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Nobody asked me, but....the Boston Real Estate Market is back

Nobody asked me, but….

It’s been a while since I posted a blog but, due to popular demand, I’m pleased to offer some musings about the state of the greater Boston real estate market…and some other things that happen to pop into my mind.

1.  The Condominium Market Is Back

Tuesday’s Boston Globe demonstrated what we all now know:  Boston’s condominium market is roaring back with a vengeance (what does that mean, anyway?) and both sales and prices are soaring.  It was only a matter of time until people realized – with the help of The Swami, of course — that, with record low interest rates, they could buy for the same cost as renting.  I think that the next few years will see a programmatic change as the plethora of rental units about to come out of the ground will morph into condominiums as the rental market, especially the high end rental market, begins to wane.  Keep reading if you want to know Boston’s next “hot spot” for affordable, convenient condominium living…


2.  
The Waterfront Just Doesn’t Do It For Me

South Boston WaterfrontI’m sure that I’m in the minority, but every time I go to a restaurant or a meeting in one of the new waterfront buildings, I’m struck by the lack of…everything.  I know that these things take time, but the streetscape still remains a wasteland of parking lots and the occasional new building.  Hopefully, the luxury rental units that are either in construction or about to break ground will lead to the kinds of shops and services, along with usable green space, that make for a vibrant urban neighborhood.  Also, and this question must be asked, are there that many high-end renters to fill the expectations and buildings of a lot of developers now working in that area?  And what about those buildings whose views of the water and the Boston skyline will be blocked by other buildings?  Then there’s the walk to the financial district in the middle of winter…


3.  
The Greenway Is Better Than A Highway, But…

…not much better.  Instead of creating a long park space between two busy roadways, a space that tends to split the City instead of uniting it, wouldn’t it have been better to have designed it to accommodate streets and buildings that would have connected the North End and The Waterfront to the Financial District and the rest of the City?  If planned correctly, instead of a green “scar” that is searching for a purpose, the City would have had great new neighborhoods, increased tax revenues and an interesting and vibrant pedestrian link to it’s neighborhoods to the east.  Sometimes a park isn’t necessarily the right planning response; I think this is one of those cases…


4.  
Brighton Is About To Become Boston’s Next “Hot Spot” 

Sure, I’ve got a vested interest in saying this (we’re developing 1501 Commonwealth Avenue and are about to sign a P&S for 1650 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton), but I believe it.  Just as Somerville has been “discovered” in the past few years as an affordable alternative to downtown Boston or the toney communities to the immediate west of Boston, Brighton is on the precipice of being “discovered” by people who don’t yet know what the residents of Brighton know:  It’s minutes from downtown Boston by public transportation, it’s affordable, and it’s filled with parks and other types of open space.  Developer Bruce Percelay is underway with a mixed-use project in Brighton and we intend to break ground on Charing Cross later this year.  Mr. Percelay’s project will have a for-sale component and Charing Cross (and 1650 Commonwealth Avenue) will be all condominiums.  I think that we’ll both have company as the area gets hotter and hotter…

5.  “Midtown” Would Be A Better Name Than “Downtown Crossing”

Sure, I understand that there’s an historic aspect to keeping the names of established areas, but Downtown Crossing doesn’t really convey a sense of what the area really is and is becoming (It’s really just a part of the City’s “Downtown” and where is the “Crossing,” anyway?).  It also brings to mind the area’s hard scrabble reputation as a hangout for high school kids, discount shoe stores, etc.  On the other hand, it’s as close to a Manhattan neighborhood as Boston gets with its funky mix of great restaurants like The Marliave, the best deli in Boston (Sam LaGrassa’s), coin and card shops, and now the first Manhattan-ish building in Boston, the beautiful 45 Province.  I think that calling the area “Midtown,” somewhat of a New Yorky name, would more accurately convey the feel of this emerging neighborhood…and would change its image for the better.


6.  
Boston’s South End Is America’s Promise Come True

Notwithstanding Boston’s reputation, thankfully fading, as a racist city, it has one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America.  Its South End is a true melting pot of races, religions, ethnicities and sexual preferences — all living in harmony and, more important, peacefully and happily interacting with each other on a daily basis.  I’ve done development work all over the country and I’ve yet to see anything close to this little piece of America’s promise and potential.  Where else is there such a mix of extremes such as public housing and multi-million dollar brownstones co-existing as neighbors amid a burgeoning middle class?  Sure, it’s getting gentrified, but it still maintains its traditions, none the least of which is Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, a local deli that opened its doors in 1927 as one of the few restaurants in Boston that catered to African-Americans.  I would encourage anyone interested in the history of the South End (and Charlie’s) to read George Aaron Cuddy’s new e-book, “Where Hash Rules.”  Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?

7.  The Red Sox Won’t Make The Playoffs 

I just don’t see it happening this year.  What I do see is that every time the Sox play a solid contender for the World Series (e.g. Texas, Detroit, the Yankees…), they look outclassed.  And as long as Josh Beckett is around, they’re a hard team to like.  I hope I’m wrong…

 

 

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About Merrill Diamond

Merrill H. Diamond is a trained architect and a founding principal of IGNITION Residential, an interdisciplinary multi-family marketing firm. He is also a founding partner of Diamond/Sinacori, a Boston-based real estate development company founded in 1978. Mr. Diamond has been the recipient of numerous local and national awards for both development and marketing. He has served as both a gubernatorial appointee to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and to the Senate Special Commission on Historic Preservation. In addition, Mr. Diamond has been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Arthur Young / “Venture Magazine;” “Merchant Builder of the Year” by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), and one of “America’s Most Valuable People” by “USA Today".

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