Sunday, June 16, 2024

SmartLabs, a science coworking space, is taking over the third floor of CambridgeSide, filling what was once retail space. (Image: CambridgeSide)

CambridgeSide has a Cheesecake Factory, Foot Locker and, starting in late 2024, an entire floor of SmartLabs, a Boston-based provider of coworking lab space, according to East Cambridge mall owner New England Development on Wednesday.

The “laboratory-as-a-service” company offers turnkey space to life-science companies from fewer than 10 people to more than 100. It’s on an expansion binge intended to bring it to 2 million square feet in select cities such as San Francisco and Philadelphia by 2026, the company told media during a $250 million funding round in 2021.

SmartLabs has its timing and location right: Tight real estate in life-sciences hub Kendall Square has pushed innovation start-ups – and even bigger players – to locations such as the Alewife area, into East Cambridge and toward Central Square, leading to tensions playing out now in City Council. Its third-floor takeover adds 140,000 square feet of gross floor area to the market, according to New England Development.

Labs have also made the leap to Somerville’s Assembly Square, where Kendall Square’s BioMed Realty has taken space, and lab buildings are proposed for Porter Square and the developing Union Square as well.

With the vacancy rate of 3 percent in late 2022 being around the norm in Kendall Square for years, space for startups has become a negotiation demand for large developments in the area for the past several years, but Cambridge’s insatiable need has also inspired the opening of projects such as The Engine, an MIT incubator for “tough tech” that had a grand opening in September at 750 Main St. in The Port neighborhood.

The 100 CambridgeSide mall opened Sept. 13, 1990, and for years boasted around 80 stores along with anchor tenants such as Sears and Best Buy – and, at one time, the New England Sports Museum. As the retail picture changed, New England Development asked in late 2018 to turn the mall’s third story over to office space and bring in uses such as a large Bank of America branch.

Construction is underway on an even bigger change approved in 2019, as the mall becomes a mini-neighborhood with homes and stand-alone office and lab buildings