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Will Manhattan Rents Fly in South Boston?

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The Boston Globe's editorial board has echoed (however more eloquently) something we touched on last week: These Manhattan-like micro-apartments planned for South Boston are all well and good, but will the young, hip techies they're targeted toward rent them at $1,500 a pop? Especially when that pop is 375 square feet, about one-third the size of a Brookline swimming pool?

We don't think so, and imagine that the Menino-lauded plans for hundreds of micro-apartments in South Boston, near and inside the Innovation District, will be either scrapped or scaled back by the free market. There are too many variables, including an assumption that job growth in the Boston tech sector will continue (when, yes, Manhattan clearly appears to have a jump on us), to warrant a build-it-and-they-will-come mentality. Especially not when developers could command higher rents for slightly bigger apartments (or high prices for condos of similar size!).
The Globe cites a study by the Cambridge Innovation Center, a flex-office-space provider, that (surprise, surprise) thinks young people would absolutely adore "dormitory-inspired housing arrangements" (where, presumably, they sleep in between working in their flex office spaces). But!

.. in that same survey, the respondents—mostly twentysomethings who work in the tech and start-up industries—said they would only be willing to pay, on average, around $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year, for innovative housing. That’s $6,000 less per year than developers are hoping they will pay. What's to be done, then? The Globe suggests developers voluntarily lower rents (we should have tried that approach this holiday shopping season—"Could you pretty please lower the price of that flat-screen? It'd just be so awesome if you did.") We don't see that working out too swell. The newspaper's other idea—micro-apartments for two!—might actually work, though, much as the young and ambitious of Gotham often shack up two, three, four (we did five once!) to an apartment of not generous proportions. But the young and ambitious of New York don't expect that much space going in; and their pay is higher; and there are more jobs.

So it looks like the micro-apartment idea as currently conceived is D.O.A. Shame, too.

More than just the economic fate of the development is at stake: Boston has waited a long time for a thriving neighborhood to emerge on the South Boston Waterfront. · At Right Price, Tiny Apartments Could Fuel Big Hopes in Boston [Globe]
· South Boston to Get Hundreds of Manhattan Apartments [Curbed Boston]
· Innovation District's 'Call for Housing' Answered by 212 Number [Curbed Boston]
· Boston's 5,000 New Apartments Won't Mean Lower Rents [Curbed Boston]

Innovation District

1 Marina Park Drive, Boston, MA 02101