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The Real Estate Mechanic Behind NorthPoint, Boston Landing

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 and people you would not otherwise notice. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.



Tom O'Brien, founder and managing partner of HYM Investment Group LLC, says his company's mission is to "take projects that have been broken or are difficult projects for other people to complete or projects that are a drag on the city and correct them."

So, if you find yourself in a lawsuit with your partners when you're trying to develop a 45-acre former railroad yard, call Tom. He won't mind if a Boston writer says the Cambridge site's value was "close to zero, if it's not negative." Tom will raise the capital to buy out your partners.

If you have a garage in the middle of your city that's as big as it is ugly, give Tom a ring. He'll provide a design plan that will replace half the garage with beautiful residences, office space, a hotel and more. And the other half of the garage Tom will hide, so there will always be parking and parking revenue.

If you're a business titan who could use a little help executing the mega-development plan for your world headquarters, reach out to Tom. His development skills will get the master plan amended so a number of new projects, including a 250-unit residential project, can move forward.

I asked the 51-year-old O'Brien what it takes to develop in Boston, a city that often welcomes developers about as well as it welcomes Yankee fans. The man who directed the Boston Redevelopment Authority for seven years, until 2000, and who is now a linchpin in three of the area's largest projects, told me, "I think, if you want to make projects happen, you have to think about issues from the perspective of the other person."

Sensitivity to others is clearly a Tom O'Brien strength. In the hour I spent with Tom, he made me feel really good about being there, effused about his partners, noted the talent of the Hym team of employees, and even applauded the work of his competition.

On projects, he considers it equally important to spend a ton of time listening to the neighbors in a development area and he is chock full of experiences that show his ability to connect with folks from a wide variety of backgrounds. He graduated from one of the most elite schools in the country, Brown, yet attended Suffolk University Law School at night. He has worked in government and the private sector.

And, while O'Brien is a name you wouldn't think you would find as the vice chair of the board of overseers of the Anti-Defamation League of New England, you would. Tom and wife Patricia adopted children from South America; and the story of their love and support of Marisol Liliana O'Brien, who they adopted in 2000 and who at three was diagnosed with a little-known terminal disease, is both sad and inspirational.

Tom has 17 buildings to build at Cambridge's NorthPoint. At the Government Center Garage, he has 812 housing units, 196 hotel rooms, 1.15 million gross square feet of office and 82,500 gross square feet of retail to construct. At Brighton's Boston Landing, he's responsible for a world-class track facility, a Boston Bruins practice rink and much, much more. Clearly, Tom O'Brien's real estate punch list is testament the old adage, "Things happen when you don't need to claim credit."
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]