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Downtown’s Harvard Club will soon be biotech headquarters

Another sign of the times: Centessa Pharmaceuticals leases top floor of downtown tower where Harvard alums long mingled.

The top floor of One Federal St. in Boston was once an elite club where alumni of the nation’s first and most famous university mixed and mingled over three-martini lunches and evening events. Soon it will be the global headquarters of a barely year-old biotech company.

Centessa Pharmaceuticals has signed a 10-year lease on the former Harvard Club of Boston space on the 38th floor of the Financial District tower, said Dave Chao, the company’s chief administrative officer. Centessa manages 10 wholly-owned biotech subsidiaries located throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

“We’re committed to working in this new post-COVID world in a way that is collaborative and open and interactive,” Chao said. The headquarters — which will not have any lab space — will be built out for a mix of on-site and remote work, with Zoom rooms and other huddle spaces.


Centessa announced its first $250 million fund-raising round a year ago, and went public later in the year. The 10 biotech companies it manages develop treatments for conditions ranging from hemophilia to kidney disease to narcolepsy, among others. The longest-tenured company under Centessa’s umbrella was established in 2013.

The Harvard Club of Boston, meanwhile, had operated out of the top floor of One Federal for decades — a downtown satellite to its stately club on Commonwealth Ave. Formerly the home of Shawmut National Bank, the club offered lunch, dinner, cocktails, and events, all with grand views of downtown Boston. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the club’s manager said the Harvard Club wouldn’t renew its lease for the top floor of One Federal. The club anticipated closing at year-end 2020, but the pandemic accelerated the closure by several months.

That left landlord Tishman Speyer with 19,000 square feet of premier top-floor space to fill. The firm debated creating additional tenant amenity space there, to add to its ninth-floor event space and outdoor garden, but ended up creating a shell that could be used for office instead.


The downtown office market has shown some signs of strength coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, recently with companies such as Wellington Management and Cambridge Associates committing to headquarters at Atlantic Wharf and Winthrop Center, respectively. As the market continues to evolve, the city’s downtown Financial District will have an even more diversified tenant base, said Jessica Hughes, the regional director for Tishman Speyer in Boston.

“There’s starting to be a stronger ecosystem within Boston — especially within the Financial District — for tenants and companies like (Centessa),” Hughes said. “They’re not on their own.”

Centessa will use its downtown Boston headquarters as a space for leadership and employees from its subsidiary companies to gather, a home base for companies with different capabilities spread across the globe. Those subsidiary companies do their own research, and so Centessa’s headquarters didn’t need labs. That gave the company flexibility both in its hunt for office space and allowed it to focus on bringing in top talent — a major priority, Chao said.

“Having physical space that allows us to interact is critical,” he said.

Catherine Carlock can be reached at catherine.carlock@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bycathcarlock.