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Tuesday
Mar292016

Corporate Campuses of the Future: Organizations Embrace the Urban Ethos 

Partners HealthCare is planning to locate a new corporate campus in Boston's Assembly Row neighborhood. Image © Gensler

With more large-scale corporate organizations thinking strategically about their futures, there’s been a growing recognition that workplaces need to provide all the things current and future employees both want and need. The generation of workers now on the cusp of retirement has always been accustomed to working at a single company for decades, if not for an entire career. Many of these workers also moved their families from the urban cores of larger cities to the suburbs, where the companies that employed them built sprawling corporate campuses to attract the new suburban class. That trend has reversed itself; today, from California to Cambridge, a new class of urbane workers is seeking a city-centric existence.

Instead of embracing the traditional and siloed nature of suburbia, with distinct settings for work, play and facets of everyday life clearly delineated from one another, employees now want a connected work environment that offers proximity to a host of amenities, easy walkability and choices for where to eat, live, and spend leisure time. Employees seek a work/life integration predicated on the ability to seamlessly move between the spheres of their lives.

So what does all this mean for corporations as they plan and deploy work settings for the changing expectations and needs of the workforce? The corporate campuses of tomorrow—the urban and the suburban ones—will have to be thoughtfully co-located within mixed-use, transit-oriented developments. Millennials are the driving force behind this shift: more than 60 percent of this increasingly meaningful demographic prefer mixed-used communities, with retail, dining and offices intermingled for easy access at all hours, to car dependent suburbs.

Here in greater Boston, Partners HealthCare has set its sights on optimizing organizational performance and giving workers the choices they crave. With 4,500 members of its administrative staff spread across more than 15 locations, a consolidated corporate campus is the means they’re using to meet this desired end. With a host of work settings, workplace neighborhoods, and community hubs to drive engagement, Partners anticipates that locating a new corporate campus within a forward-thinking setting will drive performance and keep workers happy, top priorities for a healthcare company dealing with a landscape that continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Partners HealthCare's planned corporate campus in Assembly Row. Image © Gensler

Partners HealthCare recently selected Assembly Row, in Somerville for its planned 1.1 million square foot campus. Just steps from the first new stop on Boston’s subway line in 27 years and adjacent to retail, restaurants and entertainment, their new home to more than 4,000 employees will provide immediate access to urban amenities, walking trails and more. The result of a federal-state-private partnership, Assembly Row is a dynamic transit-oriented development (TOD) and stands as a harbinger for the future of the corporate campus. More partnerships, both public-private and private-private, will fuel investment in similar developments. This will result in more places like Assembly Row: a thriving neighborhood that is abuzz seven days a week with a built-in customer base during the week.

Tysons Corner, Va., is a prime example of a formerly car-centric suburb reinventing itself as a walkable, transit-oriented-development destination. Image © Prakash Patel

Another TOD, Tyson’s Corner, in Tyson, VA provides a glimpse of what can happen when the urban fringe meets the suburban edge. This formerly car saturated suburb of Washington, D.C. is in the midst of a dramatic transformation. Four new subway stops now connect Tysons to D.C.—future stops will connect the area to Dulles International Airport—and there have been a host of high-rise development projects, including office buildings designed with the flexibility corporate clients expect. Housing, restaurants and shopping thoughtfully intermingle with these new office towers, providing the best facets of the urban experience. This has effectively transformed Tysons Corner into a vibrant, walkable TOD community.

As organizations think strategically about location, actively choosing a mixed-use approach for a corporate campus has morphed from a “would be nice someday” consideration to a productivity driver and a talent development and retention imperative. Dynamic developments, whether urban or suburban, attract the best talent by leveraging robust, lively neighborhoods, transit resources and amenities. They further expand connectivity, relationships and, most importantly, allow for the increased work-life balance that has emerged as integral to employees today.

Arlyn Vogelman
Arlyn co-leads Gensler’s Corporate Campus Practice. Her expertise is advising major corporations on the evolving role of the work environment within the campus and its ability to enhance business performance and support organizational culture. Contact her at arlyn_vogelmann@gensler.com.

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