Boulder Brands Inc., the health food and natural products giant behind such labels as Udi's, Earth Balance and EVOL burritos, announced plans Thursday to expand its downtown headquarters by leasing 25,000 square feet of space that has gone unused since the now-defunct Borders Books & Music moved out seven years ago.
After nine months of negotiations with Seattle-based Unico Properties, Boulder Brands has agreed to lease the basement, first floor and third floor of 1600 Pearl St. for the next 10 years.
The second floor is occupied by data storage company SolidFire.
This announcement comes about 10 months after Boulder Brands moved into 18,000 square feet of space on the building's recently constructed third floor. The company will now have an extra 15,000 square feet in the basement, plus 10,000 square feet at street level.
"Our team loves this office and location, so it was important to us to both expand in the same building as our headquarters and to remain in downtown Boulder," CEO Steve Hughes said in a statement released Thursday.
Boulder Brands employs roughly 800 people, 80 of whom have been based out of 1600 Pearl's third floor. The new expansion, which will be used for office and meeting space, as well as an innovation kitchen, is expected to accommodate about 50 more employees.
That the new space gives the company room to grow, Hughes said, was a major factor in the choice to sign on for another decade downtown.
Boulder Brands, founded in 2005, has been making about one acquisition every year. The company bought Glutino Food Group in 2011, Udi's Gluten Free Foods in 2012, and EVOL and Level Life in 2013.
"We've got a really robust business, growing very nicely," Hughes said. "I think if you look in the next three-to-five years, we'll likely buy three-to-five more companies."
Part of the reason the building kept so much empty square footage is that Borders had a long-term lease on the space, and continued to pay rent on it for years after moving to the Twenty Ninth Street mall in 2007.
Since then, a number of businesses, including Landmark Theatres, inquired about, but never bit on, the vacant space after Borders left.
"They've had a lot of interest, but they've just been trying to figure out what the best use of the space is," said Sean Maher, executive director of Downtown Boulder Inc. "Most retailers aren't interested in basement space. They had a lot of people who wanted the street level, but not many people who wanted the basement.
"So it's very fortunate that Boulder Brands came by and said, 'Hey, we want all of it.'"
Longmont retail consultant and analyst Jon Schallert said the health food company is a perfect fit.
"This is a really good tenant for the space, since they're not going to use it for retail or clothing or a restaurant, yet they have all these identifiable brands," he said. "They had to find somebody who didn't need the great visibility, who needed that much of a space.
"Boulder Brands will be able to keep and expand a local business, and they'll be in the perfect place to grow."