Polaroid settles into new headquarters in Concord

Greg Turner

Polaroid Corp. is putting the finishing touches on its new corporate headquarters and will end nearly five decades of operations in Waltham later this year.

The instant photography pioneer, whose brand has been parlayed into consumer electronics products such as plasma TVs and portable DVD players in recent years, is moving into a newly renovated space in an office building at 300 Baker Ave. in Concord. Polaroid's new base is about 13 miles away from the sprawling campus at 1265 Main St. in Waltham that the company sold to a real estate developer.

Most of Polaroid's employees packed up their desks the weekend before Thanksgiving, but the Concord office is still being fitted out and a group of engineers is still working in Waltham, according to Kyle MacDonald, a company spokeswoman.

"We expect to be moving out of there (Waltham) by the end of the year,'' she said Monday.

The new Concord office is home to 100 to 200 employees, MacDonald said. Polaroid does not release specific employment figures, citing competitive reasons.

The move marks a major headquarters downsizing for a company that was once a marquee Massachusetts employer and symbol of the state's high-tech superiority.

Polaroid has a five-year lease for about 30,000 square feet in a 423,000-square-foot office building near Route 2; it is leaving behind a 12-building, 864,000-square-foot office and manufacturing complex set on 120 acres overlooking Route 128.

"It's been a great location for us,'' MacDonald said of Waltham. "We've enjoyed being there and we feel we benefited a lot by being a member of the Waltham community.''

Polaroid, founded in 1937 and previously based in Cambridge, has been in Waltham since about 1960. The original corporate entity lost its grip on the photography market in the late 1990s, leading to mass layoffs. It filed for bankruptcy in 2001, a process that took away the retirement benefits of thousands of Polaroid retirees but benefited some of the executives who navigated the company through the court.

"I'm not happy with what happened to Polaroid's pensions but other than that they were a good employer,'' said Waltham's mayor, Jeannette McCarthy, reflecting on the company's tenure in the Watch City. "A lot of people had put a lot of sweat and hard work into that, so it's kind of bittersweet.''

Polaroid was acquired by Petters Group Worldwide for $426 million in April 2005 and is led by Chief Executive Michael London, who has offices in Concord and the parent company's headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn.

The company unloaded its Waltham campus to The Related Cos., a New York-based developer, in June 2006 for a reported $100 million. Polaroid maintained a lease-back option of up to three years, allowing it to stay put while it searched for a new space for its headquarters.

The Related Cos. is working on plans to transform the former Polaroid campus in Waltham into a massive mixed-use magnet that includes 1.2 million square feet of retail.

"I'm glad that another commercial operation is there,'' Mayor McCarthy said, noting that the project's traffic impact will be the top issue for city officials and residents to review.

In Concord, Polaroid's contractor, Quincy-based J. Calnan & Associates Inc. is finishing work on conference rooms and a demonstration center.

"That's where customers and key partners can come in for meetings and be in a nice area where we can highlight all of the products in a way that people can interact with them,'' said MacDonald, the Polaroid spokeswoman.

Polaroid's landlord, New Jersey-based Normandy Real Estate Partners, is pleased to add a brand-name tenant to the mix at 300 Baker Ave.

"It's certainly a great one,'' said Matthew Daniels, a senior vice president at Meredith & Grew who brokered the lease last June. "Polaroid historically has been a great Massachusetts company and it shows what a destination for corporate headquarters Concord can be.''

MetroWest Daily News writer Greg Turner can be reached at or 508-626-3909.