When it comes to new buildings these days, game rooms are a given, and pools almost passe.
But a Hubway bike station outside the front door? That's a way to stand out from the crowd.
Boston's popular bike service is the latest must-have cool amenity in the arms race among Boston developers to woo well-off young urbanites to their residences and cool tech companies to their office towers. Growing numbers of real estate operators are sponsoring Hubway stations, paying $50,000 in Boston, or $94,000 in Cambridge, to have their logos on a kiosk and 10 bicycles, along with a say in where a station is located — often right outside their front doors.
For Hubway and the cities that run it, the sponsorships help expand the service to more locations. For the developers, a Hubway station provides a dose of sustainable-economy cachet and adds to the list of amenities they can offer young renters and workers who would just as soon not bother with a car.
Hubway has used sponsorships since its launch in 2011. New Balance helps fund the entire system, and a number of universities sponsor stations. The major real estate concerns that have rolled into the business include two of the region's most prominent landlords, Equity Office Properties Trust and Biomed Realty, and the trendy new Ink Block complex in the South End. This month, Hubway announced that construction giant Skanksa and apartment builder Gerding Edlen were sponsoring new stations in Boston.
For Gerding Edlen, Hubway is a natural extension of the urbane lifestyle the company is marketing at Troy Boston, said partner Kelly Saito. It makes sense to have a station there.
"It just reinforces our brand, the aspect of our brand that supports building better neighborhoods and communities and promoting sustainable lifestyles," he said. "And it just provides our residents a lot of convenience. It's right there."
While the system is operated by a private company called Motivate, its budget is overseen by Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. They negotiate sponsorships and plan where stations go. Of the 147 stations, 40 were funded by "champions," as Hubway calls its sponsors, and bear a company, university, or hospital logo — and in some cases advertising. Those funds have helped expand the system — which otherwise relies on grants and operating proceeds — much faster than it could have otherwise, said Cara Seiderman, transportation program manager for Cambridge.
In exchange for their cash, sponsors get a say in where Hubway stations are located. They can't dictate, said Vineet Gupta, director of planning at the Boston Transportation Department; the location has to make sense for the broader network. But sponsors certainly get to influence where the stations go.
"On one hand, the developer would like to see the station right next to their building. On the other hand, they'd like to see it well used," Gupta said. "We try to work out something that works for everybody."
One of the first developers to jump in was Joseph Fallon, whose Fallon Co. sponsored a station at its Fan Pier development in the Seaport District. It came in handy when the startup program MassChallenge moved in for a few years, bringing an influx of young tech workers who would come and go all day and didn't want the hassle of a car.
"We paid $50,000," Fallon said. "It was a really smart investment."
And the cachet of Hubway, coupled with the flexibility it offers to riders, means those stations are likely to keep sprouting up outside new buildings all over town. Boston and Cambridge officials said they are talking with more developers that want one of their own.