The marketing of new residential development in Boston often makes full use of digital technology: video renderings, exclusive email invitations, and 3D tours. But while most marketing campaigns dazzle you with sun flares as you whirl around the amenities with a tap of your tablet, the introduction to Ten Farnsworth in Fort Point replaces the digital component with a substantial analog experience.
High-end real estate thrives on emotion to buy on a feeling, in the same way that one might covet a designer garment in a plush boutique. So the strategy focuses on the feeling of location, location, location. And Ten Farnsworth has a somewhat undiscovered history, so the marketing leverages it through photography and maps from the Trustees of the Boston Public Library, vintage ads, and old photographs. What better way to feel the established roots of this project's past but through the pages of a book that demands you sit down, inhale the aroma of its pages, and drink in the desire of the developer's dream.
This is no stapled pamphlet. It's a heavy, bound book to halt all books. With a wingspan of over 25 inches when opened, it requires you to stop and devote your full attention to its details. A felt cover with hand-stitched binding. A ribbon bookmark. Embossed pages. Watercolor illustrations. And full-page photos that make full use of consistent art direction to make it feel aged and secret. Much like the feel of the South Boston neighborhood itself.
No page numbers in this mammoth tome. Just a table of contents that reveals its story in six chapters.
Chapter One draws you in as an in-person sales pitch would, beguiling you with a captivating story of historical highs and lows. After colonial settlers filled in some of the harbor with material made partially of oyster shells, the extended area was ripe for development. By the 1890s, the Boston Wharf Company built storage sheds for molasses and sugar on the many streets they'd built and named after themselves. The crack of a baseball bat might be heard from the nearby ballpark of the all-star Boston Beaneaters, who would ultimately become the Boston Braves.
By the Roaring Twenties, manufacturing plants churned out Gillette razors and Necco candy. A Summer Street facility made its name as the largest wool storage facility in the world, and the ram's heads adorning the building tops looked on as the rise of synthetics caused the area to fall dormant... until 1976, when artists from Jamaica Plain moved in and eventually infused the area with energy. That's all in the first chapter.
Chapter Two introduces the eclectic neighbors, including the now-shuttered and one-time capital of punk, Channel Nightclub; Albanian outpost Yada Yada Cafe; the George Foreman Club; Lucky's; Bee's Knees; Row 34; and Barbara Lynch's culinary citadel. Acknowledging the area's predilection for restaurants, the book takes a whimsical turn with a lush 48-inch foldout illustrating the proper way to eat and appreciate oysters along the way.
Chapter Three explores the streets, which were largely run by the Boston Wharf Company. To ensure their presence was known, they named the streets after company officers and tenants of the time: president Jacob Sleeper and superintendent Lewis Melcher, for instance. To emphasize this organization's finesse, an entire spread in the book is emblazoned with embossings of the company seal that it branded on its buildings. Boston Wharf established the uniform appearance of its properties by employing two architects to establish the aesthetic direction: Howard B. Prescott and Morton D. Stafford. Only one building stood apart: the fire station on 344 Congress Street, designed by city architect Harrison Henry Atwood.
Pages outline the area's telltale characteristics: projecting cornices on the classical revival buildings, exposed brick in red and yellow, open spaces, warehouse pulleys, and tripartite façade organization to divide buildings into three horizontal sections. Windows resemble either the small openings required by warehouses to adhere to fire codes; or the larger and more numerous gateways of natural light needed by manufacturing facilities.
Chapter Four. And, now, more than halfway into the book, the topic turns to what is actually for sale. Renderings reveal themselves, to envision what the current parking lot will become. A photo unveils avant-garde artwork and sculptural lighting that will greet visitors in the main lobby. (No, there is no concierge.) And then there are the homes themselves.
Residences 1 and 2 introduce an open floor plan that encompasses the living room, dining room and kitchen. The lux touches are what you would expect: Carrera marble countertops, Sub-Zero appliances including a glass front refrigerator, Arclinea cabinetry, radiant flooring, a gas fireplace and a shared roof deck with a grill and refrigerated drawers. Floor-to-ceiling windows and frameless doors. And the penthouse sweetens the deal by offering a private roof deck with an outdoor kitchen, lush landscaping and a private elevator plus direct staircase.
Chapter Five amps up the amenities. An Android or iOS custom smart home system that turns down the lights, turns up the music, adjusts climate control from the car, shuts the blinds, and checks in with the security cameras? Yes, please. Want more? How about a biometric system with safes and four possible entryways into the building—thumbprint and facial recognition included for you, your kids, your significant other and your secret partner.
What else? Oh, there's also a personal robotic parking attendant that, at the click of a button, can be summoned from the elevator and is ready to roll in less than one minute. Yep. They have that, too.
Chapter Six lays out the obligatory specs and floor plans. Units 1 and 2 both have three bedrooms, one den, two bathrooms and one half-bath. Square footage ranges from 2,088 to 2,123 in Units 1 and 2, while the shared roof deck is a full 1,765 square feet. The penthouse has three bedrooms, three bathrooms and one half-bathroom, encompassing a full 4,294 square feet. The private roof deck is 1,491 square feet. Ceilings reach 9 feet, with windows that open for easy-breeze access. (There are actually nine units total, though the book details only the penthouse and Units 1 and 2; prices for all shall range from $2,900,000 to $8,000,000.)
And that's it. End scene. Close the book. Sit back and ponder if this is the home for you. Without knowing the price. Because this is the art of attraction, to lure you into the love affair of wanting to live here.
So why did this development (and its developer, Gate Residential, and its listing brokerage, Campion & Co.) take this approach? There's certainly no perusing this distractedly on a smartphone while waiting impatiently in line for lunch. You cannot call this information to you on a screen in a few seconds. This book, put together by the Fantastical Agency, is so heavy, you have to lay it down somewhere and come to it, with a singular focus first to turn each page.
Besides, the digital technology is going to follow soon. With the prices. To a pixel near you. —by April Gardner