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A Tale of Two Southies

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Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see.

This column is the equivalent of then-and-now photos, only there are no photos, just the emailed accounts of two successful agents who worked the same part of the city a generation apart: Arlene Lenehan, a Brookline broker today, lived and worked in Southie in the 1980s, and Max Vigliotti, who has lived and worked in Southie for the last five years. When you hear what they have to say, you'll agree that South Boston, Curbed's 2012 Neighborhood of the Year, is one of the most changed neighborhoods in Boston.

I asked both what was the most memorable home they had seen in Southie? Max responded, "Macallen Building PHA—spectacular views and there is no property in South Boston quite like it." Macallen PHA, a $2 million-plus listing, is currently on the market. Arlene provided three possible candidates: the first the home on A Street owned by a woman who said she bought it for $10 because no one wanted to live there years ago; the second a listing appointment she had "where the house had bullet holes in the front door"; and the third the condo she fell in love with on Broadway because of the views.

I asked them if they had witnessed any racism? Max, who is from Stamford, Conn., responded, "I have never got the feeling that I'm being looked at as an outsider nor have I come across any racism." Arlene, who also came from another community, communicated, "I found it a great area to live in and never had any problems with neighbors and co-workers who might not have known I was Jewish because of my Irish married last name." She added later, however, "I left because of the blatant discrimination of minorities at that time."

I asked them if they ever ran across any mobsters? Max replied, "Ha ha ha, luckily, I have not come across any unsavory characters. ... There are a ton of young professionals (yuppies) that live there. ... It kind of feels like an adult college campus, I run into people I know every day I'm out. There is never a time that I don't see someone I know." Arlene responded, "I feel a chill in my bones when I see some of Whitey's associates on TV and read their books as they were my clients. I was in their cars and in properties with them."

Arlene also told me of the time her broker asked her to accompany him to a meeting with Whitey Bulger at Triple O's. That day, Arlene waited in an apartment next to the bar and informed me that "there are some great accounts of what happened that day." She's not kidding and it's probably one of the most harrowing stories I have heard.

Finally, I asked them what it was like to work with other brokers there compared to other parts of the city? Max said, "I would say that co-brokering in South Boston is the same as anywhere else in the city." Arlene said "Brokers didn't really co-broke in those days. South Boston didn't really use a database like MLS—buyers would hop from one office to the next and ask about listings."

Clearly, a lot has changed in Southie. One thing that may have not is the reluctance to park in a recently shoveled out parking space with a chair in it. Max told me, "I would not park in someone's shoveled out space because I would not want anything to happen to my car—i.e., tires slashed. My roommate had his Jeep Wrangler soft-top slashed because he parked in the space. I don't want to risk that happening to me."
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]