Andrew Graff: A Long-Term Partnership, Grounded in Hospitality

Hospitality|22 Jan 2024

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Andrew Graff highlights Tishman Speyer's blend of hospitality and innovation at 125 High Street, Boston, transforming the workplace into a vibrant community.

“We were never going to be a virtual company, but we were absolutely going to be a flexible company,” says Andrew Graff, CEO of Boston-based advertising agency Allen & Gerritsen. With the knowledge that the way we all work has changed forever, Graff saw a move in office headquarters as an opportunity to create a collaborative workspace that doubled as a workplace community—a place to gather and be inspired, where employees could have a different experience from what they were getting at home.


“I looked at it as the opportunity to reimagine the role that the workplace plays in our business, and how we make and create work, and how we think about our workforce,” Graff said.


Moving Allen & Gerritsen to Tishman Speyer’s 125 High Street gave his team all that, and so much more. The landmark building in the heart of Boston’s Financial District feels both cosmopolitan and expansive, with an open concept lounge[1] and rooftop deck known as The ZO Clubhouse, a golf simulator and world-class restaurants.


Reimagining the workplace

“It is absolutely, positively about culture,” Graff said. “That attention to detail, the responsiveness, that hospitality feeling of being welcomed. You want that in your home—but you also want that where you work.”


As a creative firm, Allen & Gerritsen needed to entice employees to spend some time in the office, where being together in a collaborative workspace could spark new ideas. He wanted to offer his staff things they couldn't get working from home.


“We had to build a space that created studios, a lot of collaboration space, plenty of places to sit—not necessarily at a desk, because the desk, you can do that at home,” Graff said.


Graff says he was thrilled that building owner Tishman Speyer understood how he was trying to evolve the way the company’s employee community viewed their workplace. The team he worked with not only got what he was going for, they knew how to help him get there.


In fact, Allen & Gerritsen has done away with the term “office” altogether, instead dubbing their collaborative workspace a “third space.” Emphasizing living-room like spaces and banishing formality, the new concept keeps employees moving through the workplace all day long. Instead of assigned desks, workers can book seats in spaces known as “The Barbershop” or “The Taqueria.”[2]


A partnership that makes things happen

It was a hefty undertaking, but working with Tishman Speyer made Graff realize that his dream was attainable.


“In my interactions with Tishman Speyer, it has actually been the most positive, energetic experience. Everybody is so responsive,” he says. “They just make things happen like that.”


What makes 125 High Street special is the building itself, and also its surrounding neighborhood. The building is made up of three towers—the 30-story High Street Tower, the 21-story Oliver Street Tower, and the 6-story structure known as The Bricks—all interconnected by a glass atrium hosting a shared lobby and retail space that encourages employees of different companies to mingle. Designed by Jung Brannen Associates and completed in 1992, 125 High Street is now in the midst of a transformation that has brought the new amenities Allen & Gerritsen employees are now enjoying—while preserving its postmodern high-rise design. Outside the walls of 125 High Street, a few steps take employees to Boston’s waterfront, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, museums, and a bumper crop of restaurants and cultural experiences. It’s an environment rich in inspiration.


Amenities build community

Why should a building where people go to get their work done have a simulator where they can hit golf balls? Why would an office need a state-of-the-art fitness facility like the one located on the second floor of the Oliver Street Tower, where members can work with a personal trainer or join a yoga class?


To Graff, it’s all about inspiration.


“This building, 125 High, has amazing amenities, amazing places to be inspired, to be creative, to be with each other in a unique way that totally fits how the habits of the modern-day workforce have changed forever,” he said.


Of course, not everyone gets their creative juices flowing by being active. Some employees might brainstorm a client presentation over low-foam cappuccinos and avocado toast from the Bluestone Lane coffee kiosk in the atrium. Workers can have breakfast meetings or just avoid lunching at their desks by dropping into Tatte Bakery & Cafe, Boston’s favorite full-service spot for quiche, shakshuka, and sandwiches. Others may gravitate toward the flexible workspaces of The Studio, a co-working space where employees of any building tenant can reserve a conference room.


Allen & Gerritsen’s “third space” revolution is focused on maximizing shared spaces to boost collaboration, a plan that dovetails perfectly with the space and amenities available at 125 High.


The plan seems to be working. The agency has created what it calls “Brand’s Best Self” campaigns for clients as diverse as Dunkin’, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, and Yotel. Since moving to 125 High earlier in 2023, Allen & Gerritsen has added the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Eastern Bank to its client roster.


125 High is not just a building

Looking back on what his team created with Tishman Speyer, the word that keeps coming back to Graff is “community.” That’s what he knows will keep his workers collaborating face to face, having fun together, and ascending to new levels of creativity.


“Anybody can build a building, but what Tishman Speyer brought to the table was a sense of community. It is what happens the moment that you walk through the front door.”

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