Another major media company is making a long-term investment in the N-Squared Innovation District.
NBCUniversal and Normandy Real Estate partners are planning to build a $125 million “world class broadcast and digital media center” at Founders Park in Needham. The 165,000-square foot facility would house the new local NBC TV affiliate, NECN, Comcast Sports Net, Telemundo and their 325 employees under one roof.
“This is a transformative addition to the N-Squared Innovation District,” says Chamber President Greg Reibman. “This area is already home to WCVB-TV, GateHouse Media, TripAdvisor and Univision. NBCUniversal’s decision to be here too firmly establishes N-Squared as a major media hub; bringing skilled jobs, creativity and economic vitality here.”
NBCUniversal's new home on B Street is projected to open in early 2019. It is the latest major addition announced for Founders Park, a mixed-use, master planned development located in the heart of the Needham Crossing section of the N-Squared District that is being developed by Normandy Real Estate Partners and Westbrook Partners.
Founders Park is already home to TripAdvisor and the Residence Inn; SharkNinja will open its headquarters there in June. Other plans for Founders includes a Staybridge Suites hotel, 390 rental apartments, retail space and additional commercial office space.
Needham Town meeting approved a tax incentive finance plan for the NBCUniversal project on May 8 valued at nearly $2.1 million in property tax relief over 10 years. However, projections show that the town will greatly benefit from personal property taxes — satellites, cameras, computers and other high tech equipment -- that will far outweigh the property tax breaks.
“With this move, N-Squared becomes an attractive destination for other media companies,” Marianne Cooley, chair of the Needham Board of Selectman told Town Meeting.
“We already have a small but interesting cluster of businesses in IoT (Internet of Things) in N-Squared, including PTC, BigBelly Solar, Building 36 Technologies and SharkNinja.
But the idea of a media cluster in N-Squared would be unique to us in Greater Boston,” Cooley said.
As part of its tax increment finance agreement with the town, NBCUniversal has agreed to house a collaborative media space in its building and broadcast the N-Squared/Needham Crossing logo on air.
The company has also agreed to offer shuttle service between its headquarters and the Newton Highlands MBTA’s Green Line station and the commuter rail station in Needham Heights, and to provide internships for local high school and college students.
NBCUniversal will receive a 70 percent real estate tax exemption for the first four fiscal years it is operating in Needham, a five percent exemption in the fifth year and a one percent exemption for the last five years.
Even with the exemptions, the town’s net real estate tax revenue on the parcel would increase with more than $5 million in incremental revenue. The company has also committed to investing $52 million in personal property in the first year, and maintaining not less than $16 million per year for the term of the Agreement. Personal property is not exempted under the agreement. First year investment would result in $1.2 million in additional revenue.
Reibman praised Needham’s selectmen for negotiating the agreement and Town Meeting for overwhelmingly supporting it.
“This is a win for all sides,” Reibman said. “The town is going to enjoy significant tax revenues and NBCUniversal employees are going to love working in the N-Squared Innovation District.”
This is only the second such tax break in Needham’s history. In 2012, Town Meeting approved a $1.8 million incentive package for TripAdvisor, a move that is widely believed to have sparked a renewed interest in what had long be an underutilized office park.
Sure enough, Cooley told Town Meeting that Normandy has reported a significant increase in inquiries for space at Founders Park following NBC Universal’s announcement.
“NBCU is the kind of tenant that other companies draft off,” Cooley said. “Needham Crossing and N-Squared is becoming seen as a cool place to be – not your grandfather’s suburban office park.”