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Is the Company Town Back? Sort Of.

Unlike the earlier iteration, today's full-amenity tech campuses provide their well-paid engineers with Millennial-friendly upper middle class comforts. But is that enough?
September 30, 2016, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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In a piece for Architecture Boston, Allison Arieff discusses how modern high-tech office parks differ from Pullman's old company town—and how they're similar. Back then, and perhaps today, "This generosity was less altruistic than strategic: Companies could improve working conditions while deterring workers from activism and unionization. Employees were taken care of but had no autonomy." 

Providing table tennis tables for Millennial employees is one thing (we love ourselves some ping-pong), but housing them is another matter. But in places like the Bay Area, it might just make sense. "It is not surprising then, in hot markets that accompany the healthiest economic ecosystems, that housing might be seen as the ultimate amenity. It certainly is becoming an obstacle, if not the biggest obstacle, to hiring in these locations."

Old-school company towns were supposed to be blue collar utopias. But today's version serves a more stratified demographic. "These 'new towns' are more New Urbanist than Manhattan-ish. [...] Company Town 2.0 is a walkable, amenity-rich offering for highly paid knowledge workers that has emerged as an indispensable tool for hiring the better engineer."

The word "campus" is very apt. Arieff writes, "the emerging model may be less company town and more postcollege campus, as exemplified by the new 'community-driven living concept' developed by the co-working start-up WeWork. It's called 'WeLive.'"

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Published on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 in Architecture Boston
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