0 Tenants Returning to Boston Offices Will Find A Strange New World

By Dees Stribling | Bisnow | April 27, 2020

Most Boston commercial space is now empty, but the time is approaching when many or most workers return, perhaps in shifts or only a few days a week.

Property managers are already trying to sort out the transition, speakers on Bisnow’s health and safety in property management webinar Thursday said. The details of bringing people back into commercial space in an orderly and safe way aren’t clear. One thing is clear: It won’t be easy.

Most space in Downtown and in Cambridge is empty, with commercial occupancy below 5%, though occupancy is higher than that in a few pockets, such as life science space, Lincoln Property Co. Vice President of Property Management Scott Rickards said.

“We’re planning for re-occupancy at some point after May 4,” Rickards said. “Could be sooner, we hope. We’re fielding an increasing amount of questions every day from tenants about what they can expect.”

Personal responsibility is going to be critically important to making re-occupancy work, Rickards said.

“We all know people who go to work sick, and that’s what we really can’t have,” he said. “Every company has to be responsible for its employees, and every individual responsible for themselves.”

The focus now, EBI Consulting Director of Environmental Health & Safety Karla King said, is how company policies can evolve to address the future re-entry. Some companies have specific issues, such as those needing to deal with COVID-19 cases at their buildings, while others are simply trying to devise forward-looking planning.

“We’re working closely with some of our clients, evaluating current housekeeping and programs and getting an understanding of high-touch and common spaces,” King said.

In the case of a building with a suspected COVID-19 case, each instance is evaluated based on when it happened and how isolated the space is, King said. Then her company works with the client to identify or evaluate a cleaning company, looking closely at its cleaning products and protocols.

Even without a COVID-19 case, tenants who plan to return need to formulate detailed plans, King said.

“What PPE are people going to be bringing or wearing to the office, mandated by state or federal officials, or by their own choice?” she said. “Where are they going to dispose of their PPE?”

Boston Realty Advisors Managing Principal Wil Catlin, who moderated the webinar, asked whether some landlords will have stricter requirements regarding PPE than others.

“At some level, there needs to be baseline standards,” he said.

PPE use will vary according to the use of the space and how much common space there is, King said, adding that common areas and high-touch spaces are going to be the biggest areas of concern for property managers.

“That’s one thing to communicate to tenants: the importance of everyone controlling their space,” King said.

Property managers can’t be responsible for the cleanliness of every specific desk or other personal area, King said, since it is largely out of their control. Instead, they will be more concerned with common spaces, such as gyms, cafeterias, restrooms and reception areas.

Catlin also asked about security procedures in a post-pandemic environment, specifically how buildings will handle front desks and check-ins. Technology is a longer-term answer to security, Rickards said, and some Class-A buildings probably already have the tech in place to go touchless.

“There are some apps that work with security systems so that your phone has a unique identity, and you can walk into the building, and it knows your app,” Rickards said.

But most Boston real estate doesn’t have that kind of sophistication yet, he said. In many small lobbies, social distancing won’t even be possible.

“So there will be a lot of workarounds, and that’s going to extend the need for PPE,” Rickards said. “You’re going to need to have a mask on, and maybe gloves. Can we come up with a way to show an ID so that no one else touches it? It might be a rudimentary as the security guard doing all the writing. It’s going to be complicated.”

0 Boston Skyline is Slated for Change

The Boston Skyline is on track to change by 2020.  It will introduce some new players to the top ten and maintain some existing ones.

Curbed just posted a map of the 10 tallest buildings it expects to stand over Boston in 2020:

Boston office towers in 2020

Credit: Curbed

  1. 200 Clarendon
  2. Winthrop Square Tower
  3. Prudential Center Tower
  4. Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences One Dalton Street
  5. Millennium Tower
  6. South Station Tower
  7. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  8. One Boston Place
  9. One International Place
  10. Boston Harbor Garage tower

You can read more about the 10 buildings on Curbed, Boston.

0 Boston Commercial Real Estate Market Ripe for Investors

Boston Skyline over the Charles

Credit: Commercial Observer

The Boston area real estate market continues to offer investors a relative bargain compared with other markets when you consider rents, office space availability, workforce, employment numbers, and new construction.

Commercial Observer lists out the top ten reasons why investors should keep their eye on the area:

  1. Office vacancy is the lowest it’s been since before the Great Recession.
  2. Office asking rents are the highest they’ve been since before the Great Recession.
  3. These higher rents include even Class B space.
  4. Job growth in the Boston region is exploding—just look at GE.
  5. And look at the biotechnology industry.
  6. Boston’s office landlords are upgrading existing spaces and adding relatively little new inventory.
  7. Eataly, etc.
  8. The hotel market is one of the nation’s hottest—and tightest.
  9. As for Boston’s multifamily market, it’s nearly impossible to find one with better fundamentals.
  10. The region remains a relative steal.


0 Pets, Beer, and Ping-Pong Help to Shape HubSpot’s New Office Environment

Canal street office space in Cambridge

Credit: Boston Business Journal

Office fit-ups are more in-line to accommodate an employee as a whole person than a worker.  The notion that you can bring your dog, grab a beer and play ping-pong doesn’t sound like a workplace or a bar, but rather a gathering at a friend’s house.  Architects and landlords have embraced this and are trying to retrofit existing buildings, while incorporating this approach into new construction.

Another illustration of this trend is HubSpot’s new Cambridge office space. According to Bizjournals, “the expansion at 2 Canal is a complement to the company’s existing headquarters at 25 First St. in Cambridge. Dozens of employees are moving into the new office this week, including HubSpot’s product team, business operations and product marketing. That will free up room for renovation and expansion projects at the company’s 118,000-square-foot headquarters at 25 First St., where they recently signed a lease extension to occupy most of the building in the coming years.”

You can read the full article from the BBJ, here.

0 Kendall Square Initiative Submitted by MIT

Kendall Square office building

From MIT

MIT has presented their update plan for Kendall Square in Cambridge. Kendal Square is currently one of the hottest office markets nationally with record rents for Class A & B office space.  Major tenants include Microsoft and Google.

From MIT:

The Kendall Square Initiative aims to create a vibrant mixed-use district featuring six new buildings on what are now MIT-owned parking lots in the East Campus/Kendall Square area, including three buildings for research and development, two for housing, and one for retail and office space. The plan will produce approximately 250 net new housing units for graduate students and approximately 290 new housing units for market use, more than 100,000 square feet of new and repositioned ground-floor retail, and nearly three acres of new and repurposed open spaces — in addition to providing research and development space in support of Kendall Square’s growing innovation district.

The Initiative was developed as a result of approximately seven years of internal and external dialogue. The Cambridge City Council approved new zoning for MIT’s properties in the East Campus/Kendall Square area in 2013, laying the foundation for the advancement of the mixed-use proposal.

0 Harvard Business Grads Moving to Tech, Startups

Tata Hall at Harvard Business School

Credit: Boston Business Journal

Harvard grads are more likely to choose startups to begin their career rather than the traditional path of large corporations.

According to the BBJ, “one in five MBA students in Harvard Business School’s 2015 graduating class have entered the technology sector, the highest level since 2000 — that is, the year the dot-com bubble was about to implode.”

The Boston Business Journal article continues, noting “the newest crop of graduates also possessed a more entrepreneurial streak than their predecessors. Nine percent of graduates accepted offers from startup companies, nearly double the percentage from the previous year, according to statistics recently published by HBS. Another 9 percent started their own businesses, up from 8 percent in 2014. There were 915 students in HBS’s 2015 graduating class.”

You can read the full article on the Boston Business Journal’s website.

0 MIT Plans to Further Transform Kendall Square, Main Street

Office building in Cambridge on 1 main st

! Main Street, Cambridge

Changes in real estate keep coming, now MIT is elaborating on its plans for 1 Main Street in Kendall.

According to the Boston Globe, “University officials this week presented additional details of their plan for a reimagined Main Street, with new towers, wider sidewalks, welcoming open spaces, and clear signals to visitors that they have landed at MIT and in Kendall Square. The presentation before the city’s Planning Board on Tuesday night provided an overview of the $1.2 billion redevelopment project, which calls for converting six parking lots into offices, research space, hundreds of units of housing, and more than 100,000 square feet of retail. The six new buildings near Main would rise up to 300 feet tall.” The Globe article further explains, “City planners were largely supportive of MIT’s plan, though in a memo they expressed concern about “the scale and bulk” of some of the proposed buildings, warning that they might overwhelm pedestrians. Several members of the Planning Board agreed that the buildings appeared too imposing; some also called for more middle-class housing. But the board did certify that the plan met zoning and design guidelines.”

You can read the full article on the Boston Globe.

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