Why the suburbs aren’t dead

BOSTON EMERGING MARKETS Pioneers, Suburbanites and the New Neighborhoods

Credit: @rebeccabachand / Twitter

Three takeaways from Bisnow’s Boston Emerging Markets Panel

Contrary to some opinions, the suburbs are not dead – especially not in the Greater Boston market. In fact, in any other major metropolitan area in the U.S., the inner suburbs of the region (inside of Route 128) would actually be inside the city limits and be considered part of the urban core. This area is actually uniquely positioned to offer the best of both worlds to growing companies, not only based on location but for what our inner suburbs can offer in its own right. In fact, the Rt. 128 inner suburbs are some of the hottest emerging markets, particularly for the booming technology industry and companies conducting research and development in Massachusetts.

In order to explore what’s really happening in the suburbs and what this means for real estate in Greater Boston, I recently spoke alongside other leading developers at the Bisnow panel “Boston’s Emerging Markets: Pioneers, Suburbanites and the New Neighborhoods.

Here are my three takeaways from the conversation:

The way we work has evolved.

Today’s tenants are looking for space that meets new needs. Where older office parks were built for employees driving to work and driving directly back home, the workplace and what employees expect from their work environment has evolved. It’s not just a millennial thing – people of all generations work more flexible hours and need space for collaboration as they work more creatively and digitally. In order to recruit the best candidates and retain talent, employers are also interested in leasing space in an amenity-rich environment that blends lifestyle with work. That means having an office park evolve to a place that is more dynamic, dense and walkable, a place that also has restaurants, entertainment, retail, perhaps even housing or hotels. This type of design is increasingly used as a recruiting and marketing tool for tenants looking to define and enhance their brand.

The traditional office park is a dinosaur.

Since our working style has evolved, suburbs provide the ideal backdrop for an office with plenty of space for collaboration inside and out – think of it as the “new suburbs.” Areas for collaboration can be distributed throughout the park to encourage interaction between companies, which is especially attractive to tech or R&D tenants. The workplace environment that the modern suburban office park affords can foster collaboration: Consider how ditching the cubicle and chatting with a colleague as you stroll along a walking trail or meet as a group outside by a fire pit can inspire new, innovative ideas.

Embracing amenities and wellness is a win-win for tenants and developers.

The inner suburbs of Greater Boston take what’s most appealing about the urban core while capitalizing on the inherent qualities of the area. We are densifying our office parks — creating multi-use environments that are programmatically rich and that complement the flexible, state-of-the-art buildings. This meets the needs of both property owners and tenants alike. Programming is increasingly focused on wellness – beyond the standard gym or fitness class offering. Developers can also support workplace wellness by offering custom vendors and programs, and focusing on sustainably-designed buildings with more fresh air, daylight, healthy food offerings and outside working areas.

At the end of the day, developers and property owners in the inner suburbs of Greater Boston are in a position to create a workplace environment for tenants that meets their evolving needs, celebrating the best of urban-style amenities and helping tenants attract and retain talent. Let’s put the rumors to rest: the suburbs aren’t dead, they’re one of the hottest markets in Boston.