The Exchange is part of an ongoing series on The Hive tackling the questions facing Boston’s entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators. This week, we ask participants to discuss the City of Cambridge’s effort to help Kendall Square remain a hotspot for innovation.
Below Lelund Cheung, Cambridge City Councilor and backer of the city’s zoning proposal, argues that Kendall Square’s entrepreneurial environment will become stale if measures are not put in place to help startups compete with bigger companies for access to Kendall Square’s real estate.
The City of Cambridge has never experienced difficulty attracting new talent and businesses to Kendall Square. Known globally as a hub of innovation, inspiration and most importantly, action, Kendall Square has been the birthplace of many ideas that have drastically changed the way we look at and interact with the world around us. The entrepreneurial spirit of local startups is contagious as you walk about the Square, and large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Biogen are willing to pay any price for space in the cluster.
However, being one of the most sought-after and world-renowned innovation regions is both a blessing and a curse. In order to keep its title as the most innovative square mile in the world, Kendall Square needs to constantly evolve and make room for new talent and ideas. With space at a minimum and skyrocketing rents, the entrepreneurial environment of Kendall Square will become stale if fledgling companies are no longer able to afford office space. We cannot let large companies consume all of the space, hike up rents, and push startup companies out of the cluster if we want Kendall Square to remain a center of innovation. We need to make sure that as we go forward and continue to attract large, revolutionary companies that we set aside space for the entrepreneurs that have made Kendall Square what it is today.
Throughout the Cambridge City Council’s recent approval of MITIMCo’s redevelopment proposal for Kendall Square, I was proud to spearhead a zoning change that will require MITIMCo to set aside a minimum of 10 percent of all new space for startup companies – 5 percent for fledgling startups with under 10 employees, and the other 5 percent for mid-level startups that have up to 20 employees.
As new projects are submitted for approval in Kendall Square, zoning changes will incentivize that up to 20 percent of new development is reserved for startups by only counting 50 percent of innovation space towards the maximum amounts of space that developers are permitted to build. For instance, if a developer set aside 20 percent of a new building for startup use, they would be permitted to design a building that is 10 percent larger than they would otherwise be able to given current development limits.
Kendall Square is a dynamic, innovative environment that cannot be duplicated anywhere across the globe. Let’s protect startups and entrepreneurs to keep it that way.