Welcome balloons still float by the front desk. Orange packing crates remain stacked by the staircase. But Internet access is up and running, and the coffee makers work. Nearly 500 employees of business caterer ezCater this week were settling into their new digs at 40 Water St., the latest tech firm to plant its flag in the Financial District.
They moved Monday into a four-story, 97,000-square-foot space in the onetime home of Shawmut Bank, now redone for ezCater and — in a glassy addition perched on top — advertising firms Digitas LBI and Publicis. A tour on Thursday revealed all the touches familiar to tech offices sprouting around the city — everything from snack-stocked kitchens to huddle rooms galore to nooks for workers to go when they need a break from the open-office seating to get some quiet work done. There’s even a library, with comfy seating and actual books.
But there’s one twist on the typical tech office setup: The whole place is actually a WeWork.
The coworking giant leased the space from building owner Related Beal, then rented it to ezCater for the next five years, part of a growing push by WeWork into more traditional corporate office leasing. WeWork has similar arrangements in other cities but this is the first of its kind to open in Boston. It’s planning more.
For ezCater, the deal provides flexibility. The company’s growing so fast that it doesn’t know how much space it will need in five years, said facilities manager Bobby Mirabello. Because of that uncertainty, it was reluctant to sign a traditional 10 or 15-year lease on office space. And while the base rent is higher with WeWork, the coworking firm paid for all the finishings, furniture, and fit-out.
“We did the math and over five years this really made sense,” Mirabello said. “This is a value-driven move.”
The place does have some touches familiar to a typical WeWork — like big kitchens, and soundproof “phone booths.” But ezCater got to weigh in on design, so it’s all in the company’s green-and-white color scheme, with lots of food art on the walls, and food names for conference rooms (Papas Fritas, Basil).
“We made sure to infuse it with our personality,” said Mirabello.
And now it’s starting to feel like home.