Cambridge complex that will host office and lab space for Millennium is moving forward

Commercial real estate developer Forest City Enterprises plans to break ground this fall on a stalled 250,000-square-foot biotechnology office and lab complex at 300 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge, outside Central Square, after the City Council approved the zoning petition.

The building will be occupied by Millennium Pharmaceuticals, the Japanese-owned cancer drug company, which has about 1,200 employees in Massachusetts and is outgrowing its space in a half dozen other buildings at Forest City’s University Park development near the proposed site.

“We’re happy to be through the process and look forward to moving ahead with the project,” said Frank C. Wuest, president of Forest City’s science and technology group and its Boston area operations. “Millennium wants the project built as soon as possible. They’ve been experiencing big growth and they want additional space within University Park.”

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The six-story building at 300 Massachusetts Ave. would serve as a “front door” to University Park, which now encompasses about 2.3 million square feet of space behind Massachusetts Avenue, said Wuest. Millennium plans to fill about 230,000 square feet on the top five floors of the new building, while the ground floor will be leased by restaurants and retail businesses.

Opponents of unchecked commercial development objected to the Forest City project last summer, arguing the proposed development and others like it were encroaching on Cambridge neighborhoods and have not been accompanied by enough affordable housing. The objections led to a delay in the project, though Forest City refiled its petition in December.

Wuest said Wednesday that Forest City has committed to maintaining its existing affordable housing units and either building 25 additional affordable units or converting existing apartments from market rates to affordable rates. Cambridge officials have also completed a master plan for Central Square that would not interfere with the Millennium plans.

On Monday night, the Cambridge City Council voted unanimously to accept Forest City’s petition, in effect allowing the developer to go forward with the project.

“We're very pleased that the Cambridge City Council has approved the zoning petition,” said Millennium spokeswoman Manisha Pai. “And we’re very happy to be able to stay in Cambridge and keep all the Millennium family in close proximity to our existing campus.”

Millennium was bought by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. for $8.8 billion in 2008.