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Way More Than Free Lunch: Boston’s Office Amenities Go Next Level

Boston Office

From covert spots for a cocktail to plug-and-play connectivity, office amenities in Boston are catering to higher standards, as developers and companies take into account an increasingly millennial workforce.

Anchor Line Partners Managing Partner Andrew Maher demonstrates who the millennial employee is in comparison to Equity Office Senior Vice President John Conley.

“There’s a lot of talk about talent. There are two types out there, and one is millennial talent fresh out of school,” Anchor Line Partners Managing Partner Andrew Maher said at Bisnow’s Boston State of Office event earlier this month. “You have to have an amenity package to get them.”

When open source software company Red Hat decided to open a 40K SF executive briefing center and innovation and engineering lab in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, its leaders knew it would be attracting a different type of workforce than those employed at its 175K SF suburban office in Westford, Massachusetts. The company heavily recruits from Boston’s numerous college campuses, so it realized it must woo potential employees with more than a regular salary and benefits. 

“Human resources is so involved in space design,” Red Hat Senior Consulting Engineer Jan Mark Holzer said. “Now your space is part of the benefit package.” 

Red Hat’s Boston office has a speak-easy managed by the same team behind Drink, an acclaimed bar nearby on Congress Street. While an in-house cocktail lounge might seem extreme, developers say Boston is a market with particularly high standards.

“It’s not just checking the box,” Morgan Stanley Executive Director Jennie Friend said. “You have to have the best gym that competes with Equinox, a cafeteria that is a place where people genuinely want to go and not just to avoid the rain or the cold in foul weather. That’s what distinguishes Boston, as the expectations here are really high.”

Morgan Stanley Executive Director Jennie Friend

Expectations on when a space should be available for move-in are equally demanding.

The technology industry has disrupted the office market, drastically compressing the time from an initial site tour to move-in. It was a four-year process getting shoe company Clarks Americas into its new Waltham headquarters, Equity Office Senior Vice President John Conley said. Tech tenants with space demands for as much as 50K SF now expect to move into offices as little as three months after first visiting.

“In Boston, we never offered turnkey services, but we do now,” John Hancock Financial Services Director of Facilities Marc Surprenant said. 

There is less focus on custom offices, as lease terms are shorter and space agility is achieved through flexible, inexpensive means. Developers are instead emphasizing food, fitness and beverage programs to lure tenants that are increasingly refined with their amenity palate. 

“What makes a successful hospitality and residential amenity now works in office,” Stantec principal Steve Basque said. “It’s always food and beverage that seem very tailored to the audience.”

Morgan Stanley Executive Director Jennie Friend and Rubenstein Partners Regional Director of New England Deke Schultze

Dining options might be easy enough on the lower levels of an office tower in the urban core, but getting preferred amenities in suburban locations has meant developers also embracing housing as an amenity around their projects. 

“The amenity game goes times 10 in the suburbs. You have to be the destination, as you don’t always have that vibrancy right outside your door,” Rubenstein Partners New England Director Deke Schultze said. “Residential is a huge driver for mixed-use development.”

With tenants getting priced out of areas like the Seaport, they still look for new locations with a similar level of activity. Schultze pointed to his company’s 500K SF CenterPoint development in Waltham as the model.  

Originally a research and development facility, CenterPoint has evolved into what the company calls “creative class” office space, with retail within walking distance. He attributes the build-out of thousands of residential units near the project as a vital component in the transformation, and others agree.

“Housing allows you to bring in better retailers because you can service office tenants during the day and residents at night,” Conley said. “It’s very important, because it’s part of the ecosystem and creates better energy.”