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Cambridge Innovation Center to nearly double in size with new lease

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 15, 2010 03:30 PM

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trowe.jpgJust two weeks after marking its 10th anniversary last month, the Cambridge Innovation Center signed a new 10-year lease with MIT that will see it almost double in size by this summer. Founder and CEO Tim Rowe says he's adding 57,000 square feet of new space, bringing his total footprint in the building at One Broadway in Kendall Square to 122,000 square feet.

Already, CIC is the largest collection of start-up companies under one roof on the East Coast, with 240 tenants. Rowe says nearly 20 companies are on a waiting list for space in the building: "We're bursting at the seams."

As for expanding at a time when so much commercial real estate is sitting fallow, Rowe says that "people like to cluster" in spaces like CIC that bring together start-ups, mid-sized companies, and service providers like venture capital firms and attorneys. He also makes the case that when the costs of managing copiers, printers, phone systems, and Internet access are considered, the per-employee cost of being at CIC (about $1100 per person, on average) is actually more affordable than renting a traditional office on the Cambridge market.

The expansion will also see CIC expanding its co-working space, which is designed for small teams and sole proprietorships that don't need dedicated offices, or don't come in every day. Rent in the co-working area costs $250 per month. Rowe says eventually CIC may include as many as six co-working areas.

Building out the new space, as well as outfitting it with furniture and office equipment, will cost in the neighborhood of $6 million, Rowe estimates. Joe Flaherty at Colliers Meredith & Grew handled the transaction for MIT, which owns the building. Flaherty says it was the second biggest deal in the Cambridge office market for 2009 (the largest is Forrester's new office space at Alewife, at 189,000 square feet. But Flaherty notes that CIC's new lease represents a bigger expansion of its current space than Forrester's.) "In this crummy economy, they just keep growing," Flaherty says of CIC. "It's amazing."

Rowe's other project is the Venture Café, a plan to open a combination coffee shop/restaurant geared to entrepreneurs, techies, and investors. He's considering two spaces in Kendall Square, and organizing a group of potential investors. The plan is to open later in 2010. "We really want to get it right," he says, "and we're taking our time to find the right location."

(The only start-up center that's larger than CIC is located -- where else? -- in Silicon Valley. The Plug and Play Tech Center's Sunnyvale location has 150,000 square feet of space, which houses 283 companies.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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