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A Day in the Life of Kendall Square: Lobster and Smartphones

The Globe's intrepid transit reporter Eric Moskowitz recently spent 24 hours in Kendall Square to find out once and for all if the rapidly changing Cambridge enclave is, indeed, the new Silicon Valley. Here are the top 10 moments/revelations of/from the sojourn:

10) On the 85 bus at a quarter to 7 in the morning: "Almost everyone on board is in their 20s or 30s, and as the bus starts to move, they look down at their smartphones in unison. One older woman in velour sweat pants retrieves a dog-eared crossword book from her handbag."

9) "Kendall’s software and Internet companies tend to get the most attention, but life sciences firms are the biggest employers for the estimated 40,000 people who work in this area every day."

8) In M.I.T.'s media lab a little before 11 a.m.: "Two doors down, Steven Keating, another grad student, is cramming for an afternoon presentation to National Science Foundation grant writers. The Calgary native is as animated talking about the everyday miracles in his Kendall world as in his own work (on 3-D printing), right down to the dorm washing machine that texts him when his load is done. 'In Canada, it’s completely different in terms of technology being integrated around us,' Keating says. 'Somerville, too,' I tell him."

7) At the Google office at lunchtime: "Speaking admiringly as I head through the line, I make the mistake of calling the place a “cafeteria.” A burly chef winces, and not from the heat of the pizza oven. Cafeterias are for hospitals and elementary schools. The other day, he notes, they prepared 600 lobsters, then made the leftovers into a bisque."

6) "If the ongoing story of the American economy is the tough transformation from industry to ideas, the prelude was written here in Kendall. In 1959, Lever Brothers shuttered a plant that churned out Lux and Lifebuoy soaps. M.I.T. and a developer razed that property and others—clearing 15 acres of former factories and tenement homes—to build Technology Square."

5) "The 300,000-square-foot One Broadway tower, one of the buildings Campbell, the architecture critic, trained his fire on, is a study in 1960s Brutalism. Yet the uninviting shell conceals a sleek interior and the densest concentration of start-ups in the world, or so claims Tim Rowe, who uses half the space for his Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC."

4) "As we make our way upstairs, I ask Rowe, Kendall’s most tireless booster, how the area compares with Silicon Valley. He doesn’t even stop to turn around. 'Silicon Valley is kind of confident that it’s the leader, and Cambridge doesn’t really realize it’s the leader,' he says. 'But we actually have higher density and a lot more venture capital.' He’s right if you’re talking on a per capita basis, but not yet when measuring by total dollars. (As I said, he’s a booster.)"

3) It's close to 10 p.m. now. Moskowitz is chatting with the owner of Meadhall: "'You want to wake up?' he asks, producing a big box of packages printed with 'AeroShot.' They’re leftovers from a launch party upstairs by Breathable Foods, a company that grew out of Harvard and created Le Whif, an inhalable chocolate. AeroShots are breathable caffeine. I tear open a foil packet and find a small cartridge—half shotgun shell, half asthma inhaler—and draw a deep breath. I double over, hacking. It tastes like powdered Gatorade and car exhaust."

2) It's after midnight, outside Microsoft NERD: "Abandoned, save for a security guard staring blankly at his phone. He does not notice me pressing my face to the glass. I spend another half-hour walking, but find next to nothing. A lonely-looking guy lugging an overstuffed backpack. A few party stragglers weaving their way to the T."

1) Moskowitz makes his way there as well: "It is that odd hour when the T may or may not still be running, stations and trains shutting down for the night, no employees in sight. Slipping through a partially closed entrance, I step around a puddle of vomit. ... In the distance, I hear a rumble. It turns out the train is coming to Kendall after all, hurtling through 100-year-old tunnels, speeding into the future."

· 24 Hours in Kendall Square [Globe Magazine]
· In Kendall Square, M.I.T. Rips from Harvard's Allston Playbook [Curbed Boston]
· New Kendall Square Giant Pulling M.I.T. Braintrust East [Curbed Boston]


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Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

Microsoft NERD Center

1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142