Cambridge’s Kendall Square will soon be home to a new lab building. In late December, the city council unanimously approved the developer’s plans for the site, which was originally to be developed into a major performing arts center. Instead, the office and lab building proposed by BioMed Realty will boast a 30,000square-foot arts and cultural center across its first three floors – a detail that helped speed up its approval considerably. The project, still in its earliest stages, is slated to break ground sometime in 2022.

Cambridge City Council Photo Courtesy of CBT Architects

Situated at Kendall and Athenaeum Streets in Kendall Square, the nearly 36,000-square-foot site currently consists of a fenced-in gravel pit and an Eversource gas transfer station. In September, the developer presented two plans to the Cambridge City Council to provide flexibility regarding the station’s fate. One plan called for keeping the station, which would have been located at the back of the new building; the other called for removing it and building a taller, larger structure. The council quickly approved the latter proposal, and the developer has agreed to pay the $20 to $25 million that it will cost to move the station elsewhere.

All told, the proposed building will stand 16 stories tall and will offer more than 500,000 square feet of space. Designed by CBT Architects, its three-tiered design includes several dramatic, sweeping curves. It will feature an open, porous ground floor with more than one acre of indoor and outdoor public space. This open space will include a 10,000-square-foot indoor garden, and the building will feature several planted terraces to tie it all together. The arts and performing center will span a three-story atrium, and the theater will include 250 to 300 seats.

Plans for the site, known simply as Parcel C for many years, had been on hold for many years when it was sold to BioMed for $50.5 million in 2018. Glenn KnicKrehm, the noted tech philanthropist, had been promising to develop a grand concert hall there. However, research regarding the acoustics of the proposed hall extended over many years. During that time, construction costs soared far beyond what was deemed feasible. At the same time, land values soared so high that it no longer made sense to put the site to philanthropic use, putting a permanent end to KnicKrehm’s vision of a “village of art” at Kendall Square.

The arts and cultural center concept was embraced by BioMed, which incorporated it into its proposal to smooth the path toward approval by the city council. The center will be suspended above the main lobby of the building; large glass walls will allow for views of the space when not in use. When concerts and other events are happening, large curtains will enclose the walls. Plans call for an array of amenities across the ground floor, including space where exhibits, fundraisers and even a winter market can be held.

BioMed made a splash upon acquiring the parcel from the non-profit Constellation Charitable Foundation in 2018, paying more than $50 million for the one-acre site. The developer, already a major landlord in Kendall Square, will expand its footprint significantly with the new building, which will offer hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and lab space. New parking will not be developed because BioMed owns more than 2,200 underground parking spaces in the area already. The land, currently zoned only for performing arts use, will have to be rezoned along the way. Construction is not expected to start until March 2022, and the building should be completed sometime in 2024.

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