Downtown Crossing Office Spaces, Meet Chic Design

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Posted July 9, 2013 by Sarah Stanley in Urban Living
Downtown Crossing

Read the news lately? The Innovation District is coming along at lightning speed. What was once characterized by shipping is now a hotbed of chic design, boasting sleek new office spaces targeted at the Googles and Microsofts of the world (and they’re moving in by the building-full).

Well, Downtown Crossing has taken note, and the area’s now working in overdrive to become an equally formidable contender in Boston’s office space game. How? By strategically updating (or, in many cases, gutting) its older, preexisting buildings to meet—then exceed—the aesthetic expectations that have come to define today’s sleek, modern workplace.

If anyone’s been sitting front row to this transformation, it’s Christopher Peabody, president of Peabody Office, one of New England’s oldest furniture dealers. The group, located at the corner of Congress and Purchase Streets, works with architects, designers, landlords, brokers, and corporate end users to develop office space solutions. Step by step, Mr. Peabody walked me through Downtown Crossing’s burgeoning workplace movement.

Downtown Crossing

The intersection of Winter and Washington Streets. Photo Credit: Sarah Stanley

Change, he explains, starts with building lobbies. Think about it: If the lobby is where prospective occupants (or, further down the road, an occupant’s clients) form their first impression of an overall space, naturally it should be stunning. The tricky part, though, is striking a balance between conservative and contemporary. As a more established section of the city, Downtown Crossing still caters to older, more traditional firms. Appealing to those occupants—while still satisfying the younger companies’ future-forward expectations—is a challenge that design experts like Peabody Office are tasked with solving.

Then there are the office spaces. With real estate prices on the rise, companies are forced to better utilize the square footage they have. Because of this, work stations are scaling down. According to Mr. Peabody, the average work station used to measure about 8′ x 8′. Now the norm is closer to 6′ x 6′. Panels (or walls) have lowered as well. Once standing about 65″, panels are now typically 42″ to 50″ in height. Many younger, more progressive companies are also transitioning to benching—long narrow tables, at which employees sit side by side. Not only do these setups save space, but they promote a more collaborative vibe.

As for trends dictated less by function and more by aesthetics, an overall “unfinished” look is very popular among newer spaces. The opposite of formal, this motif typically includes exposed brick, natural beams, and uncovered ceilings—perfect for companies that prize an open, more casual work environment.

Development boom aside, Downtown Crossing already has plenty to brag about. Its location is central, not to mention supremely accessible. And all those highly acclaimed restaurants (ahem, KO Prime)? They’re ideal for client lunching. Yes, the makings of a business hub are already in place, rendering the area that much more attractive to potential occupants.

Twenty years from now, who knows? Maybe the Innovation District will be the one struggling to keep up with Downtown Crossing’s handle on sleek, chic design.

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