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Restoration vs Development in South Boston

After viewing the unique property at 928 East Broadway in South Boston recently, I started thinking about the line separating historical preservation and new development. The client who was interested in the property is an investor whose intent was to tear down the existing structures and build a new condo development on the land. It is not as though the developer could not appreciate the charm and significance of the Second Empire mansion built in 1867, but the land would be worth more to him with a new building than with the existing structure. He’s not alone as most of those who have shown interest in the property have had similar plans.

South Boston mansion at 928 E BroadwayAs a single-family home of over 6066 square feet the mansion with a mansard roof offers a significant amount of space for any neighborhood in Boston’s downtown neighborhoods. The current price of 2.3 million dollars looks good considering any other property in Boston’s central neighborhoods with over 6000 square feet is asking for over 4 million dollars. But once you factor in an adjustment for location (the competing properties are all in Back Bay or Beacon Hill) and the need for a total renovation the perceived savings disappear. Consider a middle of the road 250 dollar per square foot renovation and you are looking at a 1.5 million dollar restoration project.

The cost concerns are one reason most potential buyers have been looking at the property for development, but the other reason is the half acre of land located on East Broadway a block from the beach and Pleasure Bay. Only one property on the market in Boston’s central neighborhoods offers as much land and it is a parcel in New Market Square zoned for commercial use.

“Given the investment potential of a half acre corner lot a block from the Atlantic Ocean, why has it not sold?”

Good question.

Part of the answer has to do with two parcels existing on one deed, each with encumbrances on each other, but the biggest potential hurdle may be resistance to leveling an historic residence. The property is not listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places or any other list of protected property, but it is an historic property.

928 East Broadway was built in 1867 for James Collins, a wholesale liquor distributor and a real estate investor who developed much of the City Point area of South Boston during the late 1860’s to late 1880‘s. The remaining large scale frame mansard residences in Boston include the Manning/Johnson House at 69 Thomas Park and 928 East Broadway. The home features an unusually deep set-back, in part because Colins owned the entire block now bordered by East Broadway to the South, Farragut Road to the East, East 3rd Street to the North, and P Street to the East. Before Day Boulevard was constructed, the plot of land owned by Collins was oceanfront property.

Collins built brick homes at 936-942 East Broadway for his children

The Queen Anne brick row houses Collins built for his children

In 1884, Collins hired architect Patrick W Ford to build the Queen Anne brick row houses located adjacent to his residence at. Collins built these homes for his children and in 1890 he built the more utilitarian row houses at 823-833 East Third Street for his employees.

The recent history of 928 East Broadway is more humble as it served as a boarding house as recently as 2006.

I assume, as have most of the potential investors, proposals to tear down the existing building will be met with objections from abutters and the neighborhood association.

I can see the argument for historical preservation and love Boston for its sense of history, especially when it comes to its wide-ranging examples of different architectural styles. The problem is when those with no financial stake have the ability to restrict progress and affect the finances of a landowner. It is a fine line, one that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and in better ways than I have seen recently.

Personally, I would love to see the mansion at 928 East Broadway restored to the elegant single-family home it once was. But without the checkbook to see it through, does what I want matter?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I would like to know what you think about 928 East Broadway and regarding restoration vs development in general.

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Posted in Boston Property, Investment Property, Property for Sale, Real Estate Development, Renovation, Restoration, ROI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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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Posted in Boston Property, Real Estate Development, Real Estate Transactions, Rental Property, Video Tour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments