The traditional axiom in real estate is “Location, location, location.”
While that is still a crucial feature of any commercial property, amenities are becoming more and more important in suburban developments.
With rents in the Downtown, Seaport, and Cambridge markets remaining high, a renewed focus is being put on the fast-evolving, amenity-driven suburban locations along Route 128.
Old-school suburban office parks may have a shared cafeteria or café, and perhaps a mid-range restaurant nearby catering to the lunch crowd. But in a market where tenants have more information – and more options – than ever, a bare minimum approach to amenities isn’t attractive to many companies.
The markets which been attracting the most attention are the so-called “areas of urbanization,” such as Waltham’s CityPoint and Burlington, where the concentration of on-site and area amenities has reached a critical mass that tenants might only expect to find Downtown.
At The District Burlington – formerly the New England Executive Park – the addition of various amenities and features has been focused and rapid. What was once a static 1970s-era office park has become a walkable, vibrant and modern spot where employees actively choose to stay after work, whether for dinner, drinks, or even a workout.
“When we first acquired The District Burlington in 2013, we knew that the project represented the perfect opportunity to deliver a truly unique experience within Boston’s Route 128 corridor,” says Andrew Gallinaro, a Senior Vice President and Director of Asset Management for National Development. “Our team drew upon our experience with other developments and the themes that we consistently hear from our tenants to conceive of a new concept for a suburban office park that we knew would meet the needs of today’s office user. The dynamic mixed use and highly walkable environment that we’ve created provides our tenants with the ideal setting to attract and retain high quality talent.”
In total, the 1.1 MSF complex has six restaurants, a 170-room hotel, a farmers’ market, three fitness studios, bike sharing, and a nature trail. That’s also beside the fact that it’s right next to the Burlington Mall, which has more than 100 different stores accounting for nearly another 1.3 MSF of space.
“Burlington has always had a good concentration of amenities,” says Michael O’Leary, Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield. “What they’re doing now is doubling down on that, and it’s generating a lot of activity.”
Adding an additional draw for millennial employees living in Boston, The District also runs a dedicated shuttle back and forth to the Alewife Red Line station so employees can easily commute and stay connected to Downtown. In keeping with the concept of looking past the traditional 9-5 attitude, the shuttle even has later trips to Alewife which don’t leave Burlington until 7pm.
Demand in the Route 128 Central market remains active, with a great deal of momentum coming from life science and technology companies. Driven by skyrocketing rents in Cambridge and elsewhere, more than 1 million SF of life science deals were executed along Route 128 in 2016 – the vast majority in the Route 128 Central market.
As suburban markets like Burlington and Waltham continue to use amenities to draw and retain corporate tenants, more complexes will likely soon follow suit. As time goes on, the picture of what a modern suburban office development looks like will never be the same.