Tatte Fine Cookies and Cakes opened last week in Kendall Square. It’s fantastic – the design, the food, the team. The story of how this deal came together is classic CityRetail stuff and speaks to our strategy over the past four years in Kendall Square and the ongoing evolution of Kendall Square into a dynamic mixed-use urban place.
In April 2010 my colleague, Dave Downing, emailed Tzurit Or of Tatte Fine Cookies and Cakes in Brookline about opening a second location in Kendall Square. Tzurit was one of a handful of local bakers on our target list for the neighborhood. In fact, over the past several years we have emailed, called and bothered hundreds of the area’s best restaurateurs and retailers about coming to Kendall Square. Since there was not much retail in Kendall Square in 2007/08 (and none on Third Street) we had lots to work with and lots of target lists – drycleaners, day care centers, cafes, gyms, bike shops, urban grocers, yoga studios, etc. and, especially, restaurateurs. By the beginning of 2010 we had some traction and it was time to fill some holes – a bakery was front and center. Dave was all over it.
So we did our thing – we looked for the best that already existed and started from there. Tatte was, therefore, an obvious target. But the problem then was that Kendall was not an obvious target for Tatte…
Things started to change in mid 2010 though – Kendall Square, generally, reached a sort of tipping point from a “place” perspective; or at least more and more people started to appreciate the potential. The recession was in full swing but Kendall was booming: corporate giants like Google and Microsoft were not just locating in KendallSq but were growing in Kendall Square; Genzyme, the world third largest biotech company and one of the neighborhood’s most recognized tenants was rumored to be on the trading block (it sold in early 2011 for $20 Billion); MIT was about to open a new building for the Sloan School of Management smack in the middle of KendallSq; the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) was bursting from its seams and building-out two new floors at One Broadway; Android, a CIC based startup turned Google acquisition, became the best selling smartphone platform in the world; big-name VC’s were looking for space; Consulates were moving in; The Kendall Square Association was just getting off the ground with a stellar new Executive Director, Travis McCready; The City began eyeing strategies for responsible growth in Kendall Square; and The Boston Consulting Group declared Kendall Square the most innovative square mile on earth… Yeah, not bad. And in regards to the ground floor, earlier in the year my team put some points on the board when EVOO and Za opened in January 2010 and we were announcing new deals at a pretty steady rate through 2010. No doubt our emails, calls and botherings of the restaurant community during 2008 and 2009 were paying off. Chefs and restaurateurs that we previously toured were coming back for second looks and, at a minimum, seeing Kendall Square in a new light – they were all starting to get it… We weren’t dragging people to Kendall anymore; it was more like a steady but careful push.
So in October 2010, six months after Dave’s first email to Tzurit, we got an email from our close pal and collaborator Michael Staub, who was also working with Tzurit, explaining that Tatte was actively looking for a second location in the South End or Back Bay and was just starting to talk about Kendall Square as a possibility…. (more on Michael in a later post, as he has been instrumental in the recent restaurant explosion we are seeing in Kendall).
A week after Michael’s email we toured Tzurit; three weeks later we got her our first of many draft lease proposals; and through 2011 we – Tzurit, Michael, Cafco Construction, CityRetail and BioMed Realty Trust, our client and the Landlord – engaged in a one-year back-and-forth, on-again-off-again lease negotiation. It was tough but it was needed. And we came out of it with a deal; a good deal. BioMed stepped up to the plate and did what it had to do get a best in class retail tenant – they gave the Tenant some money to build, were reasonable with rent commencement timing and structured a very rational deal. BioMed, a publically traded REIT, found a way to make a deal with a small local bakery and vice-versa. This is not an easy task; for either side. But it happened. And it’s happening all over Kendall Square; because Landlords like BioMed are committing to making Kendall Square a better place.
So go visit Tatte and when you see Tzurit thank her – thank her for coming to Kendall Square… if she’s not too busy. Oh, and get a pear juice, sandwich, sweet brioche and pistachio tort. Damn good stuff.