Kendall Square’s original startup hub is planting a flag in the heart of the booming business district.
Cambridge Innovation Center has signed a lease for 90,000 square feet of space at 255 Main St., at the corner of Broadway and Main. The expansion will give CIC room to grow amid a surge in demand for co-working space, and secure a highly visible spot at the front door of Kendall that has long been occupied by Microsoft. It comes with a large video board visible from the street — which Microsoft has used to tout its products — and a sign above an entrance to the Kendall Square Red Line station.
“Not only is a great building, in a great location, but it’s a prime branding opportunity,” said Brian Dacey, CIC’s president. “It’s a building you really notice when you come into Kendall Square.”
The two-decade-old CIC, which rents out space on flexible, month-to-month terms to startups and entrepreneurs, has been based across the street at One Broadway since its early days. Today, it leases 210,000 square feet there and at nearby 101 Main St., and hosts a wide range of events for the Cambridge startup community. It has also expanded into downtown Boston, has locations in St. Louis, Miami and Rotterdam, is planning outposts in Philadelphia and Providence.
But its home has always been in Kendall Square, where large blocks of office space are hard to find these days. So when Microsoft said in 2016 that it was moving out of 255 Main St., CIC jumped at the chance to expand.
“We immediately called [building owner] Boston Properties when we heard about it,” Dacey said. “We’ve been negotiating for a number of months. We signed the lease on Tuesday.”
Terms of the deal were not available, but on a call with analysts earlier this week, Boston Properties executives said they had rented the space at a significantly higher rate than Microsoft was paying. The tech giant had cut its lease short and moved about 300 sales and marketing staff to Burlington. In a statement, Bryan Koop, Boston Properties executive vice president for Boston, said the company was “thrilled” to bring CIC to the building.
“With a highly visible and collaborative location at the entrance to Kendall Square, CIC will be an even more attractive incubator for the vibrant start up community in Kendall,” he said.
CIC, which hosts about 1,500 companies at its various locations — roughly half of them in Cambridge, Dacey said — is one of several co-working operators that are growing fast in the Boston area.
Industry giant WeWork has inked several big leases in downtown Boston and Cambridge in the last two years, while locally-grown Workbar just opened a new location in Back Bay and plans to double its footprint here over the next few years. New York-based Industrious, which has locations in 25 cities, just announced plans to open its first Boston office in the Seaport, and other, smaller, operators are popping up across the city.
Most focus on offering flexible, short-term space to companies that don’t want to be tied to a traditional 10-year lease, and to freelancers looking for more of an office environment than their couch or a coffee shop. That, along with a heavy focus on networking and support services, is the model that CIC has been pursuing for nearly two decades. But it requires space to give companies room to expand, Dacey said, and CIC’s home office in Cambridge is pretty full. The added space — which it hopes to open by fall — will come in handy, he said.
“We have a lot of companies that come in small, and get larger. So they’re moving around,” Dacey said. “That’s one of the key aspects of our business model — a company can come in and find room to grow.”