Managing a Mixed-Use Icon at 121 Seaport

Cushman & Wakefield was brought on soon after the building’s two office tenants—Alexion Pharmaceuticals and PTC—signed their leases.

For the Cushman & Wakefield Boston Asset Services team, overseeing property management at 121 Seaport, a 17-story, 450,000-square-foot condominium office and retail building in the city’s Seaport District, began before the elliptical tower opened its doors in 2018.

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“It’s very important, particularly from a project management perspective, to get on board with a new project as soon as possible,” said Mary Doyle, managing director of asset services, who oversees the firm’s New England property management portfolio totaling more than 17 million square feet.

Carolyn Desmond, development director at Skanska in Boston, said it is standard for her company to get property management in early, especially with a new trophy property. (Skanska developed the property and recently sold it to for $455 million to a joint venture of American Realty Advisors and Norges Bank Real Estate Management. Cushman & Wakefield has been retained as property manager.)

121 Seaport is occupied by Alexion Parmaceuticals and PTC.

“They really need to learn the building and how the systems work, so when the tenants move in, it is smooth. It’s important for it to be seamless for the tenants,” she said.

Cushman & Wakefield was brought on soon after the building’s two office tenants—Alexion Pharmaceuticals and PTC—inked leases, according to Ryan Quick, director of asset services overseeing the on-site teams for Cushman & Wakefield’s Downtown Boston portfolio. The service company’s first duties were development commissioning and property management consulting.

“They brought us on in October 2017, which gave us about six months of involvement prior to the building opening,” Quick said. “We were able to attend construction meetings at a critical point when the building systems were coming online and being a part of this process was key to a successful building opening.”

Quick said this enabled him and Mitchell Mavroules, regional lead engineer, to build strong relationships with contractors such as Otis Elevators, which provided eight high-speed elevators with destination dispatch technology for reduced travel times, and E.M. Duggan Inc., which installed most of the mechanical works including the HVAC system that features an active chilled beam system for heating and cooling. The chilled beam system significantly reduces energy costs by reducing fan output and energy consumption, allowing for higher ceilings and consistent temperatures. There’s limited duct work and less noise. American Plumbing, with Gustavo Preston as subcontractor, installed another important sustainable feature at the LEED Platinum-certified building—a rain reclamation system for filtering and reusing rainwater for lavatory use.

Desmond mentioned that Skanska—which also built an office and retail building at 101 Seaport, plus a residential and retail tower at Watermark Seaport, and is developing another office and retail property at Two Drydock—has pioneered the use of the chilled beam technology in the Seaport.

Splitting management duties

Cushman & Wakefield is managing the 400,000-square-foot office condominium component. The office space is built atop a two-story, 50,000-square-foot retail podium owned and managed by WS Development, the lead developer in the Seaport District that also owns and operates all the retail portions of the properties. The retail space has not opened yet.

“We are seeking a wide range of shops, services and restaurants, each thoughtfully chosen for what will best serve and best energize the neighborhood. Childcare is on this list; Kindercare, an award-winning childcare provider, will open spring 2019,” said Yanni Tsipis, senior vice president, WS Development Seaport. “Each brand has to bring something truly unique to the neighborhood and contribute to the larger vision.”

First-to-market brands in the Seaport District include theater ShowPlace ICON, Fuku, a fast-casual restaurant from celebrity chef David Chang, and retailers Outdoor Voices and Filson. 

Asked about dining options for the glass-clad 121 Seaport, Tsipis said, “Expect to see a diverse offering, with emphasis on locally owned restaurants.”

Cushman & Wakefield’s property management team oversees shared mechanical equipment, security for the entire building and the three-level underground garage, and common areas such as a tenant-only fitness center.  

Doyle said that there can be challenges with managing office condominium buildings with multiple ownership parcels, and the property management team must act as a liaison between the owners. She noted that the chosen team had experience with condo structures and new buildings. Quick, for example, managed similar properties while working in Washington, D.C.

Desmond pointed out that there was added complexity in managing the building while 250,000 square feet of office space was still being fit out by its contractor.

“We don’t want the tenants to feel they’re in a construction zone. We want it to feel like a finished building,” she said.

Getting ready for tenants

View of Harbor Way, a 70-foot-wide, 20,000-square-foot promenade outside 121 Seaport in Boston. A walking museum of the Seaport district’s history includes a piece of a shipwreck discovered during construction.

Skanska signed the building’s two office tenants by September 2017—Alexion, which took 150,000 square feet on floors three through eight, and PTC, a global provider and market leader in IoT and AR technologies, is leasing the other 250,000 square feet. Alexion began relocating its headquarters and about 400 people from New Haven, Conn., last June and completed the move during the summer. PTC is moving its global headquarters and approximately 1,000 employees from suburban Needham, Mass., to 121 Seaport starting in January.

Doyle and Quick said their on-site property management staff of five—which includes the general manager, assistant property manager and tenant experience coordinator (concierge)—were able to start preparing for the tenants ahead of the move-in dates.

“We’ve spent a lot of time developing a tenant welcome package with building specifications and information, and including a snapshot overview of the neighborhood too,” Quick said. “It also includes a robust section on transportation.”

The team had local transportation representatives in the lobby answering questions and helping tenants sign up for transit cards. They noted this information is particularly important because the tenants are coming from markets outside Boston.

Doyle said their tenant experience coordinator had already been busy planning events such as pop-up retail options for holiday gift giving. The coordinator also offers hotel-style concierge assistance including booking travel for tenants and making dining reservations.

“One of my favorites was she recently coordinated a bridal shower,” Doyle shared.

“We’re partnering with the office managers or facilities groups with both tenants to see what types of events they would like to see,” Quick added.

Desmond noted that the concierge service was a new concept for Skanska that was pitched to them by Cushman & Wakefield.

“I think it will be the trend going forward,” she said. “We want to continue further advancing the hospitality feel and customer service.” 

The lobby at 121 Seaport with front desk and names of the two office tenants on the wall.

Doyle and Quick said that the Cushman & Wakefield team goes a step further by trying to help tenants with other chores that normally take up free time, including dry cleaning and manicures. At other properties, they’ve offered eye exams and brought in representatives from the Transportation Security Administration to help enroll tenants in TSA’s Pre-Check program.

Security at 121 Seaport has things covered 24/7, particularly in the 275-spot garage and the lobby, where store and restaurant patrons will walk through to get to their vehicles in the below-grade parking. For office tenants and visitors, Quick said, “there is a very substantial card-access system” as well as CCTV for the building. Each tenant also has additional screening processes in place.

Tsipis said it would not be challenging for the retail tenants or their visitors to deal with common garage and security provisions.

“It is commonplace in the Seaport for a high density of retail spaces to share buildings with other uses, such as office and residential. Rather than a challenge, it’s been a real benefit to the retailers and restaurants that have spaces in these kinds of buildings because they are already a daily destination for many people,” Tsipis said.

Images courtesy of Skanska

Read the CPE-MHN Guide to 2019.