When Vertex announced it was leaving Cambridgeport for Boston’s Seaport District in 2011, there was some initial concern in the city over the loss of a major tenant in this vital life sciences district. However, our client, BioMed Realty, had a vision for the vacant buildings: to create space for start-ups and up-and-coming life sciences companies that had previously been priced out of the Kendall Square market. They wanted to rebrand the three buildings at 200 Sidney, 40 Erie, and 21 Erie, as well as an adjacent parking garage, into the Sidney Research Campus.
Arrowstreet’s redesign of the buildings, transforming them from single-tenant to multi-tenant space, is capitalizing on the sky-high demand for lab space by smaller format users. Large format users are eating up major blocks of space in Kendall, since it is easier for owners to operate a single tenant building. As a result, multi-tenant lab buildings represent an unmet need. In order to be successful, there must be a partnership between landlord and tenant—a partnership which strikes a balance between how common areas, shared services, and base building equipment are allocated, operated, and managed.
The Sidney Research Campus’ 370,000 square feet will accommodate 10 tenants in all, including AbbVie, a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories. AbbVie is a classic example of a national pharma that desired a Cambridge presence to tap into the gold mine of talent the area has to offer, with MIT and other universities just a stone’s throw way.
Each tenant space is a blend of office and lab, with flexibility and room to grow being key. They feature open environments with adaptable, workable space to be positioned for a variety of potential tenants’ needs and cultures. Collaborative areas, including floor-to-ceiling glass conference rooms, create a place where staffers can feel welcome to come together to brainstorm and problem solve.
There are always challenges when renovating an existing building, but there are some specific areas we address when converting a single-tenant building to multi-tenant space with a mix of office and lab:
- Creating flexibility in a fast-changing landscape: Flexible use is a goal, but long-term, viable infrastructure is important to building economics. Working with BioMed, we have designed a “universal flex lab” template for lab, office, and support space which can be quickly and easily customized to suit any technical discipline. A basic level of infrastructure has to be designed and built to allow for this adaptability. We balance the needs of the immediate tenant with the longer term value of the infrastructure, which is planned to be flexible enough to work for the tenant as their needs change in the fast-evolving world of biotech, or even flexible enough for a new company in the event of tenant turnover. This flexibility also allows new tenants to occupy the space and become fully operational very quickly after signing a letter of intent.
- Finding the right mix of office and lab: In the last decade, there has been more emphasis on digital research, less on chemistry and biology, which reduces the amount of necessary laboratory space. We work with our clients to determine how much lab space an existing building can handle based on their projected tenant mix (60% tends to be the maximum percentage of lab most commercial life science buildings can support).
- Providing daylight while ensuring confidentiality: In our renovation of 40 Erie, a building with a wide footprint, we have the challenge of providing daylight in a building that has long interior corridors. To maximize light, instead of hanging drywall in corridors, we are using floor-to-ceiling glass in corridors to create a more open, light-filled environment. The glass will have a film with a pattern on the corridor side, and an additional film can be added on the interior tenant space side to provide a higher level of privacy if desired.
- Providing today’s amenities: A balance must be struck between maximizing revenue-generating space and creating the types of amenities 21st century tenants demand. One of the ways to do this is to minimize the amount of space dedicated to internal circulation. In our work at 40 Erie, we are designing a café that is only accessible from the outdoors. This reduces the need for circulation space within the building and creates more leasable space. In this project, the exterior entry also contributes to the desired character of an “urban campus.”
- Creating an urban campus and Main Street type setting: We helped BioMed leverage a number of unique constraints to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out to bring a much needed vibrancy and energy to the street in Cambridgeport. Minor exterior renovations and design interventions were made, with a focus on maximum impact to engage the street; visitors, commuters, and neighbors alike. These common areas are intended to allow for collaboration and casual encounters for all, mitigating on-floor needs for individual tenants and reinforcing the Kendall Square spirit tenants demand.
- Increased Energy Efficiency with Separated Office HVAC Systems: As part of the renovation of the core and shell of a multi-tenant configuration, a commitment has been made to improve energy efficiency by vertically organizing all the office areas on each floor so that they could be more easily served by an HVAC system that differentiates “once-through” air for lab spaces from “recirculating” air for office spaces. This improves the energy efficiency for the building as a whole and is consistent with the larger goal of organizing the lab infrastructure to serve identifiable parts of each floor plan.