(Photo Courtesy of Wilson Architects)
It’s not every day that political leaders, economic development officials, tourism experts, parks advocates,and educational proponents gather to celebrate a shared enthusiasm, but such was the case this week when EF Education First officially opened its expanded North American headquarters in Cambridge.
The Swedish company is a world-wide leader in educational travel and language training, with nearly 1,000 employee based in Massachusetts, and 37,000 people working in 52 countries around the world.
Governor Deval Patrick, whose administration has focused on education, innovation and infrastructure as the cornerstones of economic development, told the audience he was thrilled that EF has “chosen the Commonwealth as the place for their continued expansion” in North America.
The new headquarters is a public-private partnership success story. Built on land owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the former industrial site on the border of Cambridge and Charlestown was awarded to Education First through a competitive bidding process. The 10-floor, 125 million project consists of 230,000 square feet of office space and 31,000 square feet of public space in the company’s ground floor. It has 16 flexible workspaces on each floor, in line with the new collaborative workspace movement taking place in Massachusetts and elsewhere.
The glass exterior building, designed by in-house architect Fiona Kennedy, has an open staircase inside, and features a striking glass waterfall cascading down the façade. The bottom floors house a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the Charles River, a bike room and Hubway bicycle station, private showers, a salon and fitness center.
As part of the project, EF has agreed to maintain and make improvements to portions of North Point Park, a public park overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Referring to the new headquarters location, Edward Hult, CEO of EF North America, said, “With new public parks, pedestrian connectivity, and billions of dollars in development activity happening on both sides of the River, it’s clear that what was once referred to as ‘the lost ½-mile of the Charles’ has been found.”
Congressman Michael Capuano, who represents Cambridge as part of the Congressional 7th District, said the new facility will increase local access to EF’s many educational programs while adding jobs to the local economy.
Student travel is a $30 billion industry, according to Carylann Assante, executive director of the Student & Youth and Travel Association, who told The Boston Globe that EF is one of the largest companies in this lucrative market.