by Jim Batchelor
When Vertex announced it was leaving Cambridgeport for Boston’s Seaport District in 2011, there was some initial concern in the city over the loss of a major tenant in this vital life sciences district. However, our client, BioMed Realty, had a vision for the vacant buildings: to create space for start-ups and up-and-coming life sciences companies that had previously been priced out of the Kendall Square market. They wanted to rebrand the three buildings at 200 Sidney, 40 Erie, and 21 Erie, as well as an adjacent parking garage, into the Sidney Research Campus.
Arrowstreet’s redesign of the buildings, transforming them from single-tenant to multi-tenant space, is capitalizing on the sky-high demand for lab space by smaller-format users. When complete, the Sidney Research Campus’ 370,000sf will accommodate 10 tenants in all, including AbbVie, a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories.
There are always challenges when renovating an existing building to create the flexible and collaborative environments tenants seek today, but there are some specific areas we address when converting a single-tenant building to multi-tenant space with a mix of office and lab:
- Creating flexibility in a fast-changing landscape. Working with BioMed, we have designed a universal flex lab template for lab, office, and support space, which can be quickly and easily customized to suit any technical discipline. We balance the needs of the immediate tenant with the longer-term value of the infrastructure, which is planned to be flexible enough to work for the tenant as their needs change in the fast-evolving world of biotech, or even flexible enough for a new company in the event of tenant turnover.
- Finding the right mix of office and lab. In the last decade, there has been more emphasis on digital research, less on chemistry and biology, which reduces the amount of necessary laboratory space. We work with our clients to determine how much lab space an existing building can handle based on their projected tenant mix, and build in a degree of chemistry and biology infrastructure that seems appropriate.
- Providing daylight and openness while ensuring confidentiality. To maximize light, instead of hanging drywall in corridors, we are using floor-to-ceiling glass in corridors to create a more open, light-filled environment. The glass will have a patterned film on the corridor side, and an additional film can be added on the interior tenant space side to provide a higher level of privacy if desired.
- Providing today’s amenities. A balance must be struck between maximizing revenue-generating space and creating the types of amenities 21st-century tenants demand. One of the ways to do this is to minimize the amount of space dedicated to internal circulation. In our work at 40 Erie, we are designing a café that is only accessible from the outdoors. This reduces the need for circulation space within the building and creates more leasable space.
- Creating an urban campus and Main Street type of setting. At Sidney Research Campus, we are transforming diverse buildings on separate lots into a campus that engages with neighborhood streets. Common areas are intended to allow for collaboration and casual encounters for all, mitigating on-floor needs for individual tenants; this incorporates the spirit which BioMed has been known for in its Kendall Square facilities.
- Increased energy efficiency with separated office HVAC systems. As part of the renovation of the core and shell of a multi-tenant configuration, a commitment has been made to improve energy efficiency by vertically organizing all the office areas on each floor so that they could be more easily served by an HVAC system that differentiates “once-through” air for lab spaces from “recirculating” air for office spaces. This improves the energy efficiency for the building as a whole and is consistent with the larger goal of organizing the lab infrastructure to serve identifiable parts of each floor plan.
Jim Batchelor is a principal at Arrowstreet in Boston.