Neighborhood Spotlight: Orient Heights, East Boston

How do neighborhoods blossom? Well, often a neighborhood’s rise (or renaissance) begins with competitive advantages in terms of being pedestrian friendly, offering services and restaurants and, perhaps most importantly these days, featuring transportation infrastructure. Orient Heights in East Boston checks all of these boxes. This East Boston neighborhood has scores of triple decker buildings that are likely to transition into condos in the coming years.  However, the larger opportunity for developers in this East Boston sub-neighborhood is the significant volume of underutilized, single (or two) story properties within 0.5 miles of the Orient Heights MBTA Blue Line Station. This particular station has low ridership statistics while offering access to Boston’s Financial District in well under 20 minutes. Moreover, Noyes Playground and Constitution Beach give the Orient Heights area even broader appeal for families and active professionals searching for access to recreation and the beach while still living in a decidedly urban location. 

Drone Image Taken by CNVRG Graphics

Focusing on Orient Heights development pipeline, Saratoga, Bennington, Boardman, Ford and Waldemar Streets are witnessing the majority of the current and near-future redevelopment. Directly adjacent to Constitution Beach sits an East Boston Savings Bank, Burger King, Subway and Neptune’s Laundromat (between Bennington and Saratoga Streets). Although there are no plans in place on these lots, the space is underutilized and would be an optimal location for a mixed-use or residential development. The total building area of these retailers makes up 22,424 SF, while the aggregated lots sit on 96,680 SF (2.22 Acres). This means that the current FAR (floor area ratio) of the combined lots is 0.23. These lots fall within a “Neighborhood Shopping” zoning designation, however the area is also marked as an Interim Planning Overlay District. Proposed projects in Interim Planning Districts will be evaluated with expected zoning changes rather than the current zoning. 

917 Bennington Street, which will bring 42 new ocean facing apartment units, achieved a 2.92 FAR. Nearby, 16 Boardman Street achieved a 1.83 FAR when they delivered 19 new condos in February of 2019. MG2 Group has proposed a development at 2 Ford Street that would aim to achieve a 2.98 FAR, however it has yet to be approved by the BPDA. The CB Equities development at 946 Saratoga Street is another project that may achieve an increased FAR depending on phase two development on the site. This dual phased development (known as The Tess, East Boston) has yet to release its plans for the second component of the project. Phase one features nine impressive luxury condominium units with parking and private outdoor spaces. 

Not unlike many other neighborhoods in Boston, a core explanation for the emergence of Orient Heights can be attributed to public transportation. The Orient Heights MBTA station is drawing the attention of developers to this formerly “sleepy” East Boston neighborhood. A downtown employee can reach their State Street office in approximately 17 minutes when departing from the Orient Heights station. An MBTA study showed that this Blue Line stop has 2,833 daily riders, whereas Maverick station down the tracks in Eastie has 10,106 daily riders. This substantial difference in station activity can be traced to the housing density in each area. While Maverick has seen heavy development in recent years, Orient Heights is only just beginning to develop in ways that will bring more residents and services (and, in turn, riders).

Beyond conventional developer preferences (access to transit, underutilized sites and generous zoning), Orient Heights has additional factors that prospective residents will find attractive: a state-managed beach with walking trails, a recently constructed playground, a hockey rink, playing fields and a handful of eateries and services. Constitution Beach is impressive to say the least. Located a short walk from the CB Equities project at 946 Saratoga Street is Noyes Playground, which consists of 8.31 acres worth of playing fields and walking paths. Local mom and pop restaurants such as Luna’s and Milano’s Deli complement other dining and coffee options in the vicinity. 

Orient Heights is, inevitably, in Boston’s multifamily development path of progress. A transit oriented development community with infrastructure for commerce and recreation is difficult to beat! East Boston has seen a dramatic rise in development since 2010 but there remains much “meat on the bone,” particularly in locations like Orient Heights.  CNVRG is a forward thinking real estate brokerage and consultancy. We’re always looking for the next “it” location and Orient Heights is poised to be something special. 

 

Allston Yards, Allston Square and Co-Living: A Closer Look at the Avalanche of Development Coming to Allston

With projects of all types, shapes and sizes coming through the pipeline, Allston has become one of Boston’s prime neighborhoods for development. Historically, Allston had trouble distinguishing itself from its counterpart Brighton, but now stands firmly on its own ground with new transportation outlets, residential and mixed-use properties. Allston has assuredly established a name for itself in the midst of the Boston development boom. Leading the charge in this new onslaught of growth are the Allston Yards and Allston Square projects. These two developments alone combine for approximately 1,236 residential units and 1,538,570 total SF. Lagging not so far behind in the unit count race is 40 Rugg Road, which is already approved and will bring 265 new units to the neighborhood.  

(Rendering of New England Development's Allston Yards Project)

Responsible for Allston Yards is northeast real estate powerhouse, New England Development. NED submitted the LOI for the project in February of 2017. The neighborhood defining development is still under review by the BPDA. What was initially slated to be a 1,050 unit project has been chiseled down to what will be approximately 895 units. The gross floor area is expected to be over 1.25M total SF, which will include approximately 50,000 SF of retail space. The project will be anchored by a 67,000 SF Stop & Shop, who owns the land and is partnering with NED on the project. The square footage of the Stop & Shop is not included in the 50,000 SF of retail. 

Allston Square, which is being developed by City Realty, has proposed 278,570 SF and 341 residential units. Approximately 22,145 SF of the project will be dedicated to office space. The LOI was submitted to the BPDA in February of 2018 and is currently under review. This development is one of many in the City Realty portfolio, which extends into Jamaica Plain and East Boston among other budding neighborhoods of Boston. 

(Development Pipeline in Allston - Aerial Created by CNVRG Graphics)

Although the scale of the projects described above is tremendous, they do not define the future of development in Allston. Without Allston Yards, Allston Square and 40 Rugg Road in the equation, there are still over 575 residential units coming through the BPDA pipeline. The projects that make up these units are in various stages of the development process. Packard Crossing, which will bring 114 new units, is in the midst of construction, while the Nexus at the Allston Innovation Corridor, which would bring 40 new units, has been under review by the BPDA since the fall of 2018. The wide range of project statuses throughout the neighborhood demonstrates that the state of development in Allston is built to last for years to come. 

(Rendering of NEXUS at the Allston Innovation Corridor)

Moving away from the typical condo sell out or mixed-use rental project is Common Allbright. Located just off of Cambridge Street and in walking distance of Harvard, Common Allbright is quite unusual and impressively innovative. Developed by ARX Urban, this currently under review project is forming a new realm of living that embodies a dorm style layout to cater to a mid-price range renter. This type of project is addressing a much needed solution to the rapidly growing demographic in Boston that falls between the ages of 20-34. This age group made up 67.6% of Allston’s population by the end of 2018 and is set to continue rising. Among the 23 Boston neighborhoods, Allston has the highest percentage of 20-34 year olds, with the North End being the next highest at 58.5%. As these figures continue to grow, CNVRG will be watching for similar projects to Common Allbright to appear in Allston and beyond. 

Development around 5 Commercial Centers in Eastie – Maverick Square, Orient Heights and Everything in Between

Like many areas of the city, the scale of development taking place in East Boston is something to behold. According to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), there are 38 developments that are currently under review, board approved, permitted or under construction in Eastie. Among these 38 developments, 36 contain a residential and/or retail component which fall directly into our realm of expertise and align with the trends in development city-wide. These developments will ultimately generate over 12,314 residential units. It is important to note that the numbers are driven higher by the generational redevelopment of the former thoroughbred race track, Suffolk Downs. The project will include approximately 16,000,000 SF of new development with 10,000 residential units. While the overall square footage numbers shrink when taking this one project out of the equation, one figure still remains large: the number of projects that are in the BPDA pipeline.

(Aerial from CNVRG graphics)

Development of this scale has been a long time coming in East Boston. It’s no secret that the views and access to water are premier in this area of the city. As other neighborhoods have boomed in recent years with the expansion of residential and commercial space, the economics of developing in Eastie finally came into focus in the early 2010’s. Whereas rents used to hover closer to $1 to $2 per square foot in the early 2000’s, they are now stretching toward $5 per square foot for the premier properties. On the sales side, once unimaginable pricing of $1,000 per square foot for condominiums is now firmly precedented at the newest condo projects (namely, Clippership Wharf).    

The unique (waterfront) geography of Eastie makes it a less walkable neighborhood than many of the Boston neighborhoods. Residents find themselves needing to be more reliant on public transportation to access the downtown area of the city. Developers have gravitated to the strong transit infrastructure in East Boston in recent years plus a rather vast land canvas to work off. There are at least five commercial centers in Eastie including Maverick Square, Central Square, Day Square, Orient Heights and Eagle Hill that make it convenient for residents to access services and community. 

Portside at East Pier, Clippership Wharf, The Mark, The Eddy, Portside and Boston East are among the large scale developments that have appeared on the waterfront in recent years. These five developments alone include 1,339 residential units and 1,435,751 of total SF. Calling attention to these large developments highlights the fact that there is significant sizing variation among the 38 developments currently in BPDA. Projects that fall within a range of 20,000-50,000 total SF make up the bulk of developments in the pipeline, however there is no shortage of large scale projects as well.

(Rendering of Clippership Wharf)

Although the future of development in East Boston looks substantial, a project being approved by the BPDA does not guarantee that it will deliver. Financing failures, community pushback and macro economic shifts are some of the many roadblocks that developers face. Eastie is still in the middle innings of its renaissance. We’ll be watching it and hope you will be too. Let us know if we can offer guidance in this alluring development landscape.  

What’s on the Horizon in Southie? A Closer Look From Andrew Square to Broadway

Over the past decade or so, South Boston has rather quickly transformed from a dichotomous residential and industrial section of Boston into a dynamic neighborhood with scores of ground up developments and mixed-use activity. Excluding the Seaport (formerly, South Boston Waterfront), the BPDA has accounted for at least 35 completed developments in South Boston since 2009. Many of these finished projects have been on West Broadway and First Street, while others are scattered throughout the neighborhood. As of the fall of 2019, there are at least 38 additional projects that are either under review, under construction, permitted, board approved, or have submitted an LOI with the BPDA. This break-neck scale of development has been equally impressive and scary for long time residents who may not readily embrace the change.

(A 120,164 SF condo project, 14 West Broadway has been one of the larger Southie developments in recent years)

Among the various  development corridors spread throughout the neighborhood, Dorchester Avenue promises to be an area that’s worth paying particularly close attention to. Although there are only four developments on Dorchester Ave that are currently in the BPDA’s pipeline, this streetscape is likely to change drastically within the next decade plus. 

Launched in 2015, the South Boston Dorchester Avenue Planning Initiative will oversee the redevelopment of this transit centric land by 2030. The result of this will be an entirely different landscape between the Broadway and Andrew train stations. These plans do not account for land that spills outside of the boundaries shown in figure 3, however the majority of the plans in the initiative will fall within this territory.

(Image taken from “South Boston Plan”)

From the end of West Fourth Street to the Andrew MBTA station, Dorchester Ave is packed with industrial lots, storage facilities and a variety of other non-residential occupants. National Development, one of New England’s largest developers out of Newton, has acquired 285, 345 and 363-365 Dorchester Ave, with plans to redevelop over 10 acres of land into a massive mixed-use site. Core Investments is another large owner in this strip, accounting for 656,449 SF of land from 371-511 Dorchester Ave. Although successfully delivering a large scale development is contingent on many factors, the projects that fall within this strip may have relative ease considering the fact that they’re being promoted by Mayor Walsh through the South Boston plan. This is not to say that the process will be seamless, however, an endorsement from the city’s top politician has traditionally counted for a lot.  

(Area of development set in South Boston PLAN)

Much like any development zone, the evolution of “Dot Ave” will take time. There’s little dispute, though, that it’s a matter of “when” not “if” this sliver of the South Boston map will repurpose a substantial section of one of Boston’s larger neighborhoods. 

The Rise of Revere

The landmark sites, beachfront and city governance of Revere may look entirely different in the coming years. Revere is in the process of drafting a master plan for the city that will establish and prioritize the guidelines and initiatives for major redevelopment sites around the city.  Further underscoring this intense period of change in the city is the upcoming mayoral election between incumbent Brian Arrigo and his opponent from 2015, Dan Rizzo, who is running again in 2019. Although 34 candidates submitted nomination papers for the November election, the spotlight will be on Arrigo and Rizzo. The winner will ultimately determine the outcome of the development initiatives laid out by Arrigo since he took office in 2016. 

(Brian Arrigo discussing the formation of a commission to evaluate the impact Encore Casino will have on Revere)

Throughout his time in office, Mayor Arrigo has made it quite clear that he is an advocate for real estate development in Revere. It is a common occurrence for the mayor to go out of his way to refer to future projects when discussing topics that are not necessarily related to development. This was exemplified in a recent statement relative to traffic in Revere. “We are optimistic that future development at Wonderland and at the nearby Necco site on American Legion Highway will advance the argument for this proposal,” said Arrigo on August 30th. The proposal Arrigo is commenting on is one of many initiatives that would help erase the congestion in Revere. 

On the other hand, candidate Rizzo, who is currently a city councilor at large, has not been shy about showing his disdain for Arrigo’s prioritization of development. Rizzo has voiced his disapproval of both current and future developments in Revere via Twitter and public statements.

(Dan Rizzo Twitter Post From July 8th, 2019)

Should he be re-elected, Mayor Arrigo’s vision for Revere’s future will be largely oriented around the redevelopment of scalable functionally obsolete sites. Capitalizing on the in-place public transportation infrastructure will play a vital role in building out the prospective development projects within the city. 

The Wonderland and Revere Beach MBTA stops serve as the go-to transit lines for many North Shore commuters. The city’s growth will benefit from these optimally located MBTA stops. Large projects such as the residential developments at Waterfront Square as well as the currently unused Wonderland Greyhound Track would bring significant new tax dollars and construction jobs to Revere. The theme outlined and implied by Arrigo’s administration is “revitalization”  as a tool for economic development.

(Wonderland MBTA Station)

Discussed further below, projects such as The Creative District will be one of the developments to embody this idea of revitalization. Falling into what the City of Revere categorizes as a “District,” the Creative District is just one of many projects that will play a role in the 21st century build out of Revere. 

Every project and initiative is designated to one of three categories: Master Planned Sites, Districts and Key Vacant Sites. 

 

The Master Planned Sites 

These refer to projects that are expected to take many years to develop and are of substantial magnitude. Included in these are Suffolk Downs and Waterfront Square. A former horse racing venue, Suffolk Downs sits on 161 acres (51 in Revere) and is expected to take 15-20 years to deliver. Waterfront Square includes eight high-end buildings totaling 902 residential units located directly on Revere Beach and next to the Wonderland MBTA station. 

 

Districts

Shirley Ave, Broadway Business District and the Creative District account for the specific areas designated as Districts for future development. Assigned by the state as a Transformative Development Initiative, the Shirley Ave District is unique in that it has leveraged technical assistance and public/private financing. This entire district is within walking distance of the Revere Beach MBTA stop. Also located steps from the same stop, The Creative District is planned to revitalize Revere Beach by bringing in walk-up commercial businesses and recreation. 

(Rendering of Proposed Design For The Creative District)

Key Vacant Sites 

Key Vacant Sites are large parcels of land that are not only in valuable locations but also have substantial acreage. Among these sites are the former Necco headquarters, Wonderland Track and Caddy Farms, ultimately making up 118 acres of underutilized land. With these proposed developments considered, it is clear that the scale of potential development in Revere is monumental. 

 The notion of a renaissance in Revere is exciting. It’s a waterfront city of over 51,000 people that is a mere 6 miles north of Boston and directly connected by mass public transit. However, none of those core elements are new and change is inevitably difficult to enact. This latest evolution is contingent on the results of this November’s mayoral election. The plans discussed are substantial, but a political shift has the potential to derail them or endorse them. Stay tuned for more news on Revere in the years to come. Converge will be tracking it closely.

Life Time Living

Consumers long for convenience. The shorter the commute, the better. Whether it’s to work, a fitness center or a favorite restaurant, convenience is king. Life Time is a retailer who understands this concept and has made the decision to embody it. 

CNVRG’s partner, The Dartmouth Company, represents Life Time Athletic, Life Time Living and Life Time Work throughout the northeast. This has entailed past and future projects at notable Life Time locations including 85 Jay Street in Brooklyn, 1 Wall Street in Manhattan and 300 Boylston St in Chestnut Hill. Life Time is actively participating in the mixed-use revolution, integrating significant multi-family, residential and coworking facilities into their fitness clubs. 

(Construction at Life Time in Brooklyn)

Life Time is marketing three residential focused development projects that are expected to deliver within the next 3 years. Two of the projects, which are located in Green Valley, NV and Coral Gables, FL, are expected to be completed in 2020. The third development, which is in Dallas, TX, is expected to deliver in 2022. In recent years, Life Time has built itself into what could be considered an amenity for any neighborhood that it touches. The new projects will also include coworking space, ultimately allowing a resident to live, exercise and work within a Life Time Living campus. 

(Green Valley development floor plan)

Across the United States malls and shopping centers with big box retailers are evolving into living spaces and small communities. The predominantly fitness brand is capitalizing on real estate opportunities and trends in living and working habits. The delivery of the first two residential focused developments in 2020 will ultimately determine the success of this forward thinking initiative. Converge Ventures and The Dartmouth Company are proud to be affiliated with this forward thinking brand. 

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