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Inside The $300M Renovation That Made A 1980s Office Tower Competitive Again

Like many older office buildings in Boston and beyond, the 42-story One Post Office Square tower lost its anchor tenant in 2018, leading its developer to question the viability of its asset as newer, shinier buildings were rising in the city.

The development team, including Anchor Line Partners, decided to place a major bet on the future of the 41-year-old office tower. It embarked on an ambitious $300M redevelopment to turn the former concrete block into a modern, glass-lined tower that could compete for high-end tenants. The bet appears to be paying off, as Anchor Line late last year landed a new 250K SF lease and is reportedly in talks for more big deals. 

The project, designed by Gensler and leased by JLL, is scheduled to deliver in the first quarter of next year. The team brought Bisnow on an exclusive tour this week to see how the redevelopment is taking shape. 

A view of One Post Office Square from across the street

The project is adding more square footage on one side of the building by vertically expanding on top of what was previously a six-story garage. It reskinned the building with a glass facade, and it is adding 40K SF of new amenity space designed to appeal to the modern preferences of office tenants. 

"In 2016, when we first contemplated the redevelopment of OPOS, we were keenly aware of the fact that in order to remain competitive the building required a significant modernization strategy," Anchor Line Managing Partner Brian Chaisson said in an email to Bisnow

The redevelopment kicked off after the project's previous anchor tenant, Putnam Investments, relocated across the street to 100 Federal St. in 2018. The One Post Office Square is owned by an affiliate of Morgan Stanley, but Anchor Line and JLL are managing the redevelopment. 

The developer's efforts to fill that vacancy by making the building more competitive came as the gap between Class-A and Class-B buildings in Boston was growing wider, with newer buildings with more amenities frequently landing the largest tenants on the market and commanding higher rents.

The lobby at One Post Office Square

"We recognized that the asset’s location was not enough to maintain its competitive advantage, it was time to reposition the physical asset in a manner that addressed next generation workforce requirements," Chaisson said. "Our goal was to provide an environment at OPOS that would standout from the competitive set and enable us to compete in any given environment."

Despite losing the anchor tenant, the team secured lease renewals with seven of the building's other existing occupants, including Sullivan & Worcester, Appleton Partners and JLL's Boston office, and it signed a new lease with Citi. The leasing effort has kicked into high gear over the last nine months. 

The building will offer new amenities, including an on-site gym, nap rooms, retail and a café on the ground level.

Investment firm Eaton Vance agreed in November to relocate its headquarters to One Post Office Square, committing to more than 250K SF, multiple outlets reported at the time. In May, the Boston Business Journal reported that the team was in advanced talks with Goulston & Storrs to lease about 100K SF in the building. The developer hasn’t officially announced these two deals and declined to comment on them.

JLL's leasing team said it is confident that in the next couple of months it will have multiple new leases to announce in the building as the project nears completion. 

Eden Health will provide healthcare services to the building's tenants.

The building's 40K SF of new amenity space, expected to open after Labor Day, include a full gym, nap rooms, terrace and outdoor decks, and conference space. Since the developer demolished the original parking garage, it installed a new U-Tron automated parking garage offering tenants an easier, faster way to park their cars. 

Eden Health will offer on-site health services to all employees in the building. Other services include a hair salon and a daycare center, as the developers "understand the complex back-to-work waves that parents face," according to an email from Anchor Line.

A shot from the 17th floor shows the columns that made up the boundaries of the previous edge of the building.

The project also features 25K SF of ground-floor retail space, and the developer is partnering with the adjacent The Langham, Boston hotel to offer dining and a café for tenants, according to the building's website.

This is all part of the developer's plan to help transition employees back to in-person and hybrid work schedules by keeping important services nearby.

"Maintaining a work environment acceptable to the existing clients while executing a comprehensive redevelopment strategy requires an open dialogue with the tenants and continuous communication amongst the various teams," Chaisson said.

A view from one of the mid-rise levels of One Post Office Square

Another way the developer sought to attract tenants is by providing them with access to the outdoors. The building will have seven outdoor spaces, including a roof deck on the 41st floor and one on the 19th floor of the new extension. 

Unlike its predecessor, the new One Post Office Square won't have "tiny windows," as one Boston Globe article put it. Most of the facade of the new building will be glass, a major switch from the concrete exterior used by the original building's architect, Jung Brannen Associates.

The 41st floor offers a roof deck for tenants. There are six more outdoor spaces throughout the building.

Chaisson said that he hopes this new design will be a model for owners of other older buildings that are trying to find ways to compete with more modern inventory. 

"As the overall inventory of Class-A office product ages, there will be a continued need to modernize in a sustainable manner," Chaisson said. "The adaptive reuse strategy that we employed at OPOS is a realistic path toward maintaining one’s competitiveness in an ever more demanding office environment."

CORRECTION, AUG. 4, 5:30 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Anchor Line's involvement with the building. It is the developer of the renovation project, but a Morgan Stanley affiliate is the building's owner. This story has been updated.