Another company leaving Kendall Square to grow elsewhere

Another major life sciences company is decamping from Kendall Square in search of room to grow. CRISPR Therapeutics said Tuesday that it has signed a lease to fill a seven-story lab building under construction on A Street in South Boston. The company, which works on gene-editing treatments, will consolidate its offices in Cambridge into the 263,000-square-foot facility, near the Broadway Red Line station, which is set to open in 2022 The $6.3 billion startup is the latest in a wave of tech and life sciences companies that have been born in Kendall, but lately looked elsewhere around the region for room to expand where space is more available and less expensive, such as Alewife, Watertown, and the Seaport District. Just 1.1 percent of the roughly 8 million square feet of lab space in East Cambridge is vacant, according to data from real estate firm Newmark Knight Frank, and most of the 1.3 million square feet under construction is already leased. That has developers seeking to build more, in more places. A joint venture between development firm Tishman Speyer and Bellco Capital spent $80 million last year to buy 105 West First St., a former RCN facility near Channel Center and Gillette’s World Shaving Headquarters. The Boston Planning & Development Agency had approved plans for an office building there in 2017, but Tishman and Bellco’s firm — known as Breakthrough Partners — made some minor changes to the plan after acquiring the site and broke ground this spring. It’s one of a wave of similar projects in the works in that part of South Boston and Fort Point. Life sciences heavyweight Alexandria Real Estate Equities wants to build a 210,000-square-foot lab building next door at 99 A St., on the site of the Coppersmith bar, and is proposing a life-sciences-oriented office tower on the site once planned for GE’s world headquarters nearby on Necco Street. Just last Monday, development firm Related Beal filed plans for three buildings, more than 1 million square feet in all, with a strong life-sciences component on parking lots it bought last year alongside the Gillette complex. —TIM LOGAN


Nationwide support for continued eviction ban

A lawsuit challenging Massachusetts’ toughest-in-the-nation ban on evictions headed to court on Thursday. And some big names weighed in on the case. Some 30 cities and counties, including Chicago and Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the nation’s foremost researcher on evictions filed briefs in the case supporting the state’s halt on nearly all eviction filings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, a collection of landlords and trade groups joined two Massachusetts landlords in asking a Suffolk County judge to overturn the ban immediately. The judge took no action on Thursday. For now renters who have fallen behind or stopped making payments during the pandemic can’t be evicted, thanks to a measure lawmakers passed in April, which Governor Charlie Baker last week extended through October. But landlords say the law violates their rights, effectively requiring them to provide housing, with no compensation, for months. And while some landlords can delay their mortgage payments, managing an apartment building comes with many expenses, said Mitch Matorin, who owns a three-family house in Worcester where one of his tenants has stopped paying rent. Matorin is one of the lead plaintiffs in the Suffolk County case and a similar one filed in federal court in Massachusetts. “I’ve got to keep up the place, and there’s no money to do it,” Matorin said in a recent interview. “You fix one problem by saying no one should be evicted. But that creates a new problem for landlords.” But in an emergency like this, lawyers for the state say the economic and public health impacts of widespread evictions amid the outbreak of a potentially fatal infectious disease outweigh any potential harm to landlords, they argue. — TIM LOGAN


Mass. startups raised $2.1b in first half of year

Massachusetts biopharma startups raised $2.1 billion in venture capital in the first half of 2020 — $600 million more than the same period last year — despite the coronavirus pandemic and recession. That’s one of the notable findings in the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s 2020 Industry Snapshot report, which was released last Tuesday morning. The report shows that biotechnology remains a powerhouse in the state’s economy. Industry jobs reached nearly 80,000 in 2019, growing 7.7 percent from the year before. That was the largest annual increase since 2007. More than half of the biotech jobs in the state are in research and development. Overall, biopharma jobs in Massachusetts have grown 94 percent in the last 15 years. Robert K. Coughlin, president and chief executive of MassBio, the industry trade group that produced the report, said COVID-19 has upended the economy but also underscored the importance of biopharma in addressing health crises. “It’s also made clear the outsized role Massachusetts life sciences companies are playing in the pandemic, with over 85 companies here working on tests, treatments, or vaccines, many of which are small to mid-sized biotechs that make up the backbone of our cluster and the majority of MassBio membership,” he said. Although many industries have had layoffs as a result of the pandemic, biotechs have largely weathered the storm, with some pivoting to developing potential COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests. The market for initial public offerings has also remained strong. Seven IPOs from Massachusetts biotech companies took place in the first half of 2020. Those firms made up a third of all US-based biotech IPOs and raised an average of $187 million when they went public. Among the notable firms that went public in the first half of the year was Akouos, a Boston biotech trying to develop the first gene therapy to treat hearing loss. It raised $213 million when it made its stock market debut on June 26, which was 70 percent more than the firm had projected four days earlier. — JONATHAN SALTZMAN


Colleges to rent hotel rooms for students to space them out

When students return to Northeastern University this fall, some will move into campus dorms. Others will call the Copley Place Westin home. Suffolk University students will spread out among four downtown hotels. And a few dozen up-and-coming musicians at the New England Conservatory of Music will settle in at the South End’s hip Revolution Hotel. As Boston’s universities and hotels both find themselves wrestling with the realities of life with coronavirus, some of them are teaming up to house students in a socially distanced fashion. Three schools — Northeastern, Suffolk, and the New England Conservatory — have asked the Walsh administration for approval to lease floors of hotels and — in some cases — entire hotels for use as dorms. And Boston University wants to take over a Commonwealth Avenue apartment building that has been used as temporary student housing for several years to supplement its dorm space. The hotel plans, universities and hotel operators say, will help ease a number of problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools can offer more students a chance to live in single rooms, while hotels whose business has been devastated by the collapse of the travel industry can lock down steady income for months to come. — TIM LOGAN

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