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Kendall abhors a vacuum: edX and Twitter rush to fill ITA Software's old headquarters

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 5, 2013 08:00 AM

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ITA Software, the online travel search pioneer, is just starting to pack its bags for a move next month; it'll be shacking up with Google, its corporate parent since 2011. ITA is only moving a couple blocks, to the Cambridge Center complex where Google has been expanding and connecting several buildings. And already other tech players are lining up to fill ITA's long-time headquarters at 141 Portland Street, right near Cambridge Brewing Company and Flattop Johnny's.

edX, the online education nonprofit launched by MIT and Harvard, has leased two floors in ITA's old building, says director of communications Nancy Moss. (That's about 30,000 square feet.) Some employees are already working in temporary space there, but the full team — about 73 people — is expected to move in early next year.

twitter1.r.jpgAnd it looks like edX's neighbor will be Twitter Boston, which is in late-stage negotiations on another two floors of the building, representing about 30,000 square feet, according to several real estate industry sources. Pete Bekarian of Jones Lang LaSalle, said he couldn't comment on the transaction, and neither would Jim Prosser, senior manager of communications at Twitter.

If Twitter signs the lease, the new space could house about 150 employees, a big jump from Twitter's current local employment, which LinkedIn pegs at about 50, and a recent Globe article said was "roughly 75." Twitter bought two local startups this year that happen to be based across the street from 141 Portland Street, in the One Kendall Square complex: Crashlytics, a tool for mobile developers, and Bluefin Labs, which analyzes what people are saying about TV shows and commercials on social media. (Twitter picked up a third local startup in June, Spindle, but it said it will move key members of that team to San Francisco.)

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the ITA Software sign atop the building at 141 Portland Street; founder Jeremy Wertheimer told me once that he had to jump through plenty of hoops to get the city's OK, but felt it was worth it for branding and recruiting purposes. Will the building's facade eventually sport the Twitter or edX name?

(In the pic above are Crashlytics founders Jeff Seibert and Wayne Chang, and Bluefin founders Michael Fleischman and Deb Roy. Seibert recently relocated to Twitter HQ in San Francisco)

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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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