0 Empty store space in Downtown Crossing may become offices

Does the Amazon effect play into retail vacancy in Boston?  We, in short yes.  How we shop and what we shop for online has changed and will continue to do so.  Retail is still vibrant and strong, but not all retail spaces are created equal.  Some historical retails spaces are better suited for office which in part has to do their size and proximity to public transit.

An example of this transformation is the Cambridge Side Galleria Mall in the East Cambridge.  The red hot Kendal office and lab market will continue to gobble up under performing assets.

An empty storefront near 560 Washington St.

By Tim Logan GLOBE STAFF  APRIL 12, 2019

One of the biggest retail spaces in Downtown Crossing may soon become home to offices.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday approved plans by the owner of Lafayette City Center to convert much of its long-empty ground floor into office space, perhaps to house the state agency that handles workers’ compensation claims.

The move by veteran Boston developers The Abbey Group highlights the soft market for large-format retailers as they face mounting online competition. The change also has something to do with the particular quirks of the building, which was built in the 1980s as the inward-facing Lafayette Place Mall before being repositioned as storefronts with office space above.

The proposed change also is raising concerns in some quarters about a block and a half of Washington Street in the busy shopping district being converted to office space.

Much of the building’s ground floor — about 75,000 square feet — has been empty for at least 15 years. The last sizable tenant, an Eddie Bauer outlet store, closed in early 2016. Abbey and its brokers have struggled to fill the space. Among other challenges, the first floor is as much as 7 feet higher than street level in places — a design quirk of the old indoor mall and its underground garage.

“We think of ourselves as creative developers who apply innovative thinking to problems like this,” Abbey chief operating officer David Epstein said. “It simply isn’t feasible” to use the space for retail, he said.

 

But Abbey has leased more than 500,000 square feet of office space on the floors above street level, mostly to tech companies. When the state began looking for 33,700 square feet to house its Division of Industrial Accidents — which needs to move out of the Government Center Garage ahead of a redevelopment there — Abbey offered up the ground floor.

A spokesman for the state’s real estate agency said it received five proposals for the office, including Lafayette Center. A final decision has not been made, he said.

Workers’ compensation courtrooms may not be the sort of retail and restaurant Downtown Crossing is known for, but it fits with other legal offices around the neighborhood, said Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.

“This place has been empty for 20 years,” she said. “They found an unusual and interesting use for it. This is all good.”

Still, the shift comes as several key locations sit empty along Washington Street, from Lafayette Center to the long-shuttered Barnes & Noble (which is now being renovated by a new owner) to a cluster of empty storefronts at Washington and Bromfield streets that have been largely dark since plans to build a skyscraper there stalled in 2016.

Sansone acknowledged the empty buildings but also noted that several restaurants and stores have opened in and around Downtown Crossing in recent years. Building owners and the BID, she said, are aiming to bring in more retailers to cater to residents and workers who fill nearby office towers, including a day care center, pet stores, and more home goods stores. She also said Trader Joe’s is considering opening a grocery store in the neighborhood, though a Trader Joe’s spokeswoman would not confirm that.

 

Some landlords on Washington Street, Sansone said, are being patient, waiting for the right tenant.

“There have been some deliberate attempts to make sure that whatever comes is going to be successful, that it’s what people want,” she said.

One BPDA board member Thursday asked Epstein about the wisdom of leaving retail space like Lafayette Center vacant for years, especially given the effect on foot traffic for neighboring businesses.

“It’s a form of job destruction,” Carol Downs said. “I don’t really understand why this space was let to stay empty for so long.”

Epstein said the market has shifted away from the larger-format retailers it originally envisioned would lease at Lafayette City Center, and the technical challenges of opening in the building were too great for smaller stores. Filling two-thirds of the long empty storefront with office workers will bring foot traffic and, he hopes, will make it easier to rent the rest of the vacant space.

“We’re excited about the prospect,” Epstein said.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

0 Boston is on the Rise

Rendering of new Boylston street office building

Credit: Curbed

The Boston real estate market is collectively on the rise, with six impending towers set to stand at least 300 feet. None of these projects are massive in scale on their own, but combined, they fortify Boston’s continued presence on the world’s real estate stage.

The combined projects include office, retail and residential space for lease.

Curbed Boston highlights the elements comprising the project’s relative stout within the traditionally ‘height-averse’ market:

  • One Congress – the tallest new office building in Boston since the 590-foot One Financial Center opened in April 1984
  • Bulfinch Crossing residential tower – residential spire is expected to stretch to 480 feet and 45 stories, and to include 368 apartments and 55 condos.
  • 1000 Boylston – 484-foot, 32-story residential, retail, and parking tower over the Massachusetts Turnpike.
  • Hub on Causeway – 1.87 million mixed-use square feet on and around TD Garden and North Station—includes a 498-foot, 38-story tower.
  • Back Bay Station tower – 1.26 million square feet of residences, offices, retail, and other space around and atop Back Bay Station.
  • Fenway Center – Includes a residential-office-garage tower of 305 feet.

You can read the full article on Curbed Boston

0 Newbury Street Remains ‘Super-Submarket’ within the Back Bay

office space on newbury street 531

Credit: Bisnow

Newbury Street has been a passion of mine since the early ’80’s when I spent time doing deliveries for my late father’s art gallery. Thank you to: BisnowAaron TwerskyDavid Gerzof RichardAVALTAsana PartnersJamestownDartagnan BrownUrbanMeritageBIGfish Communications

The Newbury Street ‘super-sub’ market has continued to develop and flourish since that time into its current iteration, where “the spaces above the ground floor are now some of the most desirable workspaces in Boston. These 207 buildings in Back Bay form a submarket within a submarket, a working enclave totaling over 3M SF. Properties on Newbury Street are able to leverage a built-in cool factor that most office buildings and new developments can’t duplicate. Unlike other Boston submarkets with seasonal attractions, Newbury Street is a year-round destination — the neighborhood has a perpetual energy,” according the Bisnow.

“You never have to leave the street. Every possible food and beverage option, as well as every type of service, is just steps from your office front door,” Back Bay Association President Meg Mainzer-Cohen said. “Newbury Street is also a stone’s throw from a park system that is one of the best in the country, including Boston Public Garden and the Esplanade, making it easy to step out and recharge.”

You can read the full Bisnow article on its website, here.

0 Renovations Planned for Seaport World Trade Center

 Seaport World Trade Center

Credit: Boston Business Journal

Real estate changes keep coming to Boston, not only in new construction, but also an assortment of renovations planned throughout the Seaport submarket. One notable update is slated for The Seaport Word Trade Center, which is poised to add 30,000 SF of retail space to its existing 804,000 SF footprint.

Among the intended modifications to Seaport World Trade Center are “plans to close Commonwealth Hall, an existing exhibition space at the Seaport World Trade Center, and create new conference and event facilities at the Seaport Hotel,” a recent article on the BBJ notes.

Further details on the expected renovations are available on the Boston Business Journal.

0 The Creation of a Neighborhood: Boston’s Seaport

Boston Seaport sq.

Credit: BBJ

What does it take to build a neighborhood in Boston? The creation of the Seaport is just that: in just over a decade we have gone from dirt lots, through planning, to a famed destination location that supports life, work & play.

Urbanland recounts a number of key milestones that propelled the development of the contemporary Boston Seaport:

With the completion of the Big Dig, it became clear that there was “an opportunity to develop a new city” in the Seaport, recounts Charles Leatherbee, director of development for Skanska USA, which has constructed multiple office and residential projects there since, including a 225,000-square-foot (21,000 sq m) office project in the marine park that broke ground in June. Observes Leatherbee, “Make no mistake, the Seaport has access to the single greatest resource the city has—the harbor—and they’ve been able to develop something quite cool, in my view.”

Additional Market Info
• Boston Seaport Real Estate
Office Space for Lease in Boston Seaport

 

0 Prospective Motor Mart Garage Redevelopment Would Boost Back Bay

Motor Mart Garage redevelopment

Credit: BBJ

Back Bay clearly is a destination for development in the City of Boston. If falls outside the FAA’s domain and doesn’t interfere with the “shadow effect”. One prime example is the Motor Mart Garage at 201 Stuart Street in Boston.

According to the BBJ, “the Motor Mart Garage redevelopment ‘would feature building a 310-foot residential tower atop the eight-story garage and converting 365 parking spaces into residential units…The 20-story tower would contain 222 apartments and condominiums, while the garage’s western portion would be converted into 84 residential units.'”

“The project’s height was considered as a continuation of the high spine of Boston,” the development team wrote in the Sept. 10 project notification form.

Additional details on the redevelopment are available on the Boston Business Journal, or you can view the detail page for further information Back Bay office space.

 

0 Tishman Speyer Secures 15-Year Lease With Burns & Levinson

Office building on summer streetTishman Speyer, owner of 125 High Street executed a 102,969 square-foot lease with Boston-based law firm, Burns & Levinson. After nearly a 30-year tenure at 125 Summer Street, the firm will occupy the 3rd and 4th floor to increase efficiency and workplace collaboration.

125 High Street is a 30-floor postmodern high-rise in the Financial District owned by Tishman Speyer; the developer for Pier 4 in the booming Seaport district. Notable occupants at 125 High include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and GID Investment Advisors.

The building was designed by Jung Brannan Associates and completed in 1991.

Burns & Levinson was founded in 1960 and currently employs 125 lawyers across its 5 different offices in New England. It’s regarded as one of the regions most prestigious firms.

According to Burns & Levinson press release, “The new space features a larger floor plate across two floors – versus the firm’s current five-floor configuration – that will allow Burns & Levinson to create an environment that better reflects the collaborative way that the firm’s 250 plus lawyers and staff currently work and interact. Burns & Levinson has hired Gensler to design the interior.”

Related Listings
125 Summer Street offices for lease
Office space in Boston Financial District

0 Modern Workers Need Walls for Max Productivity

Open office space for startups

Credit: Bisnow

Open offices are not the solution to all our problems.The greater population needs some level of quiet workspace to perform their tasks and not face the endless interruption.

A study from Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Harvard Business School and Harvard University notes the following:

[in open office spaces] “you are constantly on view and worried about being seen talking, or having your conversations overheard, people chose to email or use a messaging system instead…And because people were emailing and messaging more rather than speaking face to face, the quality of interactions declined and productivity suffered.”

Additional information on the study is available at Bisnow, here.

0 A Seaport Gondola Remains a Possibility

view from Gondola over city

Credit: Boston Globe

Would you ride it if they built it? Now that is the question. To tell you the truth, I personally don’t have an answer. If it was efficient and saved time, absolutely.

From the Boston Globe:

The Boston Planning and Development Agency “is planning to spend $400,000 studying transit options in a neck of Boston that has become so difficult to access that some are suggesting sailing over clogged streets…The study will likely take more than a year, and consider whether additional bus, rail, ferries, bike-share, and ride-hailing services can help. And it will also look at the polarizing proposal to run cable cars far above Summer Street as part of an aerial gondola system…The gondola proposal might sound fanciful, but a major development firm is willing to cough up $100 million for it.”

0 How Stable is Boston’s Flourishing Seaport?

Boston’s Seaport will continue to be on the forefront by planning ahead as construction and development continues. Lower-Level and 1st-floor space is no longer used for utility infrastructure, developers and landlords. New projects house these systems on the 2nd floor or the roof, where appropriate.

Seaport Square Boston

Credit: The Architect’s Newspaper

290 Congress Street, owned by Boston Properties, utilizes a water fence that gets installed should it be necessary. To-date this has only been used once in March of 2018.

From the Financial Post:

in this old city’s booming Seaport District, General Electric is building its new world headquarters, Amazon is bringing in thousands of new workers, and Reebok’s red delta symbol sits atop the new office it opened last year. Three businesses are testing self-driving cars, other dynamic companies are planting their flag, and trendy restaurants and apartments have gone up virtually overnight. But after bad flooding during a storm this past winter, critics wonder whether it was a bright idea to invest so much in a man-made peninsula that sits barely above sea level.

Environmental activists warn much of the district, transformed from a wasteland of surface parking lots, rotting piers and abandoned rail yards into an economic engine and one of the city’s most expensive neighbourhoods in a matter of years, simply isn’t prepared for the long haul.