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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Opinion | paul mcmorrow

Tech goes downtown

As Boston’s Innovation District fills up, developer Don Chiofaro is the winner

Don Chiofaro designed his International Place office complex to attract men and women who favor expensive suits and office space to match. His lobby has soaring ceilings and massive columns, and it’s absolutely rotten with polished marble. Yet Chiofaro’s lobby will soon be full of something else: software engineers who prefer Levi’s to Zegna. The developer recently inked a major lease with PayPal, the online payment arm of eBay. The arrival of tech workers in the Financial District is a major coup for Chiofaro. And it signals some notable shifts in downtown Boston’s economy.

Don Chiofaro is writing a new blueprint for downtown towers. Most tech deals around Boston follow familiar patterns. Though blue chips like Google and Microsoft gobble up large chunks of office space in swank buildings around Kendall Square, startups and smaller firms flock to former industrial buildings in Cambridge and Fort Point in Boston. Up until now, though, if a software company on the verge of outgrowing such brick-and-beam space was looking for an upgrade, it graduated to first-class office space, either in Cambridge or in Waltham or Lexington, but not in Boston’s Financial District. In landing PayPal, Chiofaro is establishing a major technology beachhead in the domain of lawyers and bankers.

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