It’s another sign of continued confidence in Boston’s housing market, despite the pandemic
The Midtown Hotel could soon be no more.
Developers on Wednesday filed plans with the city to tear down the mid-century motor inn on Huntington Avenue and replace it with a 10-story apartment building.
Newton-based National Development, which took over the property under a long-term lease with First Church of Christ, Scientist in March, said it aims to put 325 apartments and street-level retail on the site of the hotel. It also promised to make improvements to Huntington Avenue across from the Christian Science Plaza, where the Back Bay, South End and Fenway all meet.
A letter delivered to the Boston Planning & Development Agency was a preliminary step; more detailed plans and images are likely in the coming weeks, followed by rounds of community meetings and public review. A groundbreaking would probably be at least a year away. Indeed, National plans to lease the 159-room Midtown to Northeastern University for student housing this academic year.
But the move is another show of long-term confidence in Boston’s housing market from a veteran local developer. While development proposals basically stopped for several months at the start of the pandemic, a growing number have landed at the BPDA in recent weeks, a sign that developers believe that by the time these buildings open — probably at least three years from now in the Midtown project’s case — the demand for places to live and work in Boston’s core will have recovered.
It’s also the latest in a string of developments to reshape the area around the historic Christian Science Plaza. The church has sold several parcels — most prominently the one that’s now home to the One Dalton tower — to builders over the last decade or so.
Terms of its deal with National have not been made public.
Like a lot of other real estate activity, the coronavirus pandemic has represented a pause for the luxury condo market in greater Boston. But there are signs that the pause won’t be a long one.
After a period of adjustment to the new realities of the pandemic, buyers who put off buying upper-end properties will soon be back in the market, developers said on Bisnow’s Boston Luxury Condo Update webinar. Demand will rise, but supply won’t rise as far, because it never has in Boston, whose entitlement and zoning process is protracted.
“There are not a lot of silver linings in this pandemic, but it has created a surge in the Massachusetts residential market, both in the traditional single-family bedroom communities in Boston, but also in the Cape and islands,” Boston Realty Advisors Senior Partner Jason Weissman said.
For the moment, that might mean people are looking to live outside the city, but in terms of the ecosystem of Boston residential properties, activity near Boston will ultimately be good for the city market, he said.
“I don’t look at it as losing people from Boston, but as more liquidity in the market post-pandemic,” Weissman said, adding that in many Massachusetts communities, there is less than one month inventory of single-family homes.
There are also hints that, however much cachet upmarket single-family suburban houses might have for the moment (because it is easier to distance oneself in them), buyers are still interested in luxe urban properties.
In June, just one Boston residence listed for over $5M took an offer, while in July, five properties at that price range found buyers, according to a report by David Bates, a Boston Realtor and specialist in the luxury market.
Of the six accepted offers for those months, four were in Beacon Hill, one was in Back Bay and one was in the South End, and they were all new construction or recent rehabs, Bates noted.
When the luxury market does make its comeback, its fundamentals will be strong, because there is a lack of inventory. The amount of condo inventory varies significantly between city neighborhoods, according to Boston Realty Advisors data. In places like East Boston, the South End and Allston/Brighton, there is less than three months’ supply. Beacon Hill has about five-and-a-half months’ supply, and Back Bay has more than six months.
“What that means is, demand will quickly catch up to the supply, once people begin to come back,” Weissman said.
“We see that people are still interested in buying and leasing,” HYM Investment Group Senior Development Manager Julie Livingston said. “We’re going through a pause right now, but people are still craving a return to some normalcy.”
In partnership with National Real Estate Advisors, HYM is developing The Sudbury, which is the first residential building in Bulfinch Crossing in Downtown Boston. It includes 55 condos on its top 11 floors and 368 rental units on the lower floors.
Bulfinch Crossing is the 2.9M SF redevelopment of the Government Center garage. Part of the project involves taking down half of the garage and wrapping three new high-rise buildings around the remainder. One of those buildings is The Sudbury.
One reason for the strong interest, Livingston said, is that people still want to be in the city. The Sudbury has a walkability score of 99, but also quick connections to transit.
“For the sales that are happening, prices aren’t coming down,” Livingston said. “We’re targeting between $3.5M and $6M, at over $2K/SF, and we feel confident in the market.”
Community will be an important concept for downtowns after COVID-19 subsides, and Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences will take advantage of that, said Noannet Group founder Jordan Warshaw, whose company is developing the new condo/hotel tower with Cain International.
For example, he said, there will be 16 intimate spaces in the building for residents and hotel guests to meet, a design that will cater to the human need for interaction in smaller settings. That is something the pandemic will not destroy.
“Has there been a pause because of COVID? Have suburban sales taken off? Yes,” Warshaw said. “But people are desperate for community, they live for community, and the place to get it is cities. You can’t change the massive demographic phenomenon of people moving toward community.”
Raffles is an international luxury hospitality brand founded in Singapore, with 14 properties worldwide now. When 33-story Boston Raffles opens in 2022, it will be the first North American location for the brand, which is owned by Accor. The tower will include 147 hotel rooms and 146 residences.
“Boston isn’t a newly developed, cookie-cutter type city, and Raffles is the furthest thing in the luxury realm from a cookie-cutter-type brand,” he said.
Cain International CEO Jonathan Goldstein said that his company is a believer in gateway cities, such as Boston, and in the luxury space. There is an undersupply of luxury space in Boston, he said.
“We have a huge amount of confidence we’re in the right position, notwithstanding the pandemic,” Goldstein said. “Whilst we might, for the next six or 12 or even 18 months, be doubting ourselves or our cities, ultimately human talent will want to be in metropolitan cities, and will want the luxury and entertainment and business opportunities.”
New-home sales in the United States unexpectedly increased in April after swooning a month earlier, suggesting the housing market is starting to stabilize.
Purchases of new single-family houses climbed 0.6% from March to a 623,000 annualized pace, government data showed Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a drop to a 480,000 rate of sales. The median sale price fell 8.6% from a year earlier to $309,900.
The report boosted the stocks of home builders, which have rebounded in recent weeks. An index tracking the industry had jumped 19% in May through Friday, beating the gain in the S&P 500.
Mortgage rates near historic lows may be putting a floor under the housing market. And even as soaring unemployment and tighter credit standards threaten to complicate the recovery, home-building is proving to be a bright spot. Builders have been helped by local governments, which in many cases have deemed the industry essential and allowed work to continue.
Job losses are primarily hitting renters who are more likely to be working in lower-paying service and hospitality jobs that were damaged most by social-distancing rules, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo.
Unlike the existing home market, which has seen a big drop in inventory, builders were able to accommodate buyers, showing floor plans virtually and even offering drive-thru closings.
“If the reopenings continue, housing may provide an upside surprise to the economy this year,’’ Vitner said.
Three of four US regions showed stronger home sales in April than a month earlier, reflecting 2.4% gains in the South and Midwest, the Commerce Department’s report showed. Purchases climbed 8.7% in the Northeast and dropped 6.3% in the West.
The government’s data measure signed contracts to buy homes. The slight gain in April came after sales dropped the most since 2013 in March, when much of the US economy shut down to stem the spread of coronavirus.
While housing is holding up better than expected, the recovery will depend on how quickly the rest of the economy bounces back.
“We’re still trying to understand what is the new normal,’’ said Alex Barron, an analyst with the Housing Research Center in El Paso.
The COVID-19 public health crisis has slowed many industries since Governor Charlie Baker introduced a stay-at-home order in March, and real estate is no exception. Even so, multimillion-dollar listings continue to pop up on the market.
The Mezz is the newest and one of the most exciting developments to come to South Boston, offering fortunate homebuyers luxury living in one of the 42 exclusive condominium residences.
Back in the 20th century, one of the most popular places to be in South Boston was the Broadway Theater. Opened in 1920, this was a place to watch “old” vaudeville shows and movies.
It still holds a lot of memories for residents, one of whom recalls that during the 1950s, kids would go into the theater on a Saturday afternoon and watch cartoons, Three Stooges shorts and a full length movie – all for just a quarter.
This was known as “the city’s largest, most attractive moving picture house.”
At the site of this treasured Broadway Theatre today is an icon reimagined and repurposed into a five-story tower of delight getting ready to start the property’s second act.
The Mezz is the newest and one of the most exciting developments to come to South Boston, offering fortunate homebuyers luxury living in one of the 42 exclusive condominium residences.
Boston Property Ventures is the lead in this development while the Boston-based RODE’s team of architects, designers and urban planners are handling the architectural design and master planning. Advisors Living of the Boston Realty Advisors is the full-service luxury real estate lifestyle and brokerage company leading the sales.
When construction is completed later this year, the curtain will rise on this new 420 West Broadway production, and residents at The Mezz will have quite a treat to enjoy: homes brimming with luxurious details and design; generous perks such as garage parking, private outdoor spaces and low HOA fees; and an abundance of fun at all the amenities that the heart of historic South Boston offers.
The Mezz offers studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom residences, ranging in size from 544 to 1,061 square feet with prices starting at $499,900 (much lower than, yet just as nice as Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Waterfront or Seaport homes).
As you enter the main lobby of The Mezz, you will notice the perfect blend of Art Deco styling and modern sophistication with a subtle nod to the past and the famed Broadway Theatre, adding a touch of specialness to your experience.
Each unit is designed with an open-concept floor plan and 9-and-10-foot tall ceilings that adds to the light and airy flair. The large windows provide sweeping views of South Boston, the Seaport and the city along with an abundance of natural light. Five-inch white oak hardwood flooring along with the Wilsonart Ruskin Oak millwork add to the qualitative appeal.
The chefs will love the modern, open kitchens. Each one feature polished Concerto Quartz countertops, Black Jack pendant lights, a stainless steel gas range with an over-the-range microwave as well as the Bosch three-door, counter-depth refrigerator. Clean-up is easy with the pocket handle dishwasher.
The bathrooms offer a sleek design highlighting Porcelanosa Dover Acero tile with natural white Quarts countertops and white tiled showers. Hansgrohe and American Standard fixtures are also part of the deluxe bathroom packages. Doing laundry will be easy with the stackable LG front load washers and dryers.
Residents will enjoy spending nice days out on their private terraces or relaxing on the two tiered patio. There is also a grilling deck. For additional community fun, there’s a large clubroom with a fireplace, billiards table and a seating area with a wall mounted flat-screened television.
No need to wander the streets looking for legal parking space – The Mezz has its own covered parking garage. And for those who prefer peddle power, there’s plenty of bike storage, along with a cluster of Blue Bikes nearby.
Here are a few samplings of the many units available during this time of pre-sales:
Unit 202 is perfect for a first-time home buyer or an investor. This is a 545-square-foot studio available for only $499,900 – an extremely low price for a home in a new construction luxury building in a prime location. And the association fee is remarkably low at $212.74 per month.
Another home to consider is Unit 305, which offers 976 square feet of space that includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The price for this home is only $989,900 and the condo fee is a very affordable at $380.97 per month.
Unit 604 is a two-bedroom, one-bath home with 873 square feet of living space. This is a highly-desirable corner residence with a lovely private balcony that provides animating views of the South Boston neighborhood. The listing price is $1,047,125 with an incredibly low condo fee of $341 per month.
The condo fee includes water, sewer, master insurance, elevator, clubroom, exterior maintenance, landscaping, snow removal, refuse removal and reserve funds.
Over the last few years, the neighborhood of South Boston has become one of the hottest and fastest-growing parts of Boston.
The location of the new luxury condominiums at The Mezz is very desirable. South Boston is known for having some of the best eating establishments, flaunting the trendiest of restaurants, cafes and bars. West Broadway, in particular, is considered to be the “Restaurant Row of Southie” (where people from downtown Boston/Back Bay often frequent).
Residents are within walking distance of the 2019 New Restaurant of the Year – Fox & The Knife – as well as the popular Lincoln Tavern and Loco Taqueria. Just across the street from The Mezz is the popular Capo Restaurant & Supper Club. Some of the popular shopping destinations in the Southie neighborhood include Foodie’s Market South Boston and the South Boston Farmer’s Market at 446 West Broadway. And, of course, everyone enjoys a sweet treat from J. P. Licks.
South Boston is also noted for its beautiful beaches, many of which line the shore of Old Harbor and Pleasure Bay, including Carson Beach, the M Street Beach and the very popular Castle Island – famous for Sullivan’s and Fort Independence.
South Boston also hosts a plethora of parks and playgrounds, with pathways for walking, biking and inline skating, as well as tot lots and doggie plots for fun and playing. Moakley Park, which is currently under renovation, will soon be a great place for recreational and community gatherings, while Lawn on D, just east of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, offers seasonal entertainment and “over-sized” fun. Thomas Park, M Street Park and South Boston Maritime Park are a few others.
The Mezz is close to the MBTA Red Line and Silver Line as well as several bus routes for other destinations.
When tallying up the list of reasons why purchasing a home at The Mezz is a great investment – spacious, modern residences that embrace timeless, contemporary style and exceptional finishes; affordable association fees; prime location; and all the appreciated amenities within and around the complex (including energy efficiency and ease of maintenance, plus the other aforementioned perks), it would be very difficult to find a comparable place anywhere else in the Boston area.
Don’t wait to experience a new kind of urban chic in an historic landmark that’s taking center stage. While The Mezz is currently under construction, pre-sale opportunities to buy are available.
Boston’s luxury condo market is facing a mismatch between supply and demand: Developers are building condos aimed at the wealthiest buyers, but buyers are looking for a wider range of prices, according to real estate experts and recent data.
While Boston’s population is growing, wage growth hasn’t kept up with the fast rise of prices, according to a recent recap of Boston’s luxury condominium market by The Collaborative Cos.
“Buyers have not been able to fully engage in this new, costlier market,” the report said. “The factors which would traditionally support a fast-absorbing pricing dynamic do not appear to be available for this current supply of product.”
In other words, thousands of luxury units are being built across the city, but sellers may have to lower those prices or risk sitting on unsold condos until the supply-demand imbalance gets restored. The report recommends that a consistent volume of sales can only happen if new residential units are designed with a broader range of sizes and price points.
Record-high sales prices
Total home sales fell over the course of 2019, sending worries through Boston’s residential brokerage community. But at the same time, Boston saw record-high sales prices: The median cost for a condo in Boston was $810,000 in 2019, and average listing prices were $280,000 higher in 2019 than in 2018, said Laura Gollinger, vice president of The Collaborative Cos., who oversees research and design development programs for the Boston-based residential consulting and analytics firm.
“Some people were kind of saying the sky was falling. And in reality, yeah, the absorption was less. But the price points were much higher,” Gollinger said. “The number of transactions was slightly less, but the price points were record-setting.”
For instance, at both the recently opened Four Seasons Private Residences One Dalton Street in Back Bay, and at Pier Four in the Seaport District, some units sold at over $4,000 per square foot. “The city’s never seen anything like that,” Gollinger said.
Some 25,700 units are either planned or under construction across Greater Boston, according to the report. In the Seaport alone, some 1,200 apartments and condominiums are expected to come online within one block of each other, at NEMA Boston, EchelonSeaport, Gables Seaport and the St. Regis Residences, Boston.
EchelonSeaport is a good example of unit diversity: With a price range of $700,000 to $5 million and higher, EchelonSeaport has seen a “brisk pace,” selling around 10 units per month.
This year prices may level off, which could allow wage growth to catch up, said Mike Schlott, president of Kinlin Grover Real Estate, which operates from Cape Cod through Plymouth and Bristol counties.
“The last couple of years I think we’ve seen a more normalization in price appreciation in Massachusetts,” Schlott said. “Hopefully wage growth is keeping up with that.”
The heaviest competition continues to be for homes priced under $1.5 million. In past years, the buyer pool would have been focused on the under $1 million range, Brian Dougherty, managing director of residential brokerage Compass in Boston and head of the firm’s private brokerage division, said.
“The price band under $1.5 (million) is where buyers have to roll up their sleeves and really make a very strategic effort to find a place in core Boston,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty recalled one property, priced at $1.25 million, that recently received 17 offers to buy. “There are for sure buyers that in years past would have been in the mix, and they’re kind of waiting it out, or they’re priced out of the market,” he said.
Boston’s buyers have predominately been locals, Gollinger said, as opposed to Manhattan, which tends to draw a larger pool of foreign investors. As a result, the pool of buyers who can afford an ultra-luxury product is small relative to the city’s entire residential market. In 2019, for all of Boston’s luxury residential buildings, there were just 60 transactions at $6 million and above, Gollinger said. Most of those were at One Dalton and Pier 4.
“As you get larger in terms of your price point, your demand dips,” Gollinger said.
At the ultra-luxury Raffles Back Bay Hotel & Residences, now under construction now at 40 Trinity Place, a majority of units will be priced between $2 million and $5 million. That’s an example of where The Collaborative Cos. is advising developers to not emphasize the top 1% of buyers.
“There’s definitely demand for both new luxury and new mid-luxury,” Gollinger said. “I just caution that, as people are planning new projects, really keeping in mind who the buyer is, because having empty buildings isn’t good for anybody.”
The developer of a 138-unit luxury condominium tower in Boston’s South End says presales activity has been strong ahead of its scheduled completion this fall. The Davis Cos. partnered with the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association on the 100 Shawmut condo development, which held a topping-off ceremony Tuesday.
Designed by The Architectural Team of Chelsea with Suffolk as construction manager, 100 Shawmut redeveloped and expanded a 6-story office building into a 13-story, 232,000-square-foot condo tower. The building will feature high-end finishes designed by Embarc Studio and a 13th floor indoor-outdoor lounge.
Advisors Living is the project’s sales agent. Other members of the project team include Copley Wolff Design Group, Howard Stein Hudson Associates, McNamara Salvia and WSP. Construction lenders include M&T Bank, Berkshire Bank, HarborOne Bank, Needham Bank and Bank of New England. The project complied with Boston’s inclusionary development policy by designating BCEC and CCBA as recipient of its affordable housing contribution. The organizations are planning to develop 536 apartments and condos on neighboring parcels, including 26 percent dedicated for affordable housing.
The 13-story, 138-unit condo building at 100 Shawmut Avenue in Boston’s South End officially topped off on March 9, lead developer the Davis Companies announced. The luxury development in a neighborhood peppered with them is expected to open this fall.
Pre-sales have already started at 100 Shawmut, and a release from Davis says that they’ve been met “with strong interest.” But a spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
The development at Herald Street and Shawmut Avenue is due to include 22 studios, 34 one-bedrooms, 23 one-bedrooms with a den, 27 two-bedrooms, 15 two-bedrooms with a den, 12 three-bedrooms, three three-bedrooms with a den, and two four-bedrooms. Eleven of the units will be penthouses.
“We are thrilled to celebrate yet another milestone of 100 Shawmut,” Jonathan Davis, founder and chief executive of the Davis Companies, said in a statement. “This project is a great example of an innovative and sustainable development in what is becoming a new nexus between the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods.”
The 232,000-square-foot 100 Shawmut incorporates the 1920s facade of the office building that was there within a new glass structure. The Architectural Team, based in Chelsea, handled that design, and EMBARC Studio of Boston designed the interiors. Copley Wolff is the landscape architect.
The building’s amenities are due to include a 24-hour concierge, private parking for 112, billiards, a fitness center, a dog-washing station, and a playroom for the kids. A rooftop lounge is expected to include gas grills and fire pits.
In the end, the years-in-the-making project came about through a partnership between Davis, the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church (BCEC), and the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA).
Davis, as part of advancing 100 Shawmut, is contributing $15 million to a city-controlled escrow account for developing affordable housing at a CCBA-owned site at 50 Herald Street next to 100 Shawmut. That project is expected to hold 313 apartments, 26 percent of which will be designated affordable.