One of the most valuable vacant acres in the Boston area has changed hands.
An affiliate of BioMed Realty Trust on Wednesday acquired the nearly 36,000-square-foot parcel in the heart of Cambridge’s Kendall Square for $50.5 million, according to records with the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds. The seller was the Constellation Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit.
The property at 585 Third St. has remained empty for years amid Kendall Square’s biotech and high-tech boom. The reason: Constellation president Glenn KnicKrehm’s dream of building a performing arts complex called the Constellation Center on the site.
KnicKrehm once described the center he envisioned as “a village of art” that could incorporate music, dance, live theater, film, and opera.
But after about two decades of research, KnicKrehm officially ended the pursuit of his dream in April by announcing that the Constellation board would sell the Kendall Square land, also known as “Parcel C,” which had been off the tax rolls because of the foundation’s charitable status. The website Cambridge Day reported in April that the site returned to the tax rolls this year.
The board said in a statement that the proceeds would be used to pursue the nonprofit’s “original philanthropic and artistic mission” at other locations.
Constellation said at the time of the April announcement that the pace of growth in the East Cambridge real estate market far exceeded expectations. The skyrocketing value of the land “outran the philanthropic value” of turning the site into a world-class performing arts center, it said.
CBRE/New England president Andrew Hoar, whose firm represented Constellation, said in an e-mail that the nonprofit determined it was not economically feasible — as well as too complicated — to move ahead with building a performing arts center on the Kendall Square land. Constellation undertook an “exhaustive and competitive process” to find a buyer. Constellation, Hoar said, intends to search for a new location for the arts center in the Boston area.
It’s unclear what BioMed, already a major Kendall Square landlord, will build on the site, but any development is expected to have some sort of cultural or arts-related component.
“For over a decade, we have been working to help make Kendall Square the heart of biotechnology and innovation while simultaneously building a robust community for residents and local businesses alike,” BioMed chief executive Tim Schoen said in a statement. “We look forward to building on this history and facilitating a process that encourages community engagement and input to expand the arts and cultural component in Cambridge.”
C.A. Webb, president of the Kendall Square Association, said she was thrilled that BioMed is buying the property. She said BioMed has shown itself to be a responsible landowner in the neighborhood, in part by hosting concert events and community skating on its properties. (BioMed is her group’s landlord, and BioMed executive Bill Kane sits on the association’s board.)
“I know they’re committed to building something on that site that really suits the community,” Webb said. “They’ll run a thoughtful process to get input from all stakeholders, so they develop the right thing for that piece of land.”
Webb said she is regularly quizzed about the site by visitors to her office, which overlooks the parcel.
“They say, ‘What’s the story, why is there a vacant lot in the middle of Kendall Square?’” Webb said.Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.