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Cambridge Council Members Mull Pause On Lab Development Amid Healthpeak's Spending Spree

10 Fawcett St. in Cambridge, one of Healthpeak Properties' Alewife neighborhood acquisitions.

Cambridge officials are calling for a moratorium on lab uses in Alewife in response to a life sciences REIT's massive, ongoing acquisition splurge

Two city council members and Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui sponsored a policy order calling for the halt of life sciences uses in the West Cambridge neighborhood until 2024. The order, first reported by Cambridge Day, will be heard during Monday’s city council meeting, less than a week after Healthpeak Properties’ reveal of a massive life sciences campus plan.

The REIT already has a presence in the neighborhood in the Cambridge Discovery Park and has ramped up spending on numerous area properties since September. Healthpeak in a Q3 investor presentation earlier this week detailed the reasoning behind its combined $625M purchase of eight area portfolios in a push for a 36-acre life sciences campus. 

“These campus settings are a competitive advantage for leasing because we can provide world-class amenities, infrastructure and flexibility for tenants to grow without relocating,” Healthpeak President and Chief Investment Officer Scott Brinker said during an earnings call, Seeking Alpha reported.

Cambridge lab rents today regularly top $100 per SF in the incredibly tight market, according to CBRE.

In their policy order, council members noted Alewife lacks affordable housing, public transportation infrastructure and municipal needs like a fire station. The city formed an Alewife Revitalization Plan for the area in 1979, aiming for residential, business and industrial development, and maintained the vision of a mixed-use district in a 2019 plan, the policy states. 

A 2019 zoning petition for a portion of the neighborhood by developer Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, which recently sold much of the HealthPeak acquisitions, was shot down because it clashed with the city’s vision for the neighborhood, Cambridge Day reported.

The pushback is the first serious challenge to the city’s booming life sciences industry, which has grown exponentially in the past few years. Life sciences development continues to thrive in East Cambridge and Kendall Square, and more than half of record venture capital funding in the past two years has gone to Cambridge-based companies, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council reported.