1.7M SF Mixed-Use Life Sciences Project in Boston Area Gets Final Zoning Approval

Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. has received final zoning approval from the Cambridge Planning Board for its Binney Street Project, a 1.7 million-square-foot mixed-use office and laboratory development in East Cambridge, Mass.

June 7, 2010
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user ReneS

The Boston area is home to the largest life sciences hub in the country, and it’s now on track to get even larger. Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. has received final zoning approval from the Cambridge Planning Board for its Binney Street Project, a 1.7 million-square-foot mixed-use office and laboratory development in East Cambridge, Mass.

Binney Street–which will cost $559 million to develop according to a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs document–will occupy an 11.3-acre site in East Cambridge’s Kendall Square district. Location is always a major factor in a project’s success and Binney Street will sit within easy reach of such highly respected research and academic institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, the Broad Institute and Harvard University.

Alexandria’s plan calls for the construction of five new life sciences facilities and the adaptive reuse of four existing historic buildings for a total of just over 1.5 million square feet of technical office and laboratory space. Binney Street will also feature 220,000 square feet of residential space, a portion of which will be designated as affordable housing, and 20,000 square feet of retail. All buildings will be designed to qualify for, at minimum, LEED Silver certification. Binney Street will be developed in eight phases over a period of approximately 20 years.

Unlike the office sector, new demand is on the horizon in the life sciences sector, so many industry experts see the wisdom in moving forward with a development as large as Binney Street. “Businesses are hiring in the life sciences industry and venture capital funding for biotech has been steadily increasing over the last few quarters,” Susan Persin, Managing Director of Foresight Analytics, a division of CMBS and commercial real estate information provider Trepp L.L.C., told CPE. “Alexandria wouldn’t be going ahead with this project if they weren’t confident, and now is probably a good time, when there aren’t many projects starting and things are still in the doldrums. Binney Street will be coming online during a time when there’s not a lot of new product.”

According to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield Inc.’s first quarter laboratory report, the Boston/Cambridge market is the largest biotech hub in the U.S., followed by the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego County. Alexandria’s endeavor may go a long way toward solidifying the market’s lead. “The Binney Street Project is one of the most important developments of its kind and will further enhance Cambridge’s position as a world leading center for life science research and development,” Tom Andrews, Senior Vice President and Regional Market Director for Alexandria, said in a prepared statement. Alexandria anticipates that Binney Street will help lure more top research and pharmaceutical concerns, as well as emerging biopharmaceutical companies, to the area.

Alexandria is already a major player in the Cambridge market, and with the development of Binney Street, the REIT will nearly double its current Cambridge portfolio, which encompasses 2.1 million square feet of office/laboratory space.