December 17, 2020
While Cambridge has made a name for itself as an international biotech hub, more and more companies are choosing to move out of the city and establish their companies in suburban areas. Relocating out of the city to areas where land is more affordable and available allows companies the opportunity to build and/or renovate facilities to meet current and future needs. However, there are additional considerations and hurdles companies face when moving away from established infrastructures.
Depending on the scale of the company’s requirements and resulting building or campus size, firms may have to invest in an extensive renovation and/or build-out. While cities like Boston and Cambridge give companies access to pre-existing amenities, these offerings may not be as readily available in a relatively newer developed location. Site selection becomes a paramount consideration with regards to the availability of specific power demands, adequate uninterrupted water supply including sprinkler main connections, gas connection, waste disposal and pretreatment, if required, and the potential backup storage of compressed gasses to insure an unbroken supply chain. In addition, employee amenities such as transportation, vendor services, and health facilities will oftentimes need to be included in building/campus planning.
While this may seem like an expensive endeavor, ultimately the up-front costs should pay for themselves. A common goal of company leadership is to eradicate the need for employees to travel extensively throughout the workday by offering onsite amenities. Having these onsite perks allows employees easy access and a quicker return to business obligations, while still maintaining a more balanced lifestyle. Furthermore, thoughtfully designed amenities can also work as an effective marketing tool to hire top biotech talent in a competitive landscape.
Some example amenities include:
- Health Facilities
- Full-Service Cafés
- Coffee/Water Stations
- Wellness Rooms & Recharge Areas
- Conference/Collaboration Spaces
- Privacy Booths
- All Hands/Networking/Event Spaces (can be a multi-function space, like lobby or café)
- Employee Hang Out/Game Areas
- Outdoor Space
- Convenient Parking
- Public Transit Access
While office amenities are an important aspect of developing work culture, no company in our current climate can ignore the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our work habits. With an increasing number of employees working from home, and the proliferation of remote digital tools, the standard office order has undergone significant upheaval. While everyone is optimistic that the end to the current pandemic is now within sight, one of the lessons from the sudden and rapid spread of COVID-19 is that another such contagion might be possible to appear again in the future. If more robust space allocation becomes the new norm, it could be argued that the impact of additional space requirements per individual employee because of social distancing guidance might be another justification for relocation to properties where lease and rental rates are less expensive. Additionally, employers must consider design options which allow both in-person and virtual participation, from all-hands meetings to casual collaboration areas.
Ultimately, suburban commercial buildings and campuses can offer an extensive opportunity for growing companies, even in the face of unique company needs. Amenities and offerings can not only benefit the overall culture and lifestyle of a firm but become anchors in a community by encouraging the local economy and housing market. The availability of property large enough for campuses that might contain all aspects of a Life Sciences facility (raw materials storage, research and development, pilot plants, manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and shipping) are more readily available and affordable away from the cities. The movement for some biotech companies to establish themselves or relocate outside Boston and Cambridge is not going away anytime soon, spreading into neighboring suburbs and, possibly in the future, further from the city.