2 min read November 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Managing Director of Avison Young – Boston, Tom Collins, reflected on the growth he has seen since arriving in Boston as well as the lingering impacts of the challenges from the last few years. He also shared how his organization is anticipating changes and adapting to new client needs.
How has the New England branch of Avison Young grown over the last few years?
Since we opened in Boston 11 years ago, the local Avison Young team experienced steady growth. Along the way we’ve enjoyed some major milestones, acquiring strategic individuals and brokerage teams, building our project and construction management teams and our real estate management services group. These people and teams have helped us to be competitive here in Boston and put us on the map. I’m encouraged by the trajectory that we have established and look forward to our continued growth.
What areas of growth are you currently focusing on?
Boston is the leading life sciences market in the world, certainly in the United States, and the development of both new lab facilities and the conversions of existing assets to lab use for the life science and pharma industries has been very intense over the last decade. In an effort to provide integrated solutions for Occupiers and Investors in the Life Science/Pharma space, Avison Young’s Boston office has been engaged in representing Life Science tenants, has provided technical support through our Project Management and Construction management services group and helped Investor/Developers access debt and equity for the development of both new and converted lab projects through our Capital Markets Group. In 2023, we’re expecting to see these service lines grow significantly from where we were in 2020, which is very exciting.
How has the market changed since the pandemic?
My sense of the market from the office standpoint is that we are still in recovery mode – according to Avison Young’s data, around 48% of people are back to the office across the country as compared to the week before the pandemic. Even though some companies are still experiencing some degree of uncertainty, we are beginning to see a new trend emerging. As many companies move forward, they may be looking at somewhat smaller footprints, but they are making longer-term commitments, in some cases from five to ten-year terms. That is very good for market stability.
Boston has weathered COVID well, in no small part due to the robust life sciences market. We have a current overall office vacancy rate just north of 12% (as of Oct. 2022) which would be much higher if it were not for life science lab users. Office-to-lab conversions have been a key development in helping the market maintain a relatively healthy vacancy rate, at least by Boston standards.
How do you attract new employees?
Avison Young is at the forefront of commercial real estate. We value creating jobs with purpose, passion, and partnership. The way we work has evolved and we strive to maintain a very flexible approach when it comes to our employees’ work style. Our team can structure their 40 hours a week around what their individual needs are.
We don’t take corporate culture for granted. Before and throughout the pandemic we have been shaping and reshaping what it means to be a better place to work. We combine great space, a flexible hybrid work model and work to provide all the resources our professionals need to be successful. Companies get the culture that they model and support. At Avison Young we are all about teamwork, collaboration, cooperation and respect and dignity. We work together, we serve the community together and we enjoy socializing together. A team isn’t just a group of people who work together, but a group of people who respect and trust each other.
How does Avison Young benefit the local community?
Avison Young has a global initiative called Day of Giving. Across the planet, we descend on our communities and give of ourselves. It’s not about money, it’s about being present and working. In Boston this year we went over to the Mystic River Watershed where 60 employees from our office cleaned up a large area along the river. The Boston office also supports the charitable work of industry groups like the Commercial Brokers Association (CBA), Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), NAIOP as well as those charities that are important to our clients.
And each of us individually have different charities and causes. My own happens to be the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, whose mission is to end homelessness.
What is your outlook for the next two to three years?
Boston, like many cities, needs more affordable housing and better, more efficient ways to get around. A large part of the Massachusetts economy is concentrated on Education and Hospitals/Healthcare, the so called “Eds and Meds” which adds a certain amount of stability to the economy. If we are going to sustain this great economy our talented workforce needs to be able to afford to live here. In addition, quality of life is dependent on access to affordable and efficient public transportation.
I suspect that climate change will require major changes as well. Boston is a coastal city, so investing in infrastructure that protects and sustains us against rising tides and flooding, especially during major storm events, will be vital and necessary to building confidence in the city and the commercial real estate which underpins the economy.