The final piece for Lego’s move to Boston is now in place.
The Denmark-based toymaker said on Monday that it selected 1001 Boylston St., the office and lab building under construction over the Massachusetts Turnpike along Mass. Ave., as its new Americas headquarters.
Lego Group said in January that it would relocate to the city from Enfield, Conn., bringing about 740 jobs with it, in what would be one of the larger headquarters moves to Boston in recent years.
Governor Maura Healey called Lego’s arrival “an incredible opportunity to bring new jobs and innovation to the area, while inspiring the next generation of leaders.”
The company is leasing 100,000 square feet across five floors in the building — which will also be home to the headquarters of car-shopping website CarGurus Inc. — enough space to house between 700 and 750 workers. It will move there in phases, with plans to open its Boston headquarters by mid-2025 and close its Connecticut office by the end of 2026. Employees have until mid-February to decide whether they want to relocate.
When Lego opened its 330,000-square-foot Connecticut campus in 1975, the facility was intended to serve as a manufacturing hub and distribution center. It’s one of the company’s longest-held facilities, so packing up shop to move to Boston was not a decision company leadership took lightly, said Skip Kodak, president of Lego Group in the Americas.
“What we were looking for in terms of workforce, in terms of location, in terms of amenities, was completely different from where we are today, nearly 50 years later,” Kodak said.
The new office’s location near both downtown Boston and Cambridge, access to public transportation, and sustainable building elements were draws. Being just a mile down Mass. Ave. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was also a plus. The toymaker has partnered with MIT for nearly 40 years, sponsoring the MIT Media Lab and collaborating on robotics and automation, and the Lego Foundation in 2017 endowed a graduate student fellowship program at the Media Lab. Kodak is hopeful a Boston headquarters will create more opportunities for partnerships.
“Being in proximity can make a big difference in collaboration,” Kodak said. “You don’t know who you might bump into when you move into a new neighborhood.”
The newly built office also gives ample opportunity for Lego to build out its space in a way that inspires creativity.
“It shouldn’t just be rows and rows of desks,” Kodak said. “It needs to be fun. It needs to be engaging. It needs to be inspiring for our employees every day.”
The move to Boston follows the company’s opening of a headquarters campus in Billund, Denmark, a facility complete with gray Lego bricks dotting its facad, and large yellow LEGO brick sky boxes atop the roof. The company is growing worldwide: this spring, LEGO broke ground on a $1 billion, 1.7 million-square-foot manufacturing facility south of Richmond, Va. — a facility that’s expected to employ 1,761 people — and is also developing another $1 billion factory near Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.
With the Lego deal, the office and lab portion of the 450,000-square-foot 1001 Boylston is 75 percent leased. There’s also another 35,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurants. No names have been announced, but there’s “lots of interest,” said Peter Sougarides, principal at Samuels & Associates, which is developing the project.
Beyond the office, the air-rights project will feature a CitizenM hotel, a new MBTA station entrance, and public plaza with retail, restaurants, and open space connecting Newbury and Boylston along Mass. Ave. The first air-rights project over the highway in decades — one that former governor Charlie Baker once pronounced “an incredible feat of engineering” — requires spanning eight lanes of roadway and active rail lines.
The project is at a critical and highly trafficked intersection, albeit one that for decades has been unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Since starting work on the project in summer 2020, crews have moved the Interstate 90 on-ramp to “lessen conflict between cars and people” and opened up space for a safer bus station and better bike transit, said Steve Samuels, founder and chairman of his eponymous real estate development firm.
“We took it from really inhospitable to a place that’s going to be special and comfortable,” Samuels said. “It was always calling for a destination.”
Lego was a highly sought after tenant, particularly given the ongoing instability in the city’s office market. The toymaker is among the handful of large office users looking to grow in Boston this year, and one of the few headquarters moves in the city following the COVID-19 pandemic. It would bring nearly as many workers as General Electric planned to put here when it announced its move in 2016. Of course, most of those workers never materialized after a financial meltdown led to the breakup of the GE into three separate companies.
“When you move a headquarters, it’s a major statement,” Sougarides said. “It was a very competitive process.”
Elkus Manfredi Architects and LeBlanc Jones Landscape Architects, both of Boston, designed the project. The outdoor plaza takes cues from Manhattan’s High Line, Samuels said.
“Lego has chosen a headquarters that itself reflects the power of civil engineering to enliven and beautify neighborhoods. It’s a perfect fit,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
CarGurus has already installed its red-and-blue sign on its exterior, which is visible on both the Back Bay skyline and to drivers entering central Boston on the Turnpike below. While there are no plans yet for a colorful Lego logo on the building’s front, the company and Samuels intend to keep the matter open for discussion. Kodak said signage is “an interesting opportunity.”
“There may be a possibility to partner with the developer on that in the future,” Kodak said.