Drugmaker Sanofi Genzyme is planning a major expansion in East Cambridge, the latest in a line of life sciences heavyweights to grow in the booming neighborhood.
Real estate industry brokers say the company has been looking for about 400,000 square feet of office and lab space — enough to house around 2,000 employees — and is reportedly zeroing in on Cambridge Crossing, the 45-acre former rail yard being redeveloped north of the Lechmere Green Line MBTA station.
It is not clear if a deal has been reached. Neither Sanofi nor Cambridge Crossing developer DivcoWest would comment, and several people with knowledge of the search offered conflicting accounts on whether a formal agreement has been signed.
But the search by Sanofi highlights the desire of major domestic and global companies to be heavily invested in the Boston area — especially its biotech cluster.
“You’ve got all these big users taking big blocks of office space,” said Mark Winters, executive managing director at real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank. “It’s a very strong market right now.”
Real estate brokers and others familiar with Sanofi’s search say the company — which has about 5,000 employees in Massachusetts — is aiming to consolidate smaller facilities scattered around Cambridge, and perhaps move some jobs from its operation in Framingham, while also locking down room for future growth.
Sanofi Genzyme, the Cambridge rare disease division of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi SA, earlier this year moved into a new, 275,000-square-foot headquarters office at 50 Binney St. in Kendall Square. Its search for additional space, brokers say, focused on larger sites in Cambridge and Boston, including the office buildings MIT is building on Main Street in Kendall Square, land in Allston where Harvard is planning a business campus, and projects in the Seaport District.
“They need 400,000, maybe eventually up to 800,000 square feet,” said Aaron Jodka, research director at real estate firm Colliers International. “We’ve been hearing them attached to pretty much any big block of space in Cambridge.”
If the biotech lands at Cambridge Crossing, as several brokers said appears likely, Sanofi would have a choice of buildings in which to lease space. Those include a 483,000-square-foot building on which DivcoWest recently started construction, and two larger buildings — 644,000 and 798,000 square feet, respectively — permitted for construction next door. In a filing last year to the Boston Planning & Development Agency seeking permission to make those latter buildings taller, DivcoWest said it was in “advanced discussions” with potential tenants and wanted to be able to launch construction as quickly as possible. The San Francisco developer is also planning a variety of housing and retail buildings for the vast project, and a new Lechmere station as part of the Green Line Extension.
A campus-like setting, with room to grow, makes sense for a company like Sanofi that wants to bring its people closer together, Winters said.
“It’s kind of the easiest solution for them,” he said. “It’s a great site, given where the market is going.”
Philips Healthcare is making a similar move. The company signed a lease earlier this year to relocate its North American headquarters from Andover to Cambridge Crossing, and combine it with some existing research facilities in Kendall Square. That building is under construction and set to open in 2020.
Other big-name pharma and tech companies are also in the market for space in the neighborhood.
Google is considering an 18-story tower Boston Properties wants to build on Main Street in Kendall Square, while Japanese drug giant Takeda Pharmaceutical is moving its US headquarters to Cambridge and evaluating space needs ahead of its planned purchase of Shire next year. That combined company could wind up at 500 Kendall — which until recently housed Sanofi Genzyme — and which Shire leased in 2016. Shire recently said it would pause its renovations of that building — built to be Genzyme’s corporate headquarters in 2004 — but retains the rights to it. Fast-growing Agios Pharmaceuticals is also looking for about 400,000 square feet of space, according to a recent report by Colliers.
But even with the building MIT broke ground on this week — nearly one-third of which has already been leased to Boeing Co. — there aren’t enough to accommodate all of the companies that are pouring into East Cambridge these days, Winters said.
“You can fill them as soon as you can build them,” he said.