When State Street Corp. signed the lease for its new headquarters in early 2019, the phrase “flight to quality” had not yet entered the real estate zeitgeist, and COVID-19 wouldn’t hit US shores until more than a year later.
Now, almost five years later, the flight to quality trend dominates after COVID transformed the way companies and their workers use offices. State Street’s famed sign, with 13-foot-high S’s (the “tate” “treet” are 11 feet each), has been moved from One Lincoln St. — its former headquarters building — to the gleaming, glassy One Congress office tower it now calls home. State Street will eventually occupy 27 floors across the 43-story skyscraper, which officially opened last week.
“One Congress reinforces our continued commitment to the city of Boston,” said Ron O’Hanley, State Street’s chairman and CEO, in a statement.
With 2,700 seats and desks for employees and another 3,000 work points — think high-top tables with plugs to charge laptops, low bench seating, huddle rooms — the financial services giant aims for its new headquarters to enable the flexible work styles of post-vaccine office life. Its move-in coincides with another new normal: Starting later this year, State Street will require North American employees to come into the office four days per week. (Previously, remote work policies were determined by individual jobs.)
The 1 million-square-foot tower will also be home to law firm K&L Gates and software company InterSystems, which will move from its Cambridge headquarters early next year.
An 11th-floor amenity space features both an indoor bar and outdoor deck with beer garden; a living room-style lounge replete with fireplace and cozy seating; and a coffeeshop and grab-and-go market. The tower’s elliptical shape — designed by Pelli Clarke & Partners, which also designed the tower going up atop South Station, and CBT Architects — and floor-to-ceiling windows give new vistas of downtown and the North End.
“You want to make the office as inviting as possible,” said Dustin Sarnoski, State Street’s head of global realty.
Both One Congress and luxury residential tower The Sudbury next door sit atop a partially demolished Government Center Garage, a hulking concrete structure that for decades divided multiple city neighborhoods. The remaining garage over Congress Street is set to be demolished by early next year to make way for a life-science lab building along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the third phase of the Bulfinch Crossing mixed-use megaproject by developer HYM Investments.
HYM partnered with Carr Properties and National Real Estate Advisors, the real estate subsidiary of a national electrical workers’ pension fund, to develop the tower.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Oliver Carr, CEO of Carr Properties. “I don’t think we would have planned on starting a million-foot downtown tower had we known everything that was coming at us in terms of COVID and the economy. ... It’s really a building that has transcended a lot of challenges.”
One Congress marked the first Boston project for Carr Properties, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate investment trust that often finds itself limited by that city’s 130-foot height limit when pursuing new projects.
“We don’t usually get to build 43 stories,” said Austen Holderness, Carr’s chief development officer. “When you fly into Logan and you see that building on the skyline, you just feel really proud.”