With the opening of its giant glass cruise ship of a headquarters, New Balance is hoping to sail into the future.
The New England shoemaker and athletics company unveiled its new 250,000-square-foot facility in Brighton on Thursday, leading media on a walking tour of the quirky architectural marvel next to the Mass. Pike.
The roughly 600 member staff who work there moved in this week, a few hundred feet down Guest Street from its prior, decidedly more conventional building. It was the fourth New Balance headquarters to open in the neighborhood.
Some see its boat-like qualities, others see a massive shoe. The shape is open to interpretation, though it draws inspiration from a New Balance shoe factory in Lawrence, said architect David Manfredi, whose firm Elkus Manfredi designed the building.
“I’m thrilled it’s evoked so many different metaphors,” Manfredi said. “I invite everybody and anybody to see what they want to see.”
Recognize Manfredi’s name? He was a key figure in planning the city’s now-defunct Olympic bid.
Inside are all the modern amenities of a modern corporate showpiece-office: an open concept floor plan (some of the floors are made out of running track material), ubiquitous flat-screens, many of them touchable, and a patio that wraps around the building not unlike a ship’s deck.
There are two mini museums celebrating New Balance’s past, one in a welcome center atrium and another along a long wall featuring shoe designs dating back a century. The company was founded in 1906.
The building’s grounds also feature specially designed moguls on a slanted patch of grass, which New Balance leadership said they hope will inspire outdoor teambuilding and brainstorming. A café serves homemade granola bars and healthy smoothies.
“It’s the kind of place Millennials want to work today,” Manfredi said.
The new facility’s completion comes at the beginning of an ambitious plan to build a new Boston neighborhood out of what was once a vacant industrial park.
Developers NB Development Group (a New Balance sister company) have named the 15-acre property “Boston Landing,” and billed it as the city’s next “health and wellness district,” according to Erin Harvey, leasing and marketing manager for NBDG.
Plans for the soon-to-be-engineered neighborhood include a New Balance-operated indoor track and field facility, a hotel, storefronts, restaurants, office and residential space and the Warrior Ice House, a rink that is slated to become the new practice facility for the Boston Bruins (Warrior is a New Balance-owned brand of sports equipment).
NBDG is also paying for a commuter rail extension on the Framingham/Worcester line slated to open in late 2016.
New Balance sold $3.3 billion in merchandise last year and employs 5,200 people worldwide, according to a company fact sheet. The company operates five factories in New England.