The urbanization of the suburbs: What matters, who’s doing it right, and what the future holds

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From Chris Decembrele
Senior Vice President

Work is no longer just a 9-5. It’s not in Kendall Square, and it’s not in many thriving suburban markets. In fact, in the suburbs, amenities have become king, as landlords look to differentiate their park from the pack and establish a true “work, play, stay” setting. Particularly in markets like Burlington and Waltham, this has been a game changer. And while Millennials are largely driving the change, everyone is reaping the benefits.

What matters

  • Restaurants: Both fancy restaurants where you can get a nice dinner and a drink perhaps taking out clients, and casual spots where you can have a quick lunch or a coffee meeting are critical to the foundation of these amenity bases.
  • Wellness: Companies want their employees to be healthy, and for Millennials, wellness is a daily, active pursuit so offering some type of on-site fitness center or other wellness program checks a huge box for businesses/real estate decision makers looking to give their employees options.
  • Walkability: It’s not just about having a ton of amenities a mile down the road. The truly successful and differentiated parks are the ones creating a campus full of easily walkable amenities.
  • Transportation: Last but not least, this has become a huge differentiator for suburban office parks which lack easy access to public transportation. For those companies wanting to be in the suburbs but also wanting to attract an employee base that lives in the city and doesn’t have a car, transportation is a major concern. That’s why we’ve begun to see many landlords sponsor shuttles to the nearest T station, making access to these suburban parks easier than ever before.

Who’s doing it right

One of the best examples of this urbanization of the suburbs is The District in Burlington. Formerly New Englandrendering-3-min Executive Park, The District is currently doing all of the above and more. The highly-amenitized park boasts two new restaurants, Tuscan Kitchen and Tavern in the Square, and has two more, Island Creek Oyster Bar and Pressed Cafe, on the way in 2016. There’s also a Marriott hotel under construction, plans for numerous outdoor pocket parks, and a new agreement in place with Life-Cycle Wellness. On top of all that, The District also has its own shuttle that tenants can take advantage of to get to and from the MBTA Red Line at Alewife Station. According to National Development Senior Vice President Andrew Gallinaro, “It’s really about the re-imagining of the typical suburban office landscape.” And re-image they have.

What the future holds

The suburbs aren’t for everyone. Some companies just need to be in Boston or Cambridge for one reason or another, no matter what. But for those companies that have the flexibility to consider suburban markets like Burlington, when they see 12-18 months from now what a park can look like, the suburbs may become increasingly more appealing. On top of that, as the cost to live in the city continues to rise, 30 year olds are struggling to afford it. As a result, the draw of living and working in the city may eventually go away, thus attracting more companies to these suburban destinations.

Feel free to contact me for more information on the Burlington market, The District, or any other questions you may have.

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