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Five Suburbs That Are Importing Boston's Urban Living

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Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends and people you would not otherwise notice. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, CONTEXT 2015: 14 Hub Condo Markets



The 13th annual bus tour of the Hub sponsored by commercial real estate association NAIOP happened this week and focused on suburban properties that were being re-imagined and re-purposed. Recently, there has been a lot of hubbub about how everyone wants to live and work and play in the city, but as the bus convoy may have changed city-centric minds about the desirability and the quality of suburban properties.

Robert Byrne, a senior vice president at Transwestern and the event chair, told me, "Labor has never been so important in the real estate process and the modern tenant desires more than the traditional corporate office campus." To recruit and retain talent in today's market, commercial tenants want amenities and the amenities they want in the suburbs may sound a bit familiar: Exciting buildings, incredible views, mass transit options, and nearby restaurants and retail. Urban lifestyles are apparently being exported to suburban destinations.

The tour started in Westwood, where the commuter rail at University Station makes it a breeze to go to either Boston or New York City. Additionally, a brand-new nearby outdoor mall features many shops as well as the soon-to-open Life Time Fitness, a 128,000-square-foot building where you can run, swim, do yoga, cycle, or shoot hoops 24/7. Is it any wonder that a nearby office building, which had been vacant for years, recently secured a significant new lease?

Next stop, TripAdvisor in Needham, a fantastic new building just off Route 128 that will have regular bus service to several T stations. The tour then hit The Xchange in Bedford, a newly imagined old business park and home of iRobot. The buses rolled passed 1265 Main, the former Polaroid building, whose only wall seems to be an enormous banner touting its equally enormous recent lease to the famous shoe company Clarks.

Bus wheels finally came to a stop at Burlington's District, the new name for the newly imagined New England Executive Park. Attendees ate food from the Tuscan Kitchen and perhaps noted that Burlington has become a place where you can find Cambridge's Border Café, Back Bay's Kings Bowling and Entertainment, and in the not-too-distant future, Kenmore's Island Creek Oyster Bar. In this era where good food plus good shops equals great corporate tenants and an outstanding workforce, should it come as any surprise that Burlington, which has the most retail and restaurants, appears to be also leading the suburban field in commercial rents?

Since 2010, according to the tour, companies have leased, 6.4 million square feet along Route 128. So if you can't find the home you want in the city, but you can get some city in your suburb, why not consider working and living in a community like Waltham, where the median single-family home went for $453K during the last three months, or Bedford, a town where folks on average pay $600K for a home and Boston Magazine ranks the high school 18th, or Needham which isn't cheap, but where you certainly get more living space for the money than Boston?
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]