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Talking Post

Boston’s office vacancy rate drops as the city continues to lure companies


If you think your train is crowded now, just wait a year.

Real estate brokerage NAI Hunneman’s latest report on Boston’s office market indicates that the waves of employer emigration into the city show no sign of abating. We just wrapped up the strongest quarter since early 2016 for filling office space, with the vacancy rate dropping to 7.8 percent.

Many deals are being inked by companies that are already in town. Cybersecurity firm Rapid7 will leave Summer Street for bigger digs near North Station, for example. Amazon and rival Wayfair both appear poised to sign big leases.

But there are still plenty of suburban players on the hunt in the big city. They basically divide into two camps: companies that stay in the ’burbs but want a Boston outpost, like Bose, or businesses looking to uproot completely (think PTC or Reebok). NAI Hunneman executives say other possible suburban shoppers include Haemonetics (now in Braintree), Keurig (in Burlington), and Staples (Framingham).


This is all about the chase for talent, for workers who want to live in or near major cities. It’s a trend we’ve seen for years, most notably playing a key role in bringing GE here from Connecticut.

There’s another, somewhat offsetting trend: the incredible shrinking office. Many downtown denizens are squeezing into smaller spaces as they sign new leases. NAI Hunneman cites Mintz Levin (law), Safety Insurance (financial), and Houghton Mifflin (media) as examples. (As a result, the new absorption of office space for all of 2017 wasn’t as strong as 2016.)

But the city’s office market remains hot. New approaches to office design won’t do much to cool that off — or make your commute any more comfortable.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.