Weaving its way through the western suburbs of Boston, the Route 128 corridor serves some of the region's most innovative communities. including Dedham, Needham, Wellesley, Newton, Lexington and Burlington.
Once dubbed "America's Technology Highway," the 15-mile beltway is undergoing another economic boom. Renovations are common, and a rush of new construction projects has broken ground, prompting companies to grab up more than 1.5 million square feet of office space in the last year. Developers are also working on five new buildings that offer a combined 1 million square feet of leasable office space, which has attracted such big-name companies as TripAdvisor and Vistaprint.
Although inventory is dropping and rents are increasing, there is still ample space available at great price points. Needham, Waltham and Burlington are receiving the most attention from startup tech firms, research facilities and growing established companies that need space at rates that come in at nearly half the price as those being charged just a few miles away in Kendall Square and the Seaport District.A Rich History of Innovation
The western suburbs have a rich history of entrepreneurship that dates back to when the first villages were established in the mid to late-1600s. The earliest railroad lines, streetcar lines and roadways extended from Boston to the farming communities, spurring the development of thriving towns.
The outlying communities along Route 128 flourished in the post-WWII economy as the "Yankee Highway" expanded to meet the demands of commuters traveling to their jobs in military-industrial firms. Rapid urbanization ensued as each phase of the highway was completed, attracting companies that needed low-priced land and room to expand while remaining close to nearby research facilities at the region's universities.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Route 128 beltway blossomed into the hub for the high-technology industry. Fueled by the innovative ideas pouring out of Harvard University and MIT, dozens of groundbreaking businesses established their roots along Route 128. These giants, which included GTE, IBM, Polaroid, Sun Microsystems and Honeywell Information Systems, took up residence in the nation's first modern industrial parks. These landscaped campuses with low-rise buildings and spacious parking lots served as the workspace for thousands of innovative engineers and computer scientists.
With a shifting of focus in the computer industry to California's Silicon Valley causing many companies to fold combined with overbuilding, For Lease signs became a common sight along Route 128. Although the high-tech corridor is no longer the economic engine it once was, the businesses located along the Boston bypass continue to serve as pioneers in the computer software, biotechnology and fiber optics industries.The Modern Face of Office Space Along Route 128
The revitalization of the sprawling industrial parks largely developed in the 1950s is underway along Route 128. The modern workspaces are vibrant and fresh, offering employees the space to innovate. TripAdvisor's new headquarters will feature on-site workout facilities, free lunches in the cafeteria, ping-pong tables in the break room and walking trails around a pond.
The flurry of activity has even prompted the state government to look at widening lanes and adding new ramps to Route 128. Boston Properties carries an extensive inventory of commercial properties that offer opulent work spaces, spacious warehouses and modern laboratories, particularly in these three developing districts:Needham
The shining new development of this historic city is Needham Crossing, the future home of TripAdvisor, but other world-class companies have their eye on the "next Kendall Square" as well. Recent rezoning laws now allow taller complexes with denser parking lots, which the city hopes businesses will find attractive. Most companies are centered in the Chestnut Street Business District and the Highland Avenue Business District as well as The Center Business District in downtown. All of the office parks are serviced by two train stations.Waltham
Several Fortune 500 companies are among the more than 1,500 firms that have settled in Waltham, a booming community that played a central role in launching both the labor movement and the American Industrial Revolution. Known as a center for research and higher education, most of the city's activities are located on Moody St. and Main St. where large-scale shopping centers and housing developments are under construction. Adding to the already available 10.7 million square feet of office space, the new CityPoint office complex sits on 25 acres.Burlington
The expanding commercial growth of this small city 20 minutes outside of Boston includes new construction at Burlington Mall and Wayside Commons, attracting some of the nation's largest retailers. New technology and research and development companies have taken up residence in spacious buildings along Cambridge St. and Winn St.