BJ’s Wholesale Club added nearly 5,000 employees last year to keep up with the demand for groceries and other household staples amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But in one respect the chain is shrinking: its new headquarters in Marlborough would be one-third smaller than its current one, thanks in part to a greater mix of remote work, known as a “hybrid” model, after the pandemic ends.
BJ’s has told Marlborough city officials that it intends to lease 190,000 square feet for its new headquarters, starting next year. That compares to the 280,000 square feet at its current headquarters in nearby Westborough. The Marlborough City Council is considering a property tax break, worth $592,000 over 20 years, to offset the cost of building a 300-car parking garage at the new headquarters site, the Greatland Realty Partners-owned Campus at Marlborough, off Simarano Drive. The city council on Monday voted to refer the request to its finance committee, which is expected to take it up next week.
The company is pledging to employ at least 800 people at the new headquarters, although a BJ’s executive told Mayor Arthur Vigeant in a February letter that there could be about 1,000 people working there at some point. In that letter, BJ’s said it expects at least $15 million in tenant improvements to take place, plus a $5 million to $7 million investment in the new garage. The company is not seeking state tax credits for the move.
In an email, BJ’s spokeswoman Jennie Hardin said the new office space in Marlborough “will feature a modern design and an open floor plan, creating a more collaborative work environment.” She added that the new space “will be equipped with the technology infrastructure needed to effectively support hybrid work.”
Another plus: The new headquarters offers a “true campus and community feel,” Hardin added. The move would likely begin next spring.
The decision to relocate after a decade in Westborough follows a banner year for BJ’s: The company recently reported that its revenue rose 17 percent to $15.4 billion for 2020, due in part to the shift in purchasing habits that took place among consumers during the pandemic, such as making more meals at home and dining out less frequently. Total employment, meanwhile, grew from about 27,000 to 32,000. The company, as of its most recent public count, operates 221 stores and 151 gas stations across 17 states.
The company has had to deal with tragedy as well: The headquarters move was set in motion before the sudden death of chief executive Lee Delaney earlier this month. The BJ’s board just promoted Bob Eddy to take over as CEO; Christopher Baldwin remains the company’s executive chairman.
Meredith Harris, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp., said the four buildings in the campus near Interstate 495 were built in the late 1990s, and formerly used by 3Com. Harris said city officials are excited about adding BJ’s to the city’s roster of corporate names.