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Boston's Biggest Development Projects of 2017 Have Connectivity in Common

51 Sleeper St., one of Boston's Wired Certified buildings

Boston is having its moment as a mecca for live-work-play.

The city’s emphasis on mixed-use development and improved transportation infrastructure has drawn the attention of Amazon as a contender for its HQ2. Meanwhile, in Cambridge, MIT is looking to turn the 14-acre Volpe Center into a hub of housing, office and lab space. 

Following the incorporation of a broadband readiness questionnaire into the Article 80 Design Review process, a focus on digital connectivity has prompted Boston’s real estate community to plan for future-proof connectivity infrastructure during the development process. Developed by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the Department of Innovation and Technology and WiredScore, Article 80’s Broadband Readiness questionnaire is designed to create a built environment that is responsive to new and emerging connectivity technologies. 

The effects of the new Article 80 questionnaire are having an impact on the development of commercial real estate.

As office tenants' digital needs become increasingly sophisticated, businesses are beginning to demand spaces that provide reliable internet access. Boston’s leading CRE owners and developers are paying more attention to connectivity flaws in their properties and have turned to WiredScore to provide benchmarking standards for assessing broadband strength. The Greater Boston Area now boasts over 100 Wired Certified properties owned by over 20 CRE leaders. 

A concentration of Wired Certified buildings in the city may aid in attracting new businesses to the region. When Amazon released its HQ2 request for proposals this past September, it listed access to a large metropolitan population and optimal fiber connectivity as requirements for selection. The e-commerce giant is also looking to locate to a business-friendly environment near mass transit and international airports.

According to “The Value of Connectivity,” a new survey of leasing decision-makers, companies are willing to pay more per square foot, sign leases faster and opt into longer leases in office buildings that have superior connectivity. Of the decision-makers surveyed, 91% said that a lack of reliable internet connection would affect their rental decision. 

Wired Certification, the international standard for assessing digital infrastructure in office buildings, has emerged as another key factor influencing rental decisions: 79% of respondents would be more interested in a building or prefer leasing in a Wired Certified building and 67% would limit their office search to Wired Certified buildings. 

100 Binney St., a Wired Certified development in Kendall Square

While Boston lacks a contiguous land parcel that meets Amazon’s over 8M SF size requirement, improving digital connectivity could make up for that deficiency in the race for Amazon's HQ2. Other major projects in Boston, like the Seaport mega-site and the South Station redevelopment, have taken broadband infrastructure into consideration as a way to attract 21st-century companies.  

Across the Charles River, Cambridge is getting taller, despite a reluctance among residents and city officials to allow increased building heights. The Volpe Center redevelopment is one project that could break past Cambridge’s 250-foot height limit with its mix of residential and commercial buildings. 

In addition to the proposed transit hub acting as the centerpiece of the development, the project will likely look to incorporate reliable digital infrastructure.  

Cambridge is a hub for the tech and life science markets, two of the tightest office sectors in the country. The lab vacancy rate in the Kendall area was 0.1% in Q2. These office tenants, in particular, depend on internet access to grow their business, conduct research and continue to churn out innovative products. 

Across the Boston construction boom, developers and owners can turn to Wired Certification as the standard tenants look for when finding an office that suits their connectivity needs. In Boston, it is a benchmark that is now baked into the process. 

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