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. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.
Last Wednesday, I took the 12th annual NAIOP bus tour and visited three of Boston's hottest development areas: Boston Landing, the Seaport and Landmark Center. Here were some takeaways:
What's the Inspiration for the New Balance World Headquarters at Boston Landing?
"When we met [New Balance chairman] Jim Davis several years ago and began this project, he urged us to go to Lawrence. 'He said go to Lawrence, see my building in Lawrence and you will see the essence of our culture.' New Balance's building in Lawrence is an old mill building. It is 600 feet long, it's about 80 feet wide, it's on the river. …
On the top floor is their design studio. And when you get to their design studio, it's a 600-foot-long space, it's 80 feet wide, it's got glass on both sides, it's got a maple floor from end to end. …It's about creativity and inspiration. It's about surrounding yourself with all the things that influence design. What we believe we designed for New Balance here is the modern version." – David Manfredi, Elkus Manfredi
On the prospect of a luxury apartment glut:
"If you to take one thing from this presentation, it's that we're not over-building. Everything is going to be O.K. There's more demand than supply. I'd argue that we're not building enough.... The demand is there, it's real and we can build more units to support it." – Travis D'Amato, senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle
D'Amato also informed the audience that "84 percent of the Kensington's 381 units have been rented in 10 months." After pointing out the formidable cost of a 3-BR apartment at Avalon Exeter ($11,000 a month) and reviewing his spin on future apartment supply-and-demand indicators, D'Amato went on to say, "We're building 4,000 units a year, what most people in this room consider an overbuilding. We're short 3,000 units a year."
What events made it plain that there was tremendous potential in the Seaport?
"In the spring of 2011, Liberty Wharf opened and around the same time the largest office lease in Boston history, Vertex, was signed. Those two very big events were catalystic in shining a light on the Seaport District. …
People could go to Legal Seafood and you could see tourists, you could see business lunches, you could see people from the suburbs; you could see it all in those two restaurants. It was a real eye-opener for a lot of people. It was a real catalystic event." – Brian Sciera, WS Development
He noted that it first took the infrastructure improvements created by the Big Dig, the Ted Williams Tunnel and Boston Mayor Tom Menino to make those catalystic events occur.
What's the most important thing about any retail district?
"The most important part of any district, or if you are creating a retail district, is fashion. Anything to do with fashion, whether its apparel, shoes, cosmetics, even cell phones these days are fashion. The back bone of any good retail district is that fashion component." – Brian Sciera of WS Development
The company has been responsible for more than 1 million square feet of retail in the Seaport
Who are the major fashion players in the Seaport?
"We have already started making some key fashion deals, none of which I can announce because they like to do that." – Brian Sciera
What is the biggest question about Seaport retail?
"The number one request from certainly everyone: 'Who's the pharmacy and who's the grocery store that is coming?'" – Brian Sciera
Coolest new apartment building in the Seaport?
"We think we have a terrific multifamily apartment building being delivered here in the Seaport. We'll have 346 apartment units on an L-shaped site. We'll have a 17-story tower running north-south and we'll have a six-story loft building on Seaport Boulevard, running east-west. We'll have a one-story lobby on Seaport Boulevard that brings these buildings together.
The loft building is kind of a contemporary adaptation of the industrial Fort Point neighborhood and the tower building will feature 46 innovation units under 400 square feet, a little bit larger than a nice-sized hotel room. On top of a standard amenity program with a gym and lounge, we're looking at the ways that people live work and play in today's world, so we have break rooms for people who work at home. We have a Starbucks communal aspect, media walls that keep you up to date on everything that happens out there, a conference room with deck, so the people living in these smaller units have different opportunities to enjoy living in downtown Boston…
So that's Watermark Seaport. That will be completed in the first quarter of 2016, very early in 2016. – Shawn Hurley, regional manager of Skanska
What is the next real estate home run hit in Fenway?
On my honeymoon 10 years ago, I visited the Standard Hotel in L.A., a throwback hotel. It was one of the coolest places I have been. I can't help but thinking the Verb, a boutique hotel being developed on the former Howard Johnson's Fenway site and opening in July is going to be the Boston equivalent. – David Bates
How much foreign capital is investing in Boston?
"In 2013, 20 percent of the acquisitions were from foreign capital. That's up from about 9 percent in 2011-12, and this year that number is going to be closer to 30 percent to 40 percent …We probably have Chinese investors coming in every couple of weeks to get a market overview form our international capital group." – Rob Borden of Jones Lang LaSalle
Mantras of Boston developers?
"Live, work, play" and "Urbanization is real."
· Our Bates By the Numbers column [Curbed Boston]