Why tech companies have left the Innovation District for downtown Boston

Boston Business Journal | May 6, 2016

There’s a tech invasion in Boston’s downtown.

In the city’s post-recession economy, more than 2.1 million square feet of professional services, law firms and consultancies have vacated the traditional downtown neighborhood for a spiffier Innovation District address. But at the same time, some 1.8 million square feet of technology, advertising, media and information-based companies — also known as TAMI tenants — have flooded into downtown and the area around North Station.

“This is an invasion,” said Bryan Koop, executive vice president of the Boston region for Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP). “When that kind of shift takes place, it can be catastrophic. ... TAMI has absolutely saved downtown.”

Koop was the moderator at a Business Journal event Thursday titled “Real Estate: A Powerful Discussion.” The event was held at the Ritz-Carlton Boston, with nearly 150 in attendance.

The event panelists were Michael George, CEO of Continuum Managed Services LLC; Paul Deeley, the chief financial officer for Bullhorn; and Danielle Sheer, vice president and general counsel for Carbonite (Nasdaq: CARB). The panelists spoke to the trend highlighted by Koop from experience, given that Continuum, Bullhorn and Carbonite have each recently established offices in Downtown Crossing or the Financial District.

Continuum, a technology company focused on remote monitoring and other services, recently expanded into a 25,000-square-foot office at 99 High St. Bullhorn, a software technology company that helps businesses manage their relationships with customers, last month moved into 77,000-square-foot headquarters at 100 Summer St. And Carbonite (Nasdaq: CARB), a data storage and recovery firm, in October 2014 moved into a 50,000-square-foot office at Lafayette City Center in Downtown Crossing.

In total, some 93 TAMI tenants now occupy space in downtown Boston and the area around North Station, compared to 29 such tenants in the Innovation District, Koop said.

TAMI tenants are attracted to offices with access to public transit, “bargain rent” and large floorplates, Koop said, while the legal and consulting tenants tend to be more car-centric and willing to pay a premium rent for an office with great views.

“You cannot underestimate the impact of migration of companies out of a neighborhood,” Koop said. “The hero in this story for sure is the TAMI tenant.”

Sheer said that Carbonite got “exactly what we wanted” with its move to 2 Avenue de Lafayette, especially with the ability to use the space as a way to recruit top talent. Carbonite had considered an office in the Back Bay, but was driven away by the commercial nature of many of the chain restaurants in the neighborhood, she said.

“The young people that are the lifeblood of Carbonite and so many other tech companies don’t want to go to the Cheesecake Factory — they want to go to the local coffeeshop,” Sheer said. “I really hope that Downtown Crossing doesn’t lose any of its grit anytime soon. That’s a huge part of why we want to be here. We need to make sure landlords understand that if it becomes commercial, I think you’ll see companies like us find another space.”

George said Continuum’s millennial employees “want to come to a destination” rather than a “soulless” office park.

“Space becomes a very important part of the fabric of the company and our culture,” he said.

For its part, Bullhorn has doubled its employee base in the past year and a half, Deeley said.

“We were able to take our brand to the next level” with a move to the Financial District, he said.