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Eastie Expansion: Residential Developments Set to Revolutionize East Boston

Eastie

East Boston has long been seen as a predominantly working-class neighborhood with relatively few structural intrusions save for the existing Logan Airport, various waterfront triple-deckers and boat hubs. However, we’re seeing a gradual change in the area as an increasing number of developments and condo buyers assemble in the promising neighborhood.

In her 2015 book, Legendary Locals of East Boston, fourth-generation East Bostonian and professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, Dr. Regina Marchi, details the extensive history of this often overlooked gem. “In 1987, the first rounds of condominiums were being developed, but few people were actually living in them”, Marchi explains. Long-time East Boston broker, Anthony Giacalone Jr. offers a comparison to the neighborhood’s current market: “I think you will see appreciation, but you need more product. There’s no shortage of people who want to live in a funky neighborhood near downtown Boston… but there’s definitely a shortage of supply”.

As we analyze and compare East Boston market prices, we can certainly see its potential in becoming Boston’s newest “It” neighborhood. There are currently 25 East Boston residential projects in the planning, approval, construction, or recently completed phases on the Boston Redevelopment Authority website; the most it has seen in quite some time. Below are a few residential developments that are posed to transform East Boston. (Images courtesy of Boston Redevelopment Authority.)

135 Bremen Street

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Project Status: Board Approved

The Boston Redevelopment Authority has approved construction of a five-story, 94-unit residential complex with 7,790 square feet of commercial space and 126 parking spaces. The site was used as a trucking terminal in the past, with two billboards on the corner of Bremen and Porter streets. This development will be conveniently situated for commuters, within close proximity to Airport and Maverick Square MBTA stations, as well as East Boston Greenway connector and Bremen Street Park. This project is set to revitalize this section of Bremen and Porter, and will bring convenient and necessary residential housing to this underutilized corridor.

Ten New

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Project Status: Under Construction

The proposed project on 6-26 New Street calls for a 16-story residential tower with 259 residential units and 155 parking spaces. The project broke ground in December, 2014 and is now entering the final stages of facade and interior construction work. Located on Boston Harbor, Ten New will offer residents East Boston’s premier variant of the downtown Boston skyline. The building’s ground floor is anticipated to house a waterfront restaurant.

151 Liverpool Street

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Project Status: Under Review

A six-story residential building with 36 condominium units (including 5 affordable units) is currently under review at Boston Redevelopment Authority. While the original plan was to rehabilitate the current building at 151 Liverpool, structural and financial concerns have shown that it would not be commercially reasonable to construct a multi-story addition on top of the existing building. A new developer, City Point Development of Newton, has proposed demolishing the existing building and constructing a new six-story residential building with underground parking.

Hodge Boiler Works

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Project Status: Board Approved

The Hodge Boiler Works project, located at 101 Sumner Street, includes one main residential building and two outbuildings. The main building will be five stories with 95 residential units, roof top pavilions, a six unit bed and breakfast unit and below grade parking for 52 vehicles. The outbuildings will include a 740 square foot marina and 740 square foot café. This project will provide housing opportunities for the growing neighborhood and provisions for affordable housing units in accordance with the Mayor’s Executive Order on Inclusionary Zoning. This long-time inaccessible portion of the waterfront will at last be made open to the public and connect it to LoPresti Park and the expanding East Boston Harborwalk. Construction period will be approximately 24 months following the BRA’s final approval.

Clippership Wharf

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Project Status: Under Construction

As of April 2016, construction has begun on a mixed-use waterfront development that consists of 492 residential units ranging from studio to one-bedroom layouts. The project will transform an underutilized section of the East Boston Waterfront into an active, publicly accessible extension of Maverick Square. The 12 acre site is currently an impediment to the access, views and enjoyment of the waterfront. The mix of condominiums and apartments will be complimented by a mix of restaurant and recreational space on the ground floor. Further, it will allow for seamless vehicular access from neighborhood roadways and will create a network of pedestrian and bicycle pathways along the East Boston shoreline. The site will feature facilities of public accommodation including a public social and fitness club, a destination restaurant, a commuter café, public parking, secure bicycle storage, and a boating marina.

1181 Bennington Street

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Project Status: Board Approved

Situated on approximately 18,000 square feet of land, the project at 1181 Bennington Street calls for demolition of an existing auto repair shop and multi-family dwelling in order to develop a four-story, 44 unit (7 of which will be affordable) residential structure with underground parking. The building will be an important project for the Orient Heights neighborhood and continue to build upon the city’s longstanding goals of creating additional affordable housing in a growing neighborhood.

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Mayor Walsh and Boston Real Estate

Boston DevelopmentBoston rang in a new era on Monday. For the first time in two decades, a new face graced the Mayor’s office. Mayor Martin J. Walsh started with a bang, announcing a changing of the guard in multiple city offices – including the Boston Redevelopment Authority. In a surprise announcement on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Walsh appointed former state representative Brian P. Golden as interim head of the BRA. As such, Golden will be authorized to sign all documents requiring execution.

One of Mayor Walsh’s original campaign promises was to “restructure” the Boston Redevelopment Authority, though he back-tracked in mid-December on his most drastic ideas of dismantling the BRA and replacing it with a completely new agency more responsive to neighborhood concerns. “I wouldn’t expect any major change until the second half of my first year in City Hall,” Walsh said, in an attempt to reassure Boston developers at an event in the Boston Harbor Hotel.

So what will Mayor Walsh’s planned changes mean for Boston real estate? Well, the way I see it, putting more weight on the “neighborhood voice” in Boston development decisions quite frankly terrifies developers. In their minds it means miles of more red tape, increased costs and dozens more meetings to get approvals. Small and mid-size developers may be less likely to take risks on expensive renovation projects (South End condo-conversions and Beacon Hill rehabs), and certainly undeveloped land (new 10-40 unit condo buildings in South Boston). If they do move forward and development is stalled or costly because of the city, those costs will be reflected in the list prices. In addition, Mayor Walsh is seen as a friend of the unions. Union construction costs more for developers – again, a cost that will be passed onto the end buyer.

That said, if list and sale prices increase for new developments and building rehabs, that will have a ripple effect for other Boston homes. List prices will increase across the board based off new comparables and possibly continued low inventory (depending on how smoothly the BRA functions). This scenario would be good for Boston sellers, expensive for buyers.

On the other hand, if the BRA becomes more transparent, as Mayor Walsh promises, this may mean a smoother and clearer process for developers. This would lead to more confidence and eventually, increased inventory. Good for Boston buyers, not great for sellers. However, a powerful “neighborhood voice” channeled in the right direction can increase green space, parks and playgrounds. Residents can demand neighborhood improvements and beautification projects. Some of the biggest issues such as traffic, parking and building shadow concerns have an important place in city planning and it’s important that the people who care about their neighborhood have a say. In the long run these changes and amenities benefit both buyers and sellers.

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What’s Happening With Downtown Crossing

Downtown Crossing used to be a hot and happening place in Boston. It was a shopping mecca, which helped lure the commerce. Because many of the shopping venues that used to exist in the area have disappeared over time, Downtown has been fighting it’s way back into the limelight…especially since it lost the popular Filene’s Basement in 2008. (That name always intrigued me because it made me think of Feline, and I couldn’t fathom who would want a basement full of cats.)

Boston’s been a bit anxious and frustrated about the removal of  Filene’s because it caused a large abandoned vacant space just waiting for some sort of activity. Well the exciting news is that the wait is now over and a glorious glass skyscraper designed by the prestigious Millennium Partners is set to replace the previous basement-of-cats department store site downtown. The building will bring new life to the downtown area, reinvigorating the city’s scene.

Millennium is working in tandem with Vornado Realty Trust, who will be participating as a passive investor in the project. By fall of 2013, they will have constructed an additional residential complex titled the Millennium Place on the corner of Washington and Avery Streets. The building will be about 55 stories high, a mix of apartments and condos, 230,000 sq ft of retail stores, 200,000 sq ft of office spaces and 525 underground parking spaces.

Millennium Partners develops mixed use luxury properties like hotels, condos, spa/fitness facilities and office spaces, in big cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston. They  work to convert ordinary properties into an extraordinary ones.  Because of their high profile, Millennium is waiting for the Boston Redevelopment Authority to give the green light  to start construction by the end of this year.