NBCUniversal plans a $125m headquarters in Needham
Three months after launching a new station to serve the Boston market, NBCUniversal is moving ahead with another big local investment: a $125 million regional headquarters in the Needham Crossing office park.
The Comcast subsidiary is advancing plans to join the CSN sports group in Burlington with the local NBC, NECN, and Telemundo crews that are currently across the Charles River in Newton.
NBCUniversal’s move is a natural next step following the recent launch of its own local station, after talks fell apart with Ed Ansin over continuing his NBC affiliation for WHDH-TV. The new Needham complex reflects a broader corporate strategy to combine once-disparate regional operations under one roof.
In all, 375 employees would make the move by sometime in early 2019 to a roughly 165,000-square-foot complex to be carved out of an old General Dynamics building. The vacant structure on B Street is controlled by Normandy Real Estate Partners, which is redeveloping much of the park.
Needham’s Board of Selectmen Tuesday endorsed a property tax break for NBCUniversal valued at nearly $2.1 million over 10 years, an incentive package that now goes before Town Meeting voters in May.
The company said it was still in negotiations and had considered more than a dozen sites. The move to Needham has not been finalized, however.
But details of the expansion, which the company nicknamed “Project Owl,” are laid out in the tax-break application. The company says it plans to invest $63.4 million in acquisition, development, and construction costs. The balance of the $125 million figure represents equipment purchases and installations — satellites, cameras, computers, and the like. In its request to the town, NBCUniversal pledged to help increase the availability of shuttle service between the park and the Newton Highlands stop on the MBTA’s Green Line.
NBCUniversal is still expected to pay about $5 million in new property taxes over the 10 years, after the tax break is factored in, along with an unspecified amount of personal property taxes for equipment, according to the documents.
Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick said it would be only the second such tax break in Needham’s history, after the $1.8 million incentive approved for TripAdvisor’s new headquarters in 2012.
She said she doesn’t see Needham as being in competition with Newton, where NECN and NBC Boston are based now.
“We work hand in glove with the City of Newton,” Fitzpatrick said. “We believe the economic investment in the entire corridor benefits both communities.”
The NBCUniversal project, she said, represents a validation of the two municipalities’ efforts to turn the commercial area along their shared border into the N-Squared Innovation District. In particular, she said, the project bolsters an existing media cluster — WCVB-TV, GateHouse Media, and TripAdvisor are there already — and could be a magnet for others in the industry. “One of the things that helps grow innovation districts is when you bring like-minded businesses together,” said Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber. “[This project] really helps us energize and enliven the park.”