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A Brief History of Fenway Park on its 100th Anniversary

One hundred years ago tomorrow, the Red Sox, Boston’s most beloved sports franchise, moved into its current home. Over the span of the past century, Fenway Park has served as an entertainment center for the people of Boston. The park is referred to by many as a “cathedral of baseball” is the oldest stadium in use by a Major League Baseball club and is considered one of the most well-known sports venues in the world. The Red Sox are hosting a free open house at Fenway Park today from 9am-7pm with fans having access to the warning track, the inside of the Green Monster, and other areas inside the park not normally available to fans. Current and past Red Sox players will be on hand for autographs as fans are allowed to tour the historic building at their own pace. The following history of Fenway Park is a brief primer to get you ready for today’s Fenway Park open house.

100th Anniversary of Fenway ParkAnd do not forget Friday’s 100th Anniversary game against the New York Yankees has a 3pm start time with a nod to the time games started before the days of stadium lights and night games. The pre-game ceremony will feature 1912 throwback jerseys, over 200 past players, and a stadium-wide toast that will attempt to break the record for largest ever toast. The Red Sox ask for everyone to be in their seats by 2pm to take part in the toast.

Opening Day at Fenway Park

Fenway Park hosted its first game on April 9th, 1912, an exhibition between the Red Sox and Harvard, a game won by the professionals. The regular season opener was scheduled for April 17th, but the game was rained out. Three more games, including the traditional morning and afternoon game doubleheader held to concur with the Boston marathon, were also cancelled. After the rain subsided, at least one of these games could have been played, but fans were turned away amid sunshine and clear skies because the field was declared unplayable, left uncovered during the storm because a new tarp had yet to arrive.

After the delays to Opening Day, Fenway Park hosted its first Major League contest on April 20th, 1912. Navin Field in Detroit, which was later known as Tiger Stadium, also debuted on the same day, and the two ballparks shared the distinction of the oldest stadium in MLB until Tiger Stadium was demolished in 2009. This leaves Fenway Park as one of only two “classic” ballparks in use, the other being Wrigley Park in Chicago.

Fenway Park grass painted to commemorate 100 year anniversaryWith ongoing coverage of the Titanic disaster, the enthusiasm for Boston’s new stadium was somewhat dampened in the days leading up to its opening. Two days after the Titanic survivors arrived in New York, Bostonians showed up in force for Fenway Park’s official opening. John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, mayor of Boston and grandfather of future president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, threw out the first pitch, as he would also do at one of the World Series games held in Boston in the fall of 1912.

The 24,000 fans in attendance for Opening Day went home happy as the club defeated their rival New York Highlanders (renamed the Yankees the following year) 7-6 on an 11th inning single by Tris Speaker. Among those in attendance were the Royal Rooters, considered the rowdiest fans in baseball. The club was led by a man named “Nuf Ced” McGreevey, who has the distinction of tending America’s first sports bar, The Third Base Saloon. This establishment where “you went before heading home” was a museum of Red Sox memorabilia McGreevey obtained from his friends on the Red Sox roster.

Although praised for its intimacy today, fans in 1912 were not used to seats as far from the action as those found in the right field of Fenway Park. Despite this criticism, overall reception at the time was positive. Fenway Park solidified its place in Boston that first season when the Red Sox won 105 games and captured the World Series. By winning three more championships in the next six years, this dynasty further ingrained Fenway Park into the city’s identity.

The Real Estate Behind Fenway Park

The Red Sox moved to Fenway Park from the smaller Huntington Avenue Grounds, which sat on what is now the site of an indoor athletic facility on the Northeastern University campus. As with most real estate transactions, money played a role. The Huntington Avenue Grounds had hosted approximately 10,000 fans for its largest crowd ever even though the official capacity was much less. Along with Fenway Park’s additional seating and the increased revenue from more fans, a new park in an attractive area would increase the club’s value, an important consideration since owner John Taylor was entertaining thoughts of selling the Red Sox.

Yawkey Way, home to the Red Sox, Boston's American League Baseball ClubIn early 1911, Taylor’s family, which earned their fortune through real estate, was involved with several real estate entrepreneurs in forming a committee focused on developing the emerging Fenway neighborhood. Two weeks after the forming of The Fenway Improvement Association, Taylor’s father bought the future site of Fenway Park at public auction. The Fens were largely undeveloped at the time, but the location was only a few blocks from growing Kenmore Square and the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, major thoroughfares at the beginning of the twentieth century much as they are today. After the site was secured, Taylor decided to relocate and not to renew his lease for the Huntington Avenue Grounds. With plans to develop a new ballpark underway, Taylor sold half the club with the contract naming him the overseer of construction and landlord of the new ballpark. John Taylor claimed the name Fenway Park came from the stadium’s location in the Fenway neighborhood, however, considering Taylor’s family owned Fenway Realty Co. the ballpark’s name could be the first example of stadium-naming rights in North America.

Design and Construction of Fenway Park

In the preceding years, the MFA, the Isabella Stewart Garner Museum, and Symphony Hall were all built roughly a mile from the site that would become Fenway Park. While those buildings were built by the city’s Irish working class, they were intended for the enjoyment of the Brahmins and the other members of Boston’s elite class. Fenway Park, by contrast, would be built for the people of Boston.

Fenway park plaque commemorating construction in 1912 and remodeling in 1934Fires had destroyed a number of wooden ballparks in the previous two decades including the double-decked South End Grounds, home of Boston’s National League club. One result a the fires was a move toward steel and concrete stadiums, a new wave which began in 1909 and included stadiums such as Ebbets Field, Comisky Park, and Wrigley Field.

For Boston’s first steel and concrete ballpark, Taylor hired James McLaughlin as chief architect and the civil engineering was done by Osborn Engineering, a large firm based in Cleveland. Osborn Engineering was a major player in the stadium boom of the early twentieth century, designing Navin Field simultaneously, a few years later involved in the construction of Braves Field, Boston’s other modern major league ballpark, and then designing Yankee Stadium in the early 1920’s.

Ground was broken on September 25th,1911, the day permits were granted for construction of Fenway Park. The total cost of the project would be $650,000 which at $15.7 million in 2012 dollars is an amazing real estate value, especially when you consider the current ownership group spent $285 million on renovations over the last ten years.

Fenway Park was built on the lot John Taylor’s father had purchased at auction, an irregular-shaped parcel of 365,308 square feet. The field could have been built in a more symmetrical shape by only using part of the parcel, but Taylor instructed the architect to use the entire lot. The result was a field much larger than required by the game as it was played at the time, an era known as the Dead Ball Era. Prior to the 1920’s, the preferred style of play consisted of line drives and hit-and-run plays. In fact, the year prior to Fenway park’s opening saw Frank Baker lead the American League with 11 home runs and entire clubs hit less than 20 home runs over the course of the year.

Survey of Fenway Park lot in 1917

Because no one hit the ball that far, it was not an issue for the left-field fence to be placed against Landsdowne Street, only 300ft from home plate. The architect was instructed to maintain the alignment of the Huntington Avenue Grounds with the 3rd base line pointing almost due north, which kept the sun from batters’ eyes during games that began at 3pm, the standard start time of games in the era. If distance had been a concern, Landsdowne Street could have been acquired and incorporated into the design. By 1958, this was not the case as owner Tom Yawkey tried unsuccessfully to annex Landsdowne Street for expansion and renovation of Fenway Park.

Along Landsdowne Street, a wall was built that would be the precursor of the Green Monster, Fenway Park’s signature feature. The wall was 25ft high, a wooden wall plastered with ads and was built for a couple of reasons. The parcel of land the park was built on was sloped and after being graded, the field was lower than the surrounding streets. The wall served to both hold back Landsdowne Street and kept nonpaying fans from watching the game for free.

1918 version of Monster Seats were in the field of play on Duffy's CliffA slope of dirt on the field side of the wall was used to further support the wall. This slope became known as Duffy’s Cliff after star Red Sox left-fielder Duffy Lewis, who became adept at playing the unusual feature. Although technically in play, many fans watched the game seated in the field of play on the 10ft embankment because it provided a good view of the action. To maximize seating for the 1912 World Series games bleachers seating a thousand fans were built on the embankment. Duffy was spared from navigating the crowd since any hits into the fans were ruled a ground-rule double.

The wall has seen a number of changes over the years before becoming the Green Monster we know today.

  • In 1934, a manual scoreboard was added and the wall was covered in concrete and tin.
  • In 1947, the ads were removed from the wall and it was painted green to match the rest of the park.
  • In 1976, the wall was covered in a hard plastic.
  • In 2003, seats were added to the top of the wall. These seats, known as “monster seats,” are among the most popular in all of Fenway Park and are sold on a per game basis to winners of a lottery instead of in season-ticket packages. In 2012, over 300,000 people applied for the roughly 30,000 seats available over the course of the season.

The wall at Fenway Park known as the Green MonsterBefore the seats were added to the top of the Green Monster, a net on top of the wall caught balls, protecting cars on the street below. Groundskeepers would climb a ladder built onto the wall to empty the net, and the “ladder to nowhere” remained attached to the wall. The “ladder to nowhere” is another quirk of Fenway Park, but it is an urban legend that the ladder is the only ground-rule triple in major league baseball.

The original plan for Fenway Park was for a double-deck park like Navin Field and the South End Grounds to allow for more fans and the revenue that would come with them. The plans for a second deck were put hold with the home opener only six months away. The final design used for construction called for a single uncovered grandstand surrounding the infield and bleachers in right field, but the plans left open the possibility for a second deck to be built in the future. However, not until an auxiliary press box was added for the 1946 All-star Game did Boston have its first double-decker ballpark since the South End Grounds were closed in 1914. Without the second deck, Fenway Park’s seating capacity was around 29,000, which was less than most other ballparks built around the same time, but Fenway Park was nearly three times the official capacity of Huntington Avenue Grounds.

After 84,000sf of grass was removed from the Huntington Avenue Grounds and transplanted in Fenway Park, baseball was ready to be played behind the new park’s depression-style red brick facade. The Kenmore Square area features buildings of similar architecture and height, allowing Fenway Park to blend in to its surroundings unlike other major sports venues. Unlike these structures imposing over their environment, Fenway has a markedly utilitarian appearance and the lack of bulk is also attributable to the field sitting below street level. A famous story tells of Roger Clemons to Boston in 1984 and taking a cab from Logan Airport to the ballpark. Once they arrived at Fenway Park, Clemons said to the taxi driver, “No, Fenway Park, it’s a baseball stadium. This is a warehouse.” Not until the driver told him to look up at the lights did Clemons believe he was outside a major league stadium.

The red-brick depression-style facade of Fenway Park

Changes to Fenway Park Over the Years

Fenway Park took its current shape in 1934 when new owner Tom Yawkey took over with the capital allowing him to spend lavishly toward rebuilding the park. Three months prior to opening day, a fire leveled much of the improvements and Yawkey redoubled efforts, hiring an army of workers during the height of The Depression. The project consisted of a seven month stretch of construction and after two fires set back progress Yawkey instituted an around-the-clock schedule. Yawkey’s improvements and renovations to Fenway Park were one of the largest depression-era construction projects in Boston, second only to the Tobin Bridge, and Yawkey’s use of union labor endeared him and his version of Fenway Park to Boston residents. The major changes Yawkey made to the ballpark in 1934 included:

  • Leveled Duffy’s Cliff.
  • Covered wall in concrete and tin. Yawkey also had his and his wife’s initials painted in Morse code on the wall where they remain today.
  • Installed a manual scoreboard in the base of the wall, which is the last hand-operated scoreboard in the American League.
  • Replaced wooden bleachers with concrete structures.

Changes continued over the years as seats were added and the outfield wall was moved to increase capacity. The last change to the playing field was when Yawkey built bullpens inside the right-field fence. Yawkey’s reasoning for the relocation of the bullpens, was to aid new star Ted Williams by pulling in the fence 23ft and making it easier for the right-handed hitter to hit ball out of the playing field. The area became known as Williamsburg, but Williams hit less than three dozen of his 521 home runs into the bullpens.

Fenway Park media box behind home plate

In 1999, plans were announced to demolish and rebuild Fenway. The public voiced stiff resistance despite ownership and Boston media (including Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan) considering it inevitable. In 2002, a group led by John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucciano bought the Boston Red Sox and began engineering studies toward renovating Fenway Park. The group decided renovation was preferred over rebuilding and over the next ten years they spent $285 million on renovations and improvements. The result is a critically-acclaimed restoration project that succeeded in modernizing and expanding capacity without compromising the intimacy and character that make Fenway Park what it is. After renovations were declared complete in 2012, engineers estimated another 40-50 years of useful life.

Despite the current owners not planning for any additional major renovations, any future changes to Fenway Park will require a thorough permitting since it was announced in 2012 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Another recent accolade for Fenway Park was when the American Institute of Architects placed Fenway Park on its list of 150 buildings that defined “The Shape of America.” One member of the AIA noted, “The odd thing about Fenway is that probably of the top 150 buildings that we’re dealing with on the list, this one exhibits the least sense of intentional design by one hand.”

Miscellaneous Fenway Park Facts

  • Fenway Park currently has over 700 consecutive sellouts and counting. The streak began on May 15, 2003 and in 2008 the Red Sox organization broke the Major League Baseball record of 456 consecutive sellouts.
  • Fenway Park leads all MLB stadiums in hot dog sales by selling 1.5 million Fenway Franks a year.
  • Fenway Park once housed a candlepin bowling alley below the ballpark. The bowling alley was removed during the recent renovations so management offices could be expanded, but wood from the lanes was repurposed for the countertops of a bar built on the right-field pavilion.
  • At one point, the owner of the New York Yankees held the mortgage on Fenway Park as collateral for a loan.
  • Prior to 2004 reengineering, heavy rains would cause Boston’s sewage drains to back up to the point where fish would be able to swim from the Charles River to the field at Fenway Park. Once the water drained, fish as big as a foot long would be left on the field.

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The Mason House: Back Bay’s Latest Historic Mansion for Sale

The Mason Home: Million-Dollar Historic MansionNot too long ago I wrote about the Ames Webster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth St in Boston’s Back Bay, the incredible historic mansion that has been on the sales market for just shy of 800 days. At the time I wrote about the Ames Webster Mansion, there was no comparable property in Boston proper. This has now changed as The Mason House has come onto the sales market.

I recently had the privilege of touring The Mason House at 211 Commonwealth Ave and I feel it was a privilege. The Mason House is a single-family mansion built in 1883 by Rotch & Tilden architects in the Colonial Revival style for William Powell Mason. Situated across from the Commonwealth Mall between Exeter St and Fairfield St, every aspect of this home was designed with meticulous attention. The facade of the building is a seemingly simple brick exterior, but once inside, the grandeur within is revealed to the fortunate few to walk through the entrance. The moment you open the immense door and are welcomed into the incredible foyer, you do feel like one of the fortunate few.

The Mason Home's Formal Salon at 211 Comm AveThe basics of this brick mansion are as follows: 5 floors, 11 bedroom, 9 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces, private terrace, enclosed garden, elevator, au-pair suite, two wet bars, butler’s kitchen, and a heated garage that fits up to 5 cars. All of these features found in one Back Bay home is unique, but what truly sets this home apart from other multi-million dollar mansions are the exquisite details. For example, the beautifully patterned moldings along the crown, walls, and fireplace in the formal salon gives an air of delicacy and refinement. The formal dining room with coffered ceiling and restored mahogany paneling exudes formality and regality.

The Mason Home features an incredible music roomThe piece de resistance has to be the music room added in 1897. I believe the music room is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy with a stained-glassed skylight set into the coffered half-dome ceiling at the room’s entrance. The dome in the center of the room is believed to be the first architectural element in Boston designed specifically for electric lights, which were used to illuminate the stucco ceiling details. The music room was added by Fanny Mason, the daughter of the William Powell Mason, who founded the Boston Symphony and the Peabody-Mason Music Foundation. In this room, Fanny Mason hosted many musical performances by renowned artists of the time.

The Mason House seems immense and overwhelming as a whole, but each room achieves an intimacy that can make you feel comfortably at home. This trophy property is available for the asking price of $17,900,000 and since the previous owners have renovated many of the rooms (including the kitchen) for our modern times, very few renovations would be needed for the new owners to call it home.

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The Return of Boston Food Trucks

Parking Spaces Reserved for Boston Food TrucksIf you had searched, you may have found food trucks sparsely scattered throughout the city over the winter. Now that spring has sprung the official food truck season in Boston has begun! There will be more food trucks at more frequency and I could not be happier.

“What is so great about Boston food trucks?” you may ask. Well, the answer, my friend, is being made to order right around the corner. Boston food trucks offer fantastic variety of foods from vegetarian to bbq and gourmet cupcakes to frozen hoagies. The quick delicious meals food trucks offer are ideal for those on the go who do not have the time for a sit-down meal. Since the trucks do vary in location, day, and time, it is a wonderful way to add more options to the daily grind.

Due to the growing popularity of food trucks in Boston, Mayor Menino announced four new sites to begin this month. The first of these new sites will be in the Copley Square area of Back Bay at Stuart and Trinity. Even though trucks were here last year, this site has expanded to allow for three trucks. The second spot is located at the China Trade Building at Boylston Street across from the RMV and near the Loew’s Boston Common. This would be a great alternative to movie popcorn and Dunkin’ Donuts, not that there is anything wrong with either but it is nice to have on-the-go variety. The third location will be in the Financial District on the corner of Milk and Kilby and will have two food trucks. The fourth new location is in the South End at Tremont Street and Berkeley, which is great for me because it’s three blocks from the Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty office!

Visiting a Food Truck in Back BayNot everyone is excited for the added truck spots and extended times. Local small restaurants worry the food trucks will take away business. But variety is the spice of life and I feel there is room for both food trucks and established restaurants. In fact, since many of the food trucks have a strong fan base, they may bring in new business to the neighborhood.

Visit the City of Boston website for a complete list of the food truck locations and schedule.

Just like Boston itself, food trucks are not stagnant. The menus and locations are continuously changing. If you are interested in seeing property in an ever changing and exciting city, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Real Estate Tips I Learned from Realtors in Movies

As I was watching Downton Abbey recently, I was amazed how the estate was the real star of the show rather than the characters. It made me think about movies I’ve seen where the house was the real star. Then I started thinking about how Realtors were portrayed in other movies. After making a list of of real estate movies, I began to analyze what real estate tips I could take away from the Realtors featured in those movies.

Poltergeist, the story of a good house gone badPoltergeist tells the story of a family’s dream home turning into a nightmare. Craig T. Nelson’s character is a Realtor who moved his family into a new home which is part of his company’s new real estate development. What he didn’t know was the real estate developers built this home over an old cemetery and the contractors only moved the head stones. What can we learn from this horror classic? If you can, try to find out if the house is built over a cemetery. Supposedly spirits get angry when their eternal rest is disturbed. In Massachusetts, this may not have happened because this would fall under stigmatized property and would have to be disclosed.

American Beauty shows that looking deeper can revel something differentAmerican Beauty plays on the theme that beauty on the outside can’t hide the ugly inside. Annette Bening gave a wonderful performance as an insecure real estate broker that focuses on superficial beauty and material possessions. She makes herself and her listings appear flawless. What can we learn from this Academy Award winning picture? No matter how perfect she made her life seem, it was not real, and she would never be happy. Trying to make yourself or your listings into something they are not, will never fool anyone. The right way to market real estate and your own attributes are to accent the strengths instead of covering up the weaknesses.

The Money Pit is another story of a dream home turning into a nightmare. But unlike ghosts stealing children into the TV, it’s a the perfect house that falls apart the second the couple moves in. When first-time homebuyers, played by Tom Hanks and Shelley Long, move into what could be their dream home, they soon discover they were duped and the more they fix, the more  has to be fixed. In the end, after all the renovation and costs, the foundation was strong and everything worked out. What can be learned from this movie? Always get your home inspected!

Glengarry Glen Ross shows salesmen at their worst, willing do whatever it takes to make a sale. This story is focused on a group of desperate real estate salesmen. Each character has different motivation for why they do their job and what they will do to make a sale. What can be learned from this movie? You should never feel like you are being sold because your agent should have your best interests in mind. These men had their interests and their needs in mind and their clients were mere obstacles to overcome toward getting what they needed. We also learned “coffee is for closers.”

Trainspotting features real estate only briefly, but it shows London real estate can be a bigger high than heroin. When the main character, Mark Renton, sobers from his heroin addiction and  finds his life in Edinburgh boring and meaningless, he moves to London and becomes a property letting agent. A property letting agent is basically a real estate agent that focuses on rentals. Due to ties at home, he has to leave, but in the end he chooses life. What can be learned from this movie? Renton’s life was boring and meaningless, when he moved to London the excitement and challenge that came from working in real estate, brought a sense of purpose he had been missing. This lesson may be more for future Realtors but if you are feeling trapped in mundane experiences, real estate may be a career to consider.

Working in real estate is exciting and challenging. Every business has drawbacks and unscrupulous people, which is why it is crucial to work with someone that you do trust and who truly understands your goals. If you are interested in speaking with a Realtor about your real estate needs (buying, selling, renting, etc.), contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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ROI: 99 Projects and a Bath Ain’t One

What Projects Bring the Best Return on Investment

When starting to do any renovations or improvements on a property the most important factor to consider is who or what the work is for. If this a property that can be called home for generations, then go personal, build it to fit your style, something that you want and will want for years. If the work is needed but in a property that you will out grow within several years, consider a practical approach. The more personal style shown in a project, most likely the less of a return on investment (or “ROI”) you will get at resale.

The cost vs value report 2011-2012 surveyed 35 remodeling projects over 80 cities that range from mid-range to upscale projects. According to this survey, replacement projects had the better return versus remodeling projects and mid-range projects recouped their costs more than upscale.

The top 5 projects that showed the best return at resale. Remember this is the national average and results may vary depending on location.

  1. Fiber-cement siding. This immediately improves curb appeal and 78% of the cost is recouped for a mid-range replacement.
  2. Entry door replacement. Again improves curb appeal and 72.8% of the cost is recouped for a mid-range replacement.
  3. Attic bedroom. This is a bigger project that adds an extra bedroom and bathroom and stays within the home’s original footprint. 72.5% of the cost is recouped. On average this project can cost $50,000 and has a value of $36,000 at resale.
  4. Minor kitchen remodel. This is a project that doesn’t have to cost very much if you think of it as a facelift. Replacing cabinets, hardware, countertops, and old appliances with energy efficient models can recoup 72.1% of the cost.
  5. Garage door replacement. 72.1% of the cost is recouped but this is a project that can vary in price depending on the home and the materials that have to be used. For a detached garage, an uninsulated door is fine. But if the garage is part of the house or rooms exist above the garage, spending more for an insulated door is necessary. Either way this project again immediately improves curb appeal.

The projects with the least return on investment are additions such as a sunroom or master suite. Remodeling a home office or bathrooms are also least likely to see a return on the dollars you put into the project, the reason being more people would want an extra bedroom rather than a home office and bathroom projects rank so low due to the expense. Taking a smaller bathroom and turning it into a spa also takes square footage away from other areas of the home and changes the original footprint of the home.

Renovations That Showcase Personality May Hurt ResaleResale is just one factor to consider when doing home improvement projects. If this is a home you have no intention of selling, making it what you want is more important, within reason. If your home is on top of your neighbors, you may want to tone down how much personality you show on the exterior of your home because it may make it stand out (and not in a good way).

Visit the Cost vs Value Report to see the full data and learn more about cost vs value. On the site, you can compare the data nationally, regionally, and by city.

To find your next project or your next home, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Buying a Home: How Do You Know If You Are Ready?

If you have been searching for rentals in Boston in the last couple years, you may have noticed that it is tough. Inventory is limited and prices keep rising. There are three things renters can do. One: pay the rising rates. Two: look farther outside the city than originally planned. Three: stop renting and purchase. Many people today feel that investing in real estate is safer than investing in stocks and with good reason. Real estate in Boston has not been hurt as much as the rest of the country and rentals in the city are consistently in high demand. If you are on the fence on buying real estate, here are a couple signs you may be ready.

Buying real estate in Boston may be a better option than rentingOne: you know what you want. If you have a realistic idea of the size you need and the location where you want to live for the next few years and you  haven’t found it on the rental market, take a look at what is on the sales market. The rental market in Boston favors landlords. The inventory is limited and owners can get not only their asking price but also first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and security deposit (each equal to one month) and not have to pay a broker’s fee.

Two: you have the finances. The upfront costs of renting an apartment in Boston are higher than most cities around the nation. Many people looking for quality rentals in Boston  are surprised how little they get for the money. With many banks loosening restrictions on who can get mortgages, it is worth your time to speak with a mortgage broker about types of loans and available rates.

If you are weary of buying because you do not want to be locked into a mortgage on the chance your career moves you to another city, keep in mind that you could hold onto your home as an investment property. With a tenant paying rent, you can build equity while someone pays your mortgage for you.

Contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate if you are interested in learning more about purchasing a home.

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The South End: Why I Call It Home

As I was walking through the South End on my way to work, I was thinking, “Why do I love this neighborhood?” I walked past groups enjoying coffee on the stoop of their brownstone, I saw people out walking their dogs, moms pushing strollers stopping to say hi, and there was a warmth in the air that has been missing for months. Spring is finally here and the South End seems to shine brighter to me.

So why do I love the South End?

Food and Entertainment: The South End has some of the best restaurants I have ever been to and diverse variety of flavors. Within a 10 minute radius, I can have tapas at Toro, sushi at Oishii Boston, French at Aquitane, Indian at Mela, charcuterie at The Butcher Shop, Ethiopian at Addis Red Sea, and Asian Fusion at Myers and Chang to name a few. The South End also offers restaurants with great bars to have a cocktail and grab a small bite such as The Gallows, Tremont 647, and Franklin Cafe. For live music, food, and drinks, I can go to The Beehive.

Events: The South End holds countless events throughout the year all over the neighborhood. From large fundraisers like the Chefs for Obama and Taste of the South End at the Boston Center for the Arts to local fundraisers at the smaller parks like those thrown by the Friends of Peter’s Park. The first Friday of every month the artists open their galleries late for everyone to enjoy a night of art. On Sundays, the SOWA Open Market is open to everyone to enjoy vendors selling locally made crafts, artwork, jewelry, and baked goods. Another big draw for the SOWA Open Market is the assortment of food trucks preparing all kinds of goodies such as Vietnamese noodle salads at Bon Me, gourmet grilled cheese at Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, and vegetarian/vegan delights at Clover.

Convenience: The South End neighborhood is filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and yoga/dance studios. Along with larger grocers such as Foodies and Ming’s, the South End has smaller specialty food shops like Fromaggio and Siena Farms that focus on local sustainable produce. And if I can’t find what I need in the South End, I can walk 10 minutes or less and be at Shaw’s or Whole Foods in Back Bay. As far as public transportation, I can take the Silver Line that goes along Washington Avenue, the Orange Line at Tufts, Back Bay, or Mass Ave T-Stops, or walk to the Green Line at Copley Square. If I have a long trip, I am minutes from commuter rails at Back Bay Station, the Mass Pike, Interstate 93, or the express route to Logan Airport.


South End brownstoneReal Estate
: The South End is on the National Register of Historic Places as “the largest urban Victorian neighborhood” in the United States, but it is far from being a neighborhood perserved in time. Along with newly constructed luxury buildings, many of these Victorian single family brownstones have been renovated into condos, some of which are available to rent. Some of the brownstone row houses are built around beautiful parks, also called  squares, which are only accessible to owners of the homes around each park. Former industrial warehouses nearby have been converted into modern lofts as well as newly constructed condo buildings that offer amenities such as a concierge, parking garage, and gym available to both owners and renters.

Apart from everything the South End has to offer, I knew that this neighborhood was special the night I moved here. My boyfriend and I took a break from moving to walk our dog and grab some food on Tremont Street. On the way to the store we noticed everyone was smiling and praising our dog on how sweet she is. It had the neighborhood vibe we had been looking for and it felt great to be a part of it. 

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South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

I can’t help but notice the increased amounts of Kiss me I’m Irish t-shirts, Leprechaun hats, four-leaf clover pins, shamrock shakes, and green beer which means St. Patrick’s Day must be near. With St. Patrick’s Day comes the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held every year in South Boston.

This year the parade will be Sunday March 18th, starting at 1pm. The parade route starts at West Broadway T stop and continues along West Broadway through East Broadway to East 4th, to East 5th and around Thomas Park. The parade continues down Telegraph Street over to Dorchester Street and concludes at Andrew Square.

Parade route of the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston

Why South Boston?

According to Allied War Veterans Council, the history of the parade goes back to the American Revolution. In 1776, 55 cannons traveled to Dorchester Heights from Fort Ticonderoga on General John Henry Knox’s orders. In an effort of bolstering the appearance of strength, trees were cut down, hollowed out, and blackened over fire to look like cannons. On March 17th, orders were given that in order to pass safely, you had to know the password, which was “St. Patrick.” The British, not knowing the password or that some of the cannons were trees, saw what they were up against and left Boston. This event became known as Evacuation Day.

St. Patrick’s Day parades have been going on in Boston since 1879, however it took until the community became interested in local history to start celebrating Evacuation Day along with St. Patrick’s Day and make it a city holiday in 1901. Which is also when the city constructed the Dorchester Heights Monument, the site where General Knox had positioned the cannons. With the popularity of the combination of St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, Suffolk County made it a holiday in 1938. Because of the large Irish population endorsing the holiday, a law declaring the holiday was signed in 1941 using both black and green ink.

For more history and information about the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, visit their site.

If you are interested in seeing property for sale in South Boston, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Ink Block Project Slated for Former Boston Herald Site

Ink Block development to be built on the former Boston Herald siteThe proposal for the Ink Block development has been made public and a new vision for this area of Boston’s South End neighborhood is a drastic departure from the current state of the area once known as the New York Streets. The New York Streets neighborhood was Boston’s first victim of urban renewal in the late 1950s, a vibrant multi-ethnic neighborhood turned into an unwelcoming industrial wasteland in order to keep the Boston Herald from leaving Boston.

After fifty years at the site, the Boston Herald closed down their production at the South End location known as One Herald Square. The sounds of reporters on the phone and typing out stories ceased. The print presses were shut down. The company moved their offices to the new Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport and began paying The Boston Globe to print and distribute their newspapers circulated in the Boston area.

With the Boston Herald site shuttered, the focus turns to what will become of the 6 acre site they left behind. The site, which runs along Harrison Avenue from Herald Street to Traveler Street, is owned by National Development, which bought the property five years ago. National Development is based in Newton and has been involved in many local developments such as Station Landing, a residential and retail complex in Medford; the Kensington project, a 27-story residential building across from the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown Boston; the Marriott Residence Inn in Charlestown’s Navy Yard; and Longwood Center, a life-sciences building in the Longwood Medical Area. National Development plans to develop the project known as Ink Block with Patrick Purcell, Boston Herald publisher, as a minority investor.

Last week, National Development went before a group of local residents at Project Place to discuss the Ink Block proposal it had submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Ink Block proposal requires the demolition of the current building known as One Herald Square and envisions in its place four new structures with a total of 475 apartments, a grocery store, retail shops, restaurants, and over 400 parking spaces. The completed Ink Block project will total 550,000 square feet total with 85,000 square feet allocated to ground floor retail. The four buildings will be metal, glass, and brick, each distinct in appearance from the others. One building will be five stories tall, two will be eight stories, and the fourth nine stories. The Ink Block plans were designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects.

The Ink Block apartments will be spread out over all four buildings and will include lofts, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom apartments. Rents have not yet been determined for the apartments, but 15% of the units will be affordable. All the affordable housing will be on site.

Ink Block apartment amenities will include a roof deck with pool, theater, fitness center, cyber lounge, bicycle storage, shared car service (Zipcar), shared bike service (Hubway), and electric car charging stations. The garage will offer around one parking space available for every two residential units.

30,000 square feet of the project is allocated for a grocery store. Community members were pleased with this announcement, saying the area has a void when it comes to nearby grocers. The news was tempered when National Development said the desired Whole Foods was not among the grocers currently in talks despite the developer’s pursuit of the national upscale chain. It was mentioned that an urban Stop & Shop has experience in similar locations.

UPDATE: New York based Wegman’s supermarket has expressed interest in opening a Boston store and Danny Wegman, the chain’s chief executive, toured the Ink Block site during the last week of March. Wegman, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said, “We believe we belong in Boston, not just in the suburbs.’’ He also toured sites in the Fenway.

LATEST UPDATE: Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor the retail portion of the Ink Block project with a 50,000 square foot store, which will be the largest Whole Foods Market in the Boston area. The store will feature a full selection of organic and natural foods, a wine selection, prepared foods, a gelato bar, and an outdoor cafe seating area on Harrison Avenue. In a prepared statement, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, ”This is a huge milestone for the neighborhood, and I am proud to welcome Whole Foods to the South End.”

National Development said the goal of the Ink Block project is to create a more inviting pedestrian-friendly area and to this end the proposal calls for wider sidewalks and the bulk of parking to be hidden in the interior of the structure. The vision of a human-scale development is the result, in part, of a proposal National Development submitted last spring for a smaller project that was derided by neighbors as uninspiring and suburban. Since that last proposal, approval of the Harrison-Albany Corridor Strategic Plan allowed for bigger development. The community wants Ink Block, as the first new development in this part of the South End, to set a tone and it appears National Development is listening.

The Ink Block developers did not purchase three adjacent buildings on Albany Street

Three adjacent buildings on Albany Street

Although most of the reception for the new Ink Block proposal was favorable at the recent Project Place pitch, some questioned National Development’s choice to not buy three adjoining properties along Albany Street. Those three properties appear empty, recently vacated by an insurance company, a taxi stand, and F.W. Webb. The detractors claimed National Development missed the opportunity to develop the site to its true potential, but the company said their analysis showed the current market would not bear the larger project.

The finished Ink Block project will be one of the largest residential developments in Boston, built on one of the few large plots available for development in the city. The plan is for Ink Block to be built in phases. The first building will be a nine-story building on Herald Street, followed by a five-story building facing Harrison Avenue and housing the grocery store, and then an eight-story building facing Harrison. The fourth building, facing Traveler Street, may be delayed until construction and occupation of the first three buildings. The entire Ink Block project is projected to be completed before 2016 and cost around $125 million.

To discuss how the proposal of the Ink Block project will affect investment property in Boston’s South End neighborhood, contact our Realtors.

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17th Annual Taste of the South End

On March 6th, 2012 at 7pm in the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama, 40 restaurants will participate in the 17th annual Taste of the South End. General admission tickets are $95 and include unlimited tastings from all 40 chefs’ tables and complimentary wine and cocktails. VIP tickets are also available for $150, which in addition to tastings and drinks, include early admission and access to the after party.

The proceeds for Taste of the South end go to AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc. (AAC). Founded in 1983, AAC is New England’s first and largest AIDS organization. They focus on education, prevention, and providing health services to men, women, and children living with AIDS and HIV.

Participating Chef Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley’s Bistro has said “The Taste of the South End is Boston’s premier food & wine event in our neighborhood and it brings together all of the South End chefs for the AIDS Action Committee. It is a fine way to both raise money for a wonderful organization that does vital work in our community and also have fun saying hello to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I would not miss this event for the world.”

Watch the following video for scenes from past Taste of the South End events.

For more information about the South End neighborhood or about property for sale in the South End, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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