Northwest Park, originally built in the 1960s, is in the midst of a major renovation. In fact, one-quarter of the 42 office buildings have or will soon be demolished to make way for Nordblom’s vision of a one-of-a-kind office park in New England that will offer amenities most desirable to innovation companies. Todd Freemont-Smith, senior vice president of development, spoke with the Burlington Union about the re-development project.
Nordblom is making a huge investment in Burlington. What is the thinking behind that?
We are very bullish about Burlington. We believe it is the capitol city of the Route 128. Currently it is the highest-function, mixed-use community along this highway corridor.
Also, since Burlington’s momentum is on the upswing, this is the time to invest in creative re-development.
Why is Burlington an attractive location for a high tech company?
Technological innovation is a hallmark of this region, dating back to the 1950s. The routes 2 and 3 intersections with Route. 128 are significant. Route 2 leads from Cambridge, and of course MIT and Harvard. The Route 3 corridor has included several technology companies over the years, such as Wang, Digital Equipment Corporation, MITRE, and Smith & Nephew. Some of these companies no longer exist, and Lowell is not viewed as the technological and industrial center it once was. Currently, the Route 2 corridor seems to be more important to innovation, start-up companies, and job creation.
Northwest Park will have a strong retail and restaurant component on Third Avenue. Why is this important?
Many of the companies that will locate here will be relocating from urban centers such as Boston and Cambridge where these amenities are in walking distance. With Third Avenue, we’re creating the urban energy feel that these employees are accustomed to. Every human resources professional knows how disruptive it is to move employees from one office location to another; and it is important for us to offer this energy-giving environment that will allow companies to hire and retain the best people.
We already have five tenants that are medical device companies at Northwest Park and Dyax, a life science company, has recently located here from Cambridge.
We’ll also offer a state-of-the-art daycare center and we have MBTA bus stops that back and forth between Northwest Park and the Alewife subway station.
Also, Third Avenue will become an entertainment and shopping destination for area residents and business communities.
In terms of competition, which communities does Nordblom compete with most?
Definitely Waltham. It doesn’t have all the amenities that Burlington offers (such as the Burlington Mall and Lahey Clinic) but it does have easy access from both Route 128 and the Mass. Pike. Although, I would say that Waltham has a stronger presence in the venture capital and financial industries versus the high tech industry.
Other than the migration from Boston and Cambridge, what other types of patterns do you see in corporate tenants that are interested in having an office at Northwest Park?
We don’t see that much in terms of international companies looking to locate here, although one of our tenants is based in France. More typically, we meet with West Coast companies that are looking to establish an East Coast presence.
How is the project going so far?
It’s going well. We’ve demolished five buildings to build the new Wegmans, which offers a unique retail experience and will be one of the largest grocery stores in New England. It will be the anchor store on Third Avenue and will open next spring.