Boston and Cambridge Renew Rivalry in Startup Real Estate

4/13/12Follow @gthuang

The real estate market for companies can be a tragically boring topic—unless you’re a startup looking for office space. There has been a lot of talk this week about rising rents in Kendall Square as compared to Boston’s Innovation District or South End, say, and some related issues (see below). All the better to fan the flames of the deeply ingrained Boston vs. Cambridge innovation rivalry

One reason for costs going up in Kendall Square is big companies moving in or expanding there. Just off the top of my head, I can think of the following: Google (building an urban campus for 800 employees, counting ITA Software), Amazon (moving into the CIC building), Staples (opening an e-commerce center), Pfizer (building a new research facility for 400 employees), Biogen Idec (500-plus workers moving back to Kendall) and now Novartis (broke ground on a 550,000-square-foot space between Kendall and Central Square yesterday).

Another reason might be the recent influx—over the past year or two—of venture capital firms moving to (or setting up offices in) Kendall. The list includes Atlas Venture, Bessemer Venture Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Matrix Partners, and Charles River Ventures.

Here are a couple of new reports on startup real estate in the area:

—Kendall Square rents have risen to about $46 per square foot (higher than Silicon Valley), according to a Boston Globe report. That hasn’t stopped fast-growing security software firm Rapid7 (based in Boston) from working to finalize a lease for a new innovation center in Kendall, the report says. On the flip side, the story lists Promoboxx, Buzzient, and Brightcove as companies that have moved from Cambridge to Boston. Meanwhile, a WBUR report this week highlights the moving experiences of SCVNGR (from Cambridge to Boston) and OfficeDrop (Alewife to Kendall). One issue for the latter: finding a building that allows dogs. (My colleague Wade Roush can sympathize.)

—WBUR also did a story today about the Red Line “innovation corridor.” It’s about tech startups clustering around subway stops in Cambridge and Boston, and how it’s all a bit like a compressed version of the old Route 128 tech cluster. This isn’t a new idea, but the story highlights the experiences of Terrible Labs, Smarterer, Help Scout, Greentown Labs, and Altaeros Energies. Speaking of terrible, has anyone noticed the Red Line hasn’t been reliable since about 1992? (OK, at least it’s better than the Green Line. Good luck with that Fenway opener.)

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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