Facebook appears poised to roughly triple the size of its offices in Cambridge, making the technology giant the latest to place a big bet on Kendall Square real estate, despite predictions that such businesses would require less space coming out of the pandemic.
The company has a deal with bluebird bio to sublease 270,000 square feet that the Cambridge biotech occupies at 50 Binney St., according to four Boston real estate industry executives. That would probably give Facebook room to add hundreds of jobs.
Neither Facebook nor bluebird would confirm the transaction, which has not yet closed, but people familiar with the deal said it should be finalized by the end of September. Facebook currently occupies 130,000 square feet at 100 Binney, with room for 650 employees.
“We’re constantly exploring our real estate options in the cities where we have large offices and have nothing new to share at this time,” said Facebook spokeswoman Jamila Reeves. Bluebird did not respond to messages seeking comment.
If the deal closes, Facebook would join a string of marquee tech companies planning to expand in Boston and Cambridge — defying predictions they would look to ditch costly urban office space as working remotely becomes a mainstay.
Amazon, which early next year will open a large building in the Seaport District, in January leased a larger building nearby in the same complex, eventually giving it room for 5,000 employees. Google intends to occupy a 16-story tower under construction in Kendall Square, and in March announced plans to double its 1,900-person workforce here over the next few years. Even Apple, which has long maintained a relatively small presence in Boston, said in April that it plans to hire hundreds of people locally and will expand its Kendall Square space.
The deals come as Boston’s once-roaring office market — which slowed sharply during the pandemic — shows signs of renewed life. They also indicate the importance big tech companies place on location and proximity to highly educated prospective employees, said Mark Winters, vice chairman of the life-sciences practice at Newmark, a real estate firm.
“It says there’s still huge strategic value in having a prominent Kendall Square location and having access to the engineering talent coming out of MIT and other universities,” Winters said. Boston and Cambridge “are really well-positioned to benefit from that.”
Facebook opened its 100 Binney office about 2½ years ago after outgrowing its first Kendall Square office, in the One Broadway building. The new space was designed by the architecture firm Gensler to appeal to software designers and engineers by featuring amenities that include table tennis, a drum set, and a cafeteria led by a James Beard-award-winning chef.
Like many tech and other white-collar companies in the Boston area, Facebook has been working largely on a remote basis since the pandemic hit in March 2020, though it recently told employees it will reopen the Cambridge office at 25 percent capacity starting Aug. 9.
But even while its offices were closed, Facebook was looking to expand.
Winters and other real estate industry observers said the company scouted for large blocks of space in Boston and Cambridge in recent months before settling on 267,000 square feet next door.
Bluebird, a gene therapy firm in the same cluster of Binney Street buildings, had subleased the space two years ago from the drug maker Sanofi Genzyme, but put it back on the market for a sublease last summer. Bluebird, which hasn’t moved into the new space, said in January that it will split into two companies. It’s been a rocky year so far for the company, which last week said it would resume European marketing of a gene therapy for a genetic blood disorder. The treatment had been on hold for five months over safety concerns.
Terms of the deal with Facebook were not available, though bluebird disclosed in a 2019 filing with securities regulators that it was paying Sanofi $99.50 per square foot, or $26.7 million a year, to lease the space through 2030. Office and lab space in Kendall Square is among the most expensive on the East Coast, and blocks of this size are rare and prized commodities.
Aaron Jodka, research director at Colliers, a real estate firm, noted that it’s mainly deep-pocketed tech companies — Facebook, Google, Akamai, Apple — that are growing in Kendall Square, while less-well-resourced startups migrate to downtown Boston or emerging office-market areas such as the Fenway and Somerville.
“You have to be one of those top, top, companies to be able to afford the rents now,” Jodka said. “Otherwise it’s all life science.”