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How New Boston Developments Pivot Around Challenges

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.

This past Thursday, commercial real estate media and research firm Bisnow presented three 30-minute case studies on commercial real estate in the Hub. Tyler Fisher, a director in Bisnow's Boston office, said the goal of these shorter-than-usual, hyper-specific presentations was to provide attendees with action items and specific takeaways, rather than more general market information.

At the April 30 presentation, promoted as "the Boston Construction and Development Summit," the audience, which paid $95 for tickets, learned the story behind the Viridian, an 18-story Fenway apartment building that just opened to tenants. William Keravuori, senior VP at developer the Abbey Group, along with project architect Jason Forney of Bruner Cott, discussed the history and challenges of developing a building to meet the needs of the city, the neighborhood and the market.

According to Keravouri, his company learned a lot from one of its previous projects, 45 Province, a Boston condo that was one of the trailblazers for Downtown Crossing. Unfortunately, the residential high-rise hit the market at the height of the recession. Keravouri learned from the experience that "good design can overcome a lot of things and allow you to tell a story that is separate from all the other noise that is going on." Good design saved 45 Province in the worst of markets — surely it will help the Viridian succeed in the best of markets.

Vincent McDermott, VP of Brigham and Women's Healthcare, and Jason Seaburg of Suffolk Construction, told the story of Brigham and Women's Building of the Future, a $500 million project that will create a dedicated neuroscience building for the hospital. By combining into one building the specialties that are currently spread out over nine acres, it will not only save the hospital an estimated $150 million to $180 million over 25 years, but it will allow clinicians and researchers to cross paths, hopefully enabling treatments to go much faster from bench to bedside.

The presenters told how three weeks before excavation was to start, the hospital asked Suffolk if it would be possible to add another floor to the building design. You read that right: Just three weeks before excavation was to begin they wanted to add a floor. Incredibly, Suffolk were able to fulfill the request (you read that right, too) and the building is currently on time and on budget. The presenters attributed collocation as the main reason they were able to make this happen.

Susan Wolfson, director of campus master planning at UMass-Boston, and architect Samir Srouji also told the story of the development of General Academic Building Number 1. Instead of spending $160 million for a long-term fix to the two-story garage underneath the campus, the team opted to spend only $40 million for a 10-year fix to the garage. Then, the garage would be torn down, and a master plan would be implemented that would update and beautify the campus and buildings of the growing university.

If you're interested in attending a Bisnow presentation, grab a ticket to the "4th Annual State of the Seaport" on May 7. It should be great and, in keeping with the firm's motto, (almost) never boring.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]

The Viridian

1282 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215