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Kendall Square’s Volpe Center is a site with suitors

2d developer keen on redeveloping outdated US property

The US government is looking for developers to build at the Volpe Center in Kendall Square.
The US government is looking for developers to build at the Volpe Center in Kendall Square.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. has become the second major developer to express interest in building a life sciences complex on the Volpe Center site in Cambridge, a coveted Kendall Square parcel owned by the federal government.

The company, which calls itself the largest US real estate investment trust that is focused on science and technology campuses, operates in innovation clusters along the East and West coasts. It plans to respond to an information request from the General Services Administration, which manages the federal government’s real estate, Alexandria’s executives said.

“We’re absolutely interested,” said Thomas J. Andrews, executive vice president and Greater Boston regional market director for Alexandria. “Obviously, this is a very important site in the center of Kendall Square. How they write the request for proposal will be important for us to understand. But we believe there’s a very bright future for Kendall Square.”

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Late last month, the GSA solicited proposals from developers to help it reimagine the property at 55 Broadway, which includes six buildings, two parking lots, and large lawns in the heart of the nation’s leading biotechnology hub.

Under the GSA plan, a developer would acquire the right to build out parts of the site in return for agreeing to build a state-of-the art research center on the site for the US Department of Transportation.

One partnership, between BioMed Realty Trust and Longfellow Real Estate Partners, disclosed on Aug. 26 — the day the GSA posted its formal request for information — that it planned to submit a proposal for “a vibrant, mixed-use development” on the site.

“The redevelopment of Volpe Center presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” the partnership said in a statement.

RELATED | Opinion: Volpe Center is Cambridge’s white elephant

Leaders in the real estate industry expect at least a half-dozen developers to jump into the Volpe competition.

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Alexandria Real Estate, with a market value of $9.3 billion, develops properties in Cambridge, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, and other life sciences clusters. Its largest presence is in the Boston area, chiefly Cambridge, where it owns about 3.5 million square feet of space. Its buildings here generate annual base rent of about $148.4 million.

The company, which is based in Pasadena, Calif., developed the Technology Square complex and Biogen Idec Inc.’s headquarters on Binney Street, among other sites in Cambridge. It has also built properties along Route 128 and in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston.

Alexandria’s chief executive, Joel S. Marcus, said he sees no sign of a slowdown in the expansion of the life sciences industry in Cambridge and other US biotech hubs. “The US is several decades ahead of the world in science,” he said.

A circa 1966 artist’s rendering for a NASA research center in the area now known as the Volpe Center.
A circa 1966 artist’s rendering for a NASA research center in the area now known as the Volpe Center.(NASA/File)

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.