It’s the Kendall Square version of trading up.
Genzyme confirmed Friday that it will move out of the company’s Cambridge headquarters at 500 Kendall Square — known as the “Genzyme Center” — when its lease expires in three years. About 950 employees will move from the signature building that is one of the best-known landmarks in the city’s life sciences cluster to a new headquarters to be constructed nearby at 50 Binney St.
The biotech company signed a lease this week with Alexandria Real Estate Equities, which will develop the 10-story, 251,000-square-foot Binney Street property in the greater Kendall Square area. The lot is now a construction site, literally a hole in the ground, along a row of recently opened buildings housing biopharmaceutical offices and labs and other buildings under construction.
“If you go up Binney now, it’s becoming the biotech Champs-Elysees,” said Genzyme vice president Bo Piela.
Piela said Genzyme, best known for its therapies to treat rare genetic disorders, is looking to the new Genzyme Center to hold more employees. While the new headquarters will be smaller than the 12-story Kendall Street structure, the current building’s architecturally renowned 70,000-square-foot atrium makes it less efficient, Piela said.
The new building is expected to house about 1,300 employees, including some new hires as well as employees who work for Genzyme and its corporate parent, Sanofi SA, at various other locations. Sanofi purchased Genzyme for $20.1 billion in 2011.
“We looked at a lot of factors in making the decision,” Piela said. “One was accommodating our anticipated growth. We also looked at the age of our building and the inefficient use of space.”
Thomas J. Andrews, executive vice president and Greater Boston market director for Alexandria Real Estate, confirmed Genzyme had signed the lease at 50 Binney St. but declined to comment further.
Genzyme moved in 2003 to its Genzyme Center headquarters, then seen as state of the art, signing a 15-year lease with Biomed Realty Trust. That lease expires in 2018, and Biomed will now have to find new tenants for a building that won a high rating from the US Green Building Council for energy efficiency and sustainability.
Over the past 12 years, more than 30,000 people have toured the Genzyme Center on visits to Kendall Square and the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Biomed spokesman Jim Cullinan said his firm wished Genzyme well and was excited to have the building “available to lease in one of the best locations in Cambridge.”
Piela said Genzyme will work with Alexandria during the year on the design of the new Genzyme Center. He said Genzyme employees will be invited to be part of that process.
“It’s a new chapter for Genzyme,” he said. “It’s part of our looking forward and growing here in one of the world’s centers for life sciences.”Robert Weisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.