Life science developer lands big site near Assembly Row

Developers with a focus on building lab space keep scooping up sites all over Greater Boston, with the latest deal being announced for nine acres near Assembly Row.

BioMed Realty says it plans to build a 1.3 million-square-foot lab and office campus where a mid-sized office building and parking lots now stand. Deeds filed in Middlesex County indicate the real estate firm paid $163 million for the site.

The deal, announced Monday, was first disclosed last summer, when BioMed sought approvals from Somerville to change plans for the site — then known as XMBLY — from a mixed-use project that included apartments into something suited for life science companies. It closed on the property just before Christmas and BioMed is now preparing a proposal for the first phase of the project. The company aims to start construction later this year.

“Our vision for the Assembly Square location is to create a premier innovation campus where science and technology intersects,” said BioMed vice president Sal Zinno. “It’s an ideal location and size for a large life science company to establish a prominent headquarters.”

BioMed, a veteran Kendall Square developer that’s now owned by private equity giant Blackstone, is one of several life science real estate heavyweights that lately have been on buying sprees in and around Boston.

Last month, the group bought 601 Congress St. in the Seaport District — an empty office building that once housed John Hancock’s corporate headquarters — and plans to convert it into life science space. Real estate industry sources say BioMed also has an agreement to purchase 321 Harrison Ave., an office building under construction in the South End, likely for conversion to lab space, and the company recently won approvals in Cambridge for a new tower along Third Street in Kendall Square.

The deals are driven by the booming growth of drug development in Greater Boston, and by life science firms looking for alternatives to crowded and costly Kendall Square. Several pockets of eastern Somerville, including Union Square, nearby Boynton Yards and Assembly Row, are emerging as popular sites for lab development. Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he welcomes the investment and job growth life science companies bring.

“Having a world-leading life science developer launch this new major life science cluster in Somerville will open up the growth, jobs and new opportunities our community seeks,” Curtatone said in a statement. “Simply put, it opens the door for our city to become a pioneer in the biotechnology space.”

Tim Logan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

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