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March 21, 2018

Should state offices move from Boston to Worcester?

Photo/Google The Department of Children and Families and other state offices have space in this building on West Boylston Street in Worcester. Space in Worcester is on average about half the cost of that in Boston.

Boston is home to both a range of state departments and some of the country's most expensive office space.

Those aspects seem to invite a potential solution: The state could move offices out of the capital city and find cheaper space elsewhere. That would help other communities with an infusion of new jobs, and open up space in Boston where it could be easily filled.

The idea isn't especially new, but a report from the Worcester Regional Research Bureau released Tuesday puts new detail into exactly how much space the state leases for offices in Boston and how much more affordable space would be in places like Worcester.

Moving state offices out of Boston isn't something likely to be done without a lengthy debate and review process -- if it's done at all -- but the research bureau suggests the cost savings could be significant.

"Many Gateway Cities could feasibly house more state office space, but Worcester in particular is a ideal candidate for relocated state offices," the bureau said. "It is an inexpensive destination that does not create a burdensome commute when state employees do need to report to the capital."

"The introduction of express trains between Worcester and Boston," the bureau added, "and the state’s declared goal of spurring economic development in both cities by creating a convenient and quick commute, shows state leaders are aware of the potential to leverage Worcester’s proximity to Boston to help both cities."

Worcester is already home to hundreds of thousands of square feet of state office space, though for regional offices, not headquarters. The Department of Children and Families leases about 60,000 square feet in the city, according to the research bureau, and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission leases another 37,000 square feet. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Transitional Assistance are among those who lease tens of thousands of square feet of space each, according to the report.

With so much space, the cost savings between Boston and Worcester add up.

Boston is one of the country's most expensive office markets. Boston is one of only four cities nationally, along with New York, San Francisco and Washington, where square-footage leases for Class A office space surpasses $50 per square foot, the bureau's report said. The state pays an average of $37 per square foot across its Boston lease agreements, the research bureau found.

In Worcester, Class A office space was found in a survey to average about $23 per square foot. The state pays an average of $21 per square foot to lease space in Worcester.

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