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A new era for Alewife business park: life sciences

Cambridge Discovery Park is designed to be an alternative to Kendall Square for life-sciences companies.Bulfinch

CAMBRIDGE — For nearly 20 years, Robert Schlager has been working on turning the old Alewife campus of renowned consulting firm Arthur D. Little into a second hub for the region’s booming life-sciences industry.

He’s just about done.

Bulfinch, the development company Schlager helps lead, is nearly finished with the final building at the 27-acre campus it’s erecting alongside Route 2 where Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington meet.

Nearly half of the 280,000-square-foot building has been leased by FogPharma, a drug development firm that will move from a neighboring building in the complex.

And this week Bulfinch will announce deals with three more tenants — 36,000 square feet for Arbor Biotechnologies, 72,000 square feet for Kintai Therapeutics, and 26,000 square feet for Simcere Innovation Inc. — the sort of growing companies that are flocking to Alewife, an alternative to crowded Kendall Square that still has a Cambridge address.


“Inquiries have been off the charts,” Schlager said. “It’s companies that are looking for room to grow fast. That’s what’s driving this market.”

The complex, tucked between Alewife Brook Reservation and Route 2, does feel a world away from bustling East Cambridge.

As part of its broader redevelopment, Bulfinch converted a huge surface parking lot into green space, with a winding walking path through a bird sanctuary to the MBTA’s Alewife Station a few minutes away. There’s a big grassy field where workers were taking a break to play cornhole on Thursday morning. And the new building’s top floor boasts views of both the Boston skyline to the east and the hills of Belmont to the west.

There’s also a display honoring the site’s history as home to Arthur D. Little, which moved from near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953 and built a campus where, among other things, ADL helped develop the Nasdaq stock exchange and oxygen masks for airplane pilots.


Bulfinch bought the campus in 2000, renamed it Cambridge Discovery Park, and set about converting it to office and lab space — “a Cambridge address at Woburn prices.” It has built and filled two office buildings, a hotel, and two garages, with a pair of large apartment buildings being built by other developers next door.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood around it has bloomed as a life-sciences destination, with new buildings along Cambridgepark Drive and Fresh Pond Parkway designed to capture companies that want to be close to the Red Line and accessible to suburban towns farther out along Route 2.

Last summer, Bulfinch pulled the trigger on the last and largest piece of Cambridge Discovery Park, starting construction on that six-story, 280,000 square foot, office and lab building in a prime corner spot. And it did so without tenants signed up — “on spec,” in industry parlance — a risky move that has paid off in a market where science companies are scrambling for room to grow.

The building is set to open in March, with just one floor available to lease. Schlager and Wilcox hope to announce a tenant this fall.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bytimlogan.