Why Massachusetts’s business leaders want walkable downtowns

June 18, 2015

Attracting talent, fostering creativity, and building brand among factors outined in new national survey

Hundreds of American companies, including dozens in Massachusetts, see unique competitive advantages to being located in a walkable downtown neighborhood. These locations are helping companies attract and retain talented workers, build their brand and corporate identity, support creative collaboration, be closer to partners, consolidate operations, and support triple-bottom line business outcomes.

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is a new report out today from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. The report surveys nearly 500 companies, including 43 in Massachusetts, that have moved to or expanded in walkable downtowns over the past five years, as well as interviews with 45 senior-level staff at those companies. The report sheds light on why these companies chose a walkable downtown and what they looked for when making their decision. 

“These companies chose a walkable downtown location to help them better compete for talent and resources,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “That tells us two things. First, that creating these kinds of places is a crucial economic development strategy for cities. And second, that companies which haven’t considered a walkable location may be at risk of falling behind.”

In addition to explaining the reasons why they moved downtown, company leaders also outlined what they looked for when choosing a new location. Many interviewees said they wanted their offices to be close to restaurants, shops, and entertainment options, and accessible by a variety of transportation options. Great office space was another important factor. A warm welcome on the part of the city, and a clean and safe environment were also influential factors when deciding where to move.

The 43 companies surveyed from Massachusetts include Biogen, whose move to Kendall Square in Cambridge from Weston is the focus of the report’s opening. These Massachusetts companies are just some of the many companies nationwide that have moved to walkable downtowns in the state in recent years. 

“It’s clear from this report that businesses are reaping the benefits of moving to more walkable and bikeable areas,” said Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “Massachusetts and municipalities should take note and work to make their communities more walkable and bikeable as a way to generate economic development.”

“This report is right to point to a number of Kendall Square companies as examples of how moving to walkable downtown areas makes great business sense,” said Alexandra Lee, Executive Director of the Kendall Square Association. “Companies and organizations in my neighborhood understand that top talent are increasingly taking neighborhood and transit options into account when deciding between jobs.”

“It used to be that workers followed the jobs, but this report shows that businesses are now following the workers and where they want to live,” said Andre Leroux, executive director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. “Cities and towns that become more walkable and cultivate a strong sense of place will have a competitive advantage.”

The full report, along with a full list of companies included in this survey and an interactive map showing where they moved, is available on Smart Growth America’s website at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/core-values

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Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring better development to more communities nationwide. From providing more sidewalks to ensuring more homes are built near public transportation or that productive farms remain a part of our communities, smart growth helps make sure people across the nation can live in great neighborhoods. Learn more at www.smartgrowthamerica.org.

Transportation for Massachusetts is a diverse coalition of organizations working together to create safe, convenient, and affordable transportation for everyone. We advocate for transportation funds to be spent fairly and responsibly, for transportation decisions that are transparent and accountable, and to ensure that our transportation network has sufficient resources to meet tomorrow’s needs all throughout the commonwealth. Learn more at www.t4ma.org

Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance comprises nine statewide organizations working to create a Commonwealth filled with walkable, welcoming and vibrant communities where residents help shape their future and have access to good jobs, homes, and a healthy environment. For more information, visit http://ma-smartgrowth.org.


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