Town eyes replacement as Reebok gets set to depart

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The clock is rapidly winding down on the Reebok era in Canton, and as the company’s remaining employees prepare for their impending move to their new world headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District, the focus among local officials has shifted to finding the next corporate partner to occupy the sprawling, 65-acre campus off Royall Street.

The Reebok sign on Royall St. could soon be replaced with another company's logo. (Michelle Stark photo)

The Reebok sign on Royall St. could soon be replaced with another company’s logo. (Michelle Stark photo)

As it stands, the property at 1895 JW Foster Boulevard is being actively marketed for sale by CBRE/New England, and it is currently under consideration for “Priority Development Site” status in accordance with the state’s Chapter 43D program.

According to Gene Manning, Canton’s Economic Development Committee chairman, the 43D designation, which Canton voters approved at the May town meeting, would make the property eligible for expedited permitting and would establish a single point of contact (Board of Selectmen) between the new property owner and the town. Manning said the town has already filed its 43D application for the Reebok site with the state Office of Economic Development and the hearing with the relevant state agencies is scheduled to take place in September.

In the meantime, CBRE/New England has already hosted showings for more than 40 interested companies, institutions and investors, and the response to date has been “very strong,” according to Dave Pergola, executive vice president for the real estate firm.

Pergola went so far as to call the Reebok campus the “most desirable office complex ever to become available in suburban Boston.”

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a company looking to foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation,” he said.

Built in 2000 specifically for Reebok, the campus consists of a 518,000-square-foot headquarters as well as several smaller support buildings, for a total of 680,000 square feet of existing space. There are also two structured parking facilities, an indoor basketball court and fitness facility, several athletic fields, and a new childcare center.

“This is a very important piece of property in the town of Canton, and it’s a great piece of property,” remarked state Representative Bill Galvin, who was involved in the negotiations when Reebok first came to Canton nearly 20 years ago.

A lifelong Canton resident and longtime town assessor, Galvin noted that Reebok has been the largest commercial real estate taxpayer in the town over the last several years and stressed the importance of finding a suitable replacement to occupy the site. He added that officials would certainly be open to negotiating a tax increment financing (TIF) plan or other special tax agreement with the new property owner, but only if it made sense for the town.

And while the Reebok property actually consists of two parcels — the 42-acre main site and a separate 23-acre site — Galvin said the preference of both the town and Reebok would be to sell it as a single transaction. Ideally, he said, they would like to find a large company — perhaps a life sciences or biotech firm — that would want to become a “partner with Canton” in much the same way that Reebok has been.

Although there are still several unknowns at this stage, Galvin said he is quite confident that a new buyer will come along and does not expect the property to remain vacant for very long. He added that the town also has some protection built in as the original TIF signed with Reebok still has two years remaining on it, thus ensuring a steady revenue source while the property is marketed for sale.

“It’s just such a nice, prime piece of real estate and it’s so unique,” said Galvin. “I don’t think you can beat it, and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem getting it sold. It’s just a matter of how it is sold.”

As for the future of Reebok itself, which is undergoing a “streamlining” and a reinvention of sorts under the direction of parent company Adidas, the hope is that a move to Boston will help to push the brand forward.

Reebok spokesman Dan Sarro, in an email to the Citizen, said the relocation to the new headquarters at the Innovation & Design Building will be done in phases from September to the end of December.

“We believe being in the city brings several advantages,” said Sarro. “It will help us improve our performance, speed of innovation, and foster an even more vibrant collaborative culture. In our new home, we’ll also be more closely connected to the broader innovation and design community in Boston, which we’re looking forward to. And finally, Boston is a hub for footwear creation, with a number of big brands calling it home, and we believe it will allow us to better compete for and attract top talent as well.”

Sarro said the company has enjoyed a “tremendous” relationship with Canton over the past 17 years and stressed that the move to Boston should not be viewed as a reflection on how Reebok feels about the town or its “beautiful campus.”

“I think anyone who has been to our campus would agree it’s one of the best corporate environments in the area,” he said. “There are a number of attributes that are unique of course — most of which come from the sports and fitness amenities that exist on site. I think certainly any company that prioritizes the health and wellness of its employees would find this a great home. It’s certainly been a great home for Reebok.”

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