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These 3 Tenants Are Kicking Off A Waltham Build-To-Suit Surge

Boston Office

A trio of sizable office tenant needs is sparking a new wave in demand for build-to-suit projects in Waltham following several 2016 headquarters openings.


Pharmaceutical companies Tesaro and Alkermes and engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger are each in the market for more than 100K SF of office space in Waltham. The inability to accommodate these companies in their existing buildings is expected to spark a wave of build-to-suit development.

“To me, this is Waltham cementing itself as the premier suburban submarket,” Colliers International Director of Research Aaron Jodka said. 

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger came close to leaving Route 128. The company was previously interested in taking space at Boston Landing, according to NAI Hunneman Director of Research Liz Berthelette. Bose announced in November it was signing a lease for 98K SF at 80 Guest St., and SGH was back on the office market. It will instead be the 110K SF anchor tenant at Boston Properties’ 200K SF 20 City Point in Waltham, Jodka said. 

Tesaro is in the market for 300K SF to 400K SF. The company leases approximately 150K SF at its 1000 Winter St. headquarters, according to an August Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Space limitations at the 273K SF Boston Properties building mean the drug manufacturer is looking at options elsewhere. 

Dublin-based Alkermes is in the market for 250K SF in Waltham. The company leases nearly 131K SF for its current research and development facility, according to an October SEC filing, but Jodka said the company’s total profile in the submarket is closer to 220K SF after a recent lease for temporary space. 


Auto tech company ClearMotion is also intending to relocate from Woburn into 80K SF in Waltham, Berthelette said. 

Although the vacancy rate in Waltham is 15%, Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman John Boyle said there is a limited supply of large blocks of space. Speculative office space is limited to places like Anchor Line Partners’ Post development. While these tenants have toured available space, build-to-suit is the development path they are expected to take.

“They are turning over every rock,” Jodka said. “But we’ve heard they’re in the market for build-to-suit.”

New development also offers modern amenities, which are touted as a key tool in landing tenants.

“Build-to-suit is kicking off because of the lack of availability of large blocks of space along Route 128 that can provide companies with a modern layout,” National Development Senior Vice President and Director of Asset Management Andrew Gallinaro said. “It provides visibility and creates a dynamic workplace culture.”

It also prevents that culture from ditching the suburbs and heading into the city.

Clarks Americas' Waltham headquarters

“I think the war for talent is a major driver of interest in build-to-suit activity. The competition for talent is high given our tight labor market,” Berthelette said. “These new developments help achieve an ecosystem that you tend to find naturally in Boston’s urban markets and allows tenants to expand their footprint in an efficient way.”

SGH, Tesaro and Alkermes, with their combined office demand of at least 600K SF, would revive a trend that was believed to have cooled. Waltham had a strong 2016 with the opening of Wolverine Worldwide’s 245K SF regional headquarters at 500 Totten Pond Road, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s 286K SF global headquarters at 168 Third Ave. and Clarks Americas’ 120K SF at 60 Tower Road.

Waltham’s proximity to pricy, space-constrained Boston and Cambridge as well as its favorable pricing has several developers pushing the suburb as the cost relief tenants could be looking for. 

“The key component for the Wolverine build-to-suit, the Clarks build-to-suit and the Thermo build-to-suit is obviously the convenient location of I-95 with the intersection of the Mass Pike," Boyle said. “Because of that location, which is only eight miles west of Boston, big companies find that that’s probably the most convenient location to retain and recruit talent.”

Asking rents are in the mid-$40s/SF at Post and in the high-$30s/SF at Hilco Real Estate’s the Gauge, some of Waltham’s newest developments, Berthelette said. New construction rents in downtown Boston are often in the $60/SF range.  

“After the new spaces delivered, there were former homes of these companies that needed to be back-filled,” Jodka said. “That caused the market to recalibrate, and we’re back to a point where build-to-suit activity is picking up again. It looks like a promising 2018 from a construction standpoint.”