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Where will startup accelerator MassChallenge land next?

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 8, 2013 09:00 AM

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Update: On September 20th, MassChallenge announced it had signed a five-year, rent-free deal with Jamestown Properties, moving to the Marine Industrial Park.

harthornelandry.jpg

One of the anchor tenants of Boston's Innovation District, the MassChallenge entrepreneurship program, is looking for new digs. MassChallenge needs to be out of its 14th floor space at One Marina Park Drive on Fan Pier by next July, and founder John Harthorne tells me they're considering two possibilities: Jamestown Properties' Bronstein Center on Drydock Avenue (still within the Innovation District), and the Landmark Center, near Fenway Park and the Longwood Medical Area. Harthorne expects to announce the non-profit's decision by October 30th, when MassChallenge holds its annual awards ceremony — if not before.

Both landlords are offering MassChallenge a pretty sweet deal: free rent on about 25,000 square feet. That's the same deal that MassChallenge struck with Joe Fallon, the owner of its current home overlooking Boston Harbor. (Clearly Fallon now feels that he'll be able to attract a paying tenant for MassChallenge's full-floor office, with floor-to-ceiling windows and 360-degree views.) What's the upside for the building owner? MassChallenge provides space for about 125 startup companies, some of which could develop into future rent-paying tenants, and the program regularly attracts executives from larger companies as mentors and speakers. "We're basically like a marketing amenity for the building," Harthorne says, noting that tenants like Enernoc, Goodwin Procter, and Battery Ventures have signed leases at One Marina Park since MassChallenge moved in three years ago. Harthorne says that MassChallenge would probably share the costs of building out the new space with the landlord.

"We're kind of torn," Harthorne says. "We love the Innovation District, but Landmark is close to the medical center, which is a thriving area of the city. Our current lease is up in July of next year, and so we do need to do something ahead of next year's program," which typically begins in June. "We're eager to make a decision really soon," he says.

Which spot would you pick?

(Harthorne is on the right in the photo, with angel investor John Landry.)

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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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