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Salesforce In Talks To Anchor South Station Skyscraper

After years of delays, plans for a skyscraper over South Station could deliver Boston its own Salesforce Tower.

Rendering of Hines' planned tower at South Station

Salesforce wasn’t seen as a major player in Boston’s technology scene until the firm hired Lexington native Keith Block in 2013 as president and vice chairman. The company currently has offices in Back Bay, Cambridge and Burlington, but it is looking to boost its profile with a trophy office. 

The software company is in discussions to move into a planned 690-foot tower over South Station, four sources close to the company’s search for a new Boston office told Bisnow

But those discussions still face development hurdles. 

The proposed tower’s developer, Houston-based Hines, has spent two years since getting city approval on the project to iron out a deal with parties affected by building an 862K SF mixed-use skyscraper over New England’s busiest train station.

The developer needs an agreement with three transportation agencies before it can proceed with construction. When a deal is reached among the various agencies, the developer is expected to quickly get to work on the downtown skyscraper. 

Salesforce is expected to operate from coworking space — multiple sources Bisnow spoke to expect it to be WeWork’s new 11-story branch at One Lincoln Street — while the South Station tower is under construction. 

Hines co-owns and co-developed the 1.4M SF Salesforce Tower in San Francisco with Boston Properties and is already planning on building Salesforce Tower Chicago. Both are designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the same architecture firm that designed the proposed tower at South Station.

Block, now co-CEO of Salesforce, said in a 2016 interview he “wouldn’t rule out” the possibility of a Boston Salesforce Tower given the company's growth trajectory here. The company’s current Boston office is at 500 Boylston St. in Back Bay.  

Representatives from Salesforce and Hines declined to comment to Bisnow for this story, and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects did not return requests for comment in time for publication.

It is unclear how big an office Salesforce would have at South Station, but the overall office component of the tower is 641K SF. There will also be 166 residential condominiums on the upper floors of the tower, according to approved plans Hines filed with the Boston Planning & Development Agency. 

“This makes total sense. It’s right on top of Boston’s major transit hub and is arguably the best location in the Financial District,” Colliers International Director of Research Aaron Jodka said. “It would continue a wave of tower development in the city that we haven’t seen in Boston in decades.”

The tower would enhance the South Station passenger experience with covered train platforms.

Later phases of the site include a 314-foot hotel and/or residential tower and a 229-foot office building in the third phase. Each component of the project will be built over active train tracks, but it is not expected to significantly impact operations at South Station. 

When complete, the entire South Station mixed-use development will be 2M SF, according to Pelli Clarke Pelli’s website

The South Station tower would join three other downtown skyscrapers in various stages of development, including the 691-foot Winthrop Center, the 528-foot One Congress and the 495-foot office component at Hub on Causeway.

Real estate chatter regarding the South Station tower has heated up in recent weeks, and Pelli Clarke Pelli recently revised the South Station tower section of its website to indicate a 2020 construction start date.

Hines had been given a series of extensions to make a deal, which has been delayed in the past over operational cost and capital expense disagreements among the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Amtrak. The current deadline is April 30.

"The MBTA continues to work closely with the Hines team and is pleased with the progress that is being made," MBTA spokesperson Lisa Battiston said.