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Kendall Square project to start

Calif. developer breaks ground on $500m life sciences campus

Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. will begin construction today on a six-story headquarters for Biogen Idec Inc.

A California developer will break ground today on an 11-acre, $500 million laboratory, office, and residential complex in Cambridge’s Kendall Square, one of the largest construction projects to start in Greater Boston this year.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. of Pasadena will start construction with a six-story headquarters for drug giant Biogen Idec Inc., which will move its executive offices from Weston. The development plans call for seven buildings, including two residential structures, in the heart of a commercial district that continues to attract the biotechnology giants whose growth has helped Massachusetts evade the worst effects of the troubled economy. Biogen Idec’s Kendall Square neighbors include Genzyme Corp. and Novartis AG.


The project, to be called Alexandria Center at Kendall Square, will include restaurants and shops - historically lacking in the area despite its large concentration of office workers - as well as a two-acre public park. Kendall Square has been attracting new restaurants only recently; in the past two years, about 16 have opened in the area.

“The project will transform this portion of Kendall Square and expand its capacity to accommodate the growth we expect to see there from life sciences and biotechnology companies,’’ said Tom Andrews, an executive vice president with Alexandria, which owns and manages approximately 3.5 million square feet of life sciences real estate in Greater Boston.

The development will replace a string of low-rise buildings and parking lots along Binney Street. Alexandria has promised to make the area more accessible to shoppers and neighborhood residents by providing wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and on-street parking. The developer was granted permits to proceed with the project in June 2010, but it only recently locked down the deal with Biogen Idec, its first tenant, allowing construction to proceed.

The Biogen Idec building, located at 225 Binney St., was designed by the architecture firm Spagnolo Gisness & Associates Inc. It will feature a glass-and-terra-cotta facade and will incorporate two historic brick industrial buildings on the property.


Biogen Idec’s relocation of its headquarters to Kendall Square, where it already has some offices, reverses a decision made by prior management. Boston Properties is developing a second building for the firm in Kendall Square.

The project is expected to take several years to complete. Andrews said that the pace of construction will depend on how quickly Alexandria can attract additional tenants, and that Alexandria will partner with other firms to build the residential structures.

The project is being constructed without assistance from the state, said Gregory Bialecki, Governor Deval Patrick’s economic development chief. Bialecki called the development a sign that the region is recovering from the downturn.

“Getting out of this has been and will continue to be about corporate decisions to expand,’’ he said. “It’s a sign of a healthy economy that were beginning to see these projects get underway without state support.’’

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.