If you’re wondering if the back-to-office thing is in full swing yet, just ask Tim Rowe.
As founder and chief executive of CIC, overseeing its “innovation campuses” in nine cities, Rowe has a front-row seat.
For Rowe, March felt like a watershed month as his business emerges from a tumultuous two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his Boston and Cambridge coworking centers saw 120 new inquiries for space — either by e-mail, phone, or walk-ins. That’s much higher than a typical March, pre-pandemic. Of those, 88 were for Cambridge, the most ever in a single month for that campus.
Rowe said this time the comeback is for real, even amid the emergence of yet another COVID variant.
“When we have a wave come, do we all stop again? I think this time, it’s ‘no,’” Rowe said. “I think basically people are done with changing their lives because of COVID.”
He opened two new campuses early in the pandemic, in Warsaw and Tokyo. Now, he’s regularly on the road, looking for expansion opportunities. That has taken him to places such as Austin, Phoenix, San Diego, and New York. Most of these expansions will involve labs. Rowe has already helped open a life sciences complex in Cambridge, through a nonprofit offshoot called LabCentral. He said it’s now the largest shared lab space in the world.
“Why would you go buy a mass spectrometer, freezer farm, and PCR machines if you’re initially just two scientists?” Rowe said. “Now they can come to us.”
CIC expanded into COVID-19 testing soon after the pandemic hit, and offices were closed. Rowe teamed up with surgeon and public health expert Atul Gawande to launch CIC Health, which hosted more than 30 public testing sites and numerous vaccination clinics at one point, and continues to provide testing services to thousands of schools. (Gawande is still a shareholder but stepped away from any business decisions after becoming a top official in the US Agency for International Development in January.)
Real estate remains CIC’s main revenue source. But the health venture provided a valuable lesson.
“A big crisis can be a big opportunity,” Rowe said. “That sounds so trite, like a thing in a fortune cookie. But it’s really true. Suddenly, your whole organization is willing to do new things.”
From Gowanus to Allston
Carl Rodrigues made a name for himself as a top economic development official in New York City. During his seven-year tenure there, he helped oversee a broad portfolio of development issues, including the recent rezoning of 82 blocks in Brooklyn’s Gowanus section.
Now he has a new challenge: championing Harvard University’s efforts to develop its land holdings in Allston.
Harvard just hired Rodrigues to lead the Harvard Allston Land Co., an arm of the university that is building out 36 acres known as the Enterprise Research Campus, across Western Avenue from the business school. He takes over for former Massport chief Tom Glynn, who stepped down a year ago; Glynn still teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Rodrigues will want to get up to speed on the politics. He faces some skeptical neighbors, who are pushing for more concessions and a clearer understanding of the university’s long-term plan. And he should get to know state Representative Mike Moran, who has led the resistance as Harvard looks to develop the next Kendall Square. Rodrigues no doubt understands the task ahead; he says he’s eager to hear from the community and elected officials in the coming months. He starts on May 2.
Rodrigues grew up in Leominster and graduated from Tufts University (which Harvard president Larry Bacow led from 2001 to 2011). In a statement, executive vice president Katie Lapp lauded his expertise, local ties, his understanding of the “value of community” and collaboration, and how he is bringing “his talent, local knowledge, and leadership home to Massachusetts.”
A new name at the top at Fallon Co.
Commercial real estate lawyer Brian Awe left such a good impression on the father-and-son development team of Joe Fallon and Michael Fallon that they brought him into their namesake firm as an equity partner.
Awe started at The Fallon Co. last month as its president, after leaving megafirm DLA Piper. He took over for Michael Fallon, who became chief executive. Joe Fallon, the former CEO, is now chairman.
Awe’s arrival coincides with the company’s efforts to branch out in Boston beyond the Fan Pier in the Seaport. Most notably, the firm is pursuing a nearly $1 billion life sciences project in Sullivan Square in Charlestown and has a similarly sized lab complex that it is about to announce elsewhere in Boston. (The firm also has offices in North Carolina and Tennessee.)
Awe began working with the Fallon Co. as outside counsel when it developed the two towers on Fan Pier for Vertex Pharmaceuticals about a decade ago. Now, he’ll let his former colleagues at DLA Piper handle the legal work for Fallon, as he moves on to deal-making.
“It was too good an offer to pass up,” Awe said. “I described it as a once-in-a-career type of opportunity.”
Party on Guest Street!
Rapper Jack Harlow just landed on the cover of Rolling Stone. More importantly for Boston, he also headlined a grand-opening event for New Balance’s new indoor-running palace/high-tech sports lab/concert venue last week.
Harlow represents how New Balance has broadened its team of “influencers” beyond running stars as the shoe company chases the casual-wear market. Another example is actress Storm Reid, who was also on hand for the festivities. Chief executive Joe Preston describes this approach as the intersection of “sports, fashion, and music.”
New Balance still is quite serious about its new 200-meter track, the centerpiece of the 420,000-square-foot complex. Executives hope the high-tech surface and sloped corners will make it one of the fastest on the planet.
The new building is just the latest to spring up along Guest Street in Brighton thanks to New Balance owners Jim Davis and Anne Davis. It’s hard to miss their new, modern headquarters, practice facilities for the Bruins and Celtics, a train station, apartments, and restaurants. There’s also a lab building on the way.
Preston used a “Jaws” reference when describing how the company leadership realized their previous headquarters on Guest Street was too small, not long after the company moved there in 2000.
“After a few years, it was clear that we were going to need a bigger boat,” Preston told the crowd.
A bigger boat? A whole marina is more like it.
There’s an election first
How does “Governor Maura Healey” sound?
Healey’s front-runner status in the race for governor influenced how New England Council chief executive Jim Brett addressed her last week.
Healey, the state attorney general, didn’t really focus on the campaign’s political aspects during her speech to the business group, held at the Boston headquarters of Putnam Investments, after Putnam boss Bob Reynolds introduced her and mentioned that chasing the governor’s office “is not for the faint of heart.”
She did outline several priorities she sees for Massachusetts — priorities that go well beyond her purview as AG. They included ensuring offshore wind industry jobs get spread throughout the state, and not just at certain port cities. She also mentioned key steps to addressing the state’s workforce shortage: ensuring more people without a college degree can find good-paying jobs, for example, and restoring childcare services after many centers closed during the pandemic. And she promised to support East-West Rail, the nickname for improved passenger rail service between the western half of the state and Boston.
But before Brett asked her that question about East-West Rail, he accidentally addressed her as “Governor” before saying, “I was just seeing if anyone was listening,” and using her proper title.
The crowd caught on immediately, judging from the response. Healey said, “Oh, they’re listening.”