Creativity And Evolution

There is an interesting evolution in education going on in the State of Massachusetts and the city of Boston. Lately we are seeing more and more students leaving the traditional public school system and moving to the newer charter school system. Charter schools are publicly funded, meaning no tuition. However, charter schools differ in that they are privately run. With a lower teacher to student ratio the curriculum at these new charter schools is designed to be more difficult with longer school hours. The objective is to prepare students for college. Today there are 63 charter schools in Massachusetts educating 23,000 students. 20% of those charter schools are in Boston!

An article written yesterday morning in the Boston Globe, “Teachers union rips outreach to charters,” discusses some of the internal strife that is beginning to develop out of this evolution. The article states that there is a looming budget gap of $63 million dollars in the Boston Public School Department’s budget. The article also states that enrollment is down and there are 5,600 empty seats in traditional public school classrooms. Boston’s school superintendent Carol R. Johnson has recommended that a number of schools should close or merge to help make ends meet. It also so happens that charter schools are growing quickly and are desperate for more space. I was pleased to hear that Boston’s public school leaders are considering the option to lease excess space to the growing charter schools. This move will generate income and help to alleviate the growing budget gap. Secondly, the move to lease more space to growing charter schools will provide more children with the opportunity to flourish in a prep school environment. Lastly, perhaps this evolution in public education will lead to higher standards for our publicly funded schools! Presently there are charter schools in the Back Bay, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Roxbury, Brighton, Roslindale, East Boston, and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods of Boston.

Here is a list of charter schools in Boston and links to more information about them: 1) Academy of the Pacific Rim 2) Boston Collegiate 3) Boston Prep 4) Boston Renaissance 5) City on a Hill 6) Codman Academy 7) Conservatory Lab 8) Dorchester Collegiate 9) Edward Brooke 10) Excel Academy 11) MATCH 12) Neighborhood House 13) Roxbury Prep 14) Smith Leadership Academy.

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Fenway Hat Trick!

Landmark Center at Night

The Massive Landmark Center

It has been reported that Steve Samuels is close to completing a 500 million dollar deal to purchase the massive Landmark Center in Fenway currently owned by The Abbey Group. The Landmark Center houses office space for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Best Buy, a triplex cinema and other retail shops. If this deal is successfully completed Samuels will own three adjacent properties in the Fenway. These properties are 1330 Boylston, a high end luxury apartment building, The Triangle Trilogy, another full service apartment complex and the Landmark Center. There has also been some discussion around purchasing the Holiday Inn property right down the street on Boylston. It is thought that converting the Holiday Inn property to more office space, primarily for the close by Longwood medical community, and residential housing will be a smart move.

Bottom line, I think it will be great to kick a Fenway revitalization project into high gear. There has been talk about building a number new residential and retail projects right around Fenway Park. Boston is in much need of quality inventory for residential housing and revitalizing Fenway is a wonderful way to add a new dimension to the city. I will be watching the situation in Fenway closely as I believe things may start popping!

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Filene’s Basement closed in vein?

A Bustling City Center

Downtown Crossing Alive!

Downtown Crossing’s once bustling magnet store, Filene’s Basement, was forced to close for a redevelopment project that promised a 39 story tower holding office space and residential housing. Unfortunately it appears that the project will not be moving forward anytime soon. The City of Boston has pulled the permits due to lack of financing. Pulling the permits is definitely a move on the city’s part to pass the project along to a different developer.

The current developers, Vornado Realty Trust of New York, cannot move forward with the project because of financing troubles. This once bustling Filene’s Basement is now just a big hole in the ground. The Director of Boston Redevelopment commented, “It’s in our best interests for them to find a buyer, someone with the wherewithal and commitment to deliver a project to the city. They have proven unable or unwilling to commit the resources needed to proceed.’’

Construction stalled on the project in 2008 due to the global credit crisis. As a result Boston is currently losing 20 million dollars in tax revenue, has lost 3,300 construction jobs and 218 jobs from the old Filenes Basement. Not to mention the wonderful revitalization that will take place once a project like this succeeds in Downtown Crossing.

Because of the current economic situation Vornado and partner John B Hynes III are going to have a hard time selling. In 2005 the property was bought for 100 million dollars. Many developers have expressed interest but will only consider acquiring the project for much less than 100 million. It could be a while until things move forward.

The facts and quote that appear in this blog were obtained from an article written by Casey Ross, Filene’s site permits revoked, in the Boston Globe on Nov, 18th 2010.

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Inventory Is Low, Prices Are High, But For How Long?

The Ritz Carlton

An article in Boston Globe last Friday states that condo prices in Boston are high and sales are down. As a matter of fact the article states that sales prices in several Boston neighborhoods including Beacon Hill, Back Bay and the South End are up 9.2 % from this time last year. One broker quoted in the article explains that Boston’s inventory remains low and that we have not really had a surge in inventory. Actually there were 1037 properties on the market in September as compared to 1039 properties on the market in September of 09’. In the luxury condo market, condominiums that have full service features such as concierge, fitness facilities, valet parking, etc …, prices have swelled to a median sales price of $680,000.00 the article went on to explain. Another broker featured in the article says that is because the high end luxury market has picked up and wealthy buyers are bringing up the median sales number.

What does this all mean? In my opinion it means several things. To begin Boston’s lack of inventory and entrenched industry fortifies the housing market against catastrophic declines as we saw in other cities across the country. Secondly we’ll certainly see a tempered decline in sales prices before we see a marked increase in sales. I would look at it like an adjustment. I think that this process is either under way or beginning to take hold. There are definitely a lot more buyers circling the market then a year ago. As more buyers help to establish this market prices will begin to taper off and sales will gain momentum. I suppose at this point we sit back and enjoy the ride!

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Traditional Condominium Buyers are Turning Towards Loft Space

It is well known that Boston is one of the most expensive markets in the country to purchase a condominium. The main reason for this is a lack of quality supply. Many contemporary or newly renovated condominiums that run greater than 1000 square feet are out of reach for young professionals within the city of Boston. Newly renovated, spacious condominiums greater than 850 square feet, in the Back Bay and South End areas selling over the last 6 months have an average sale price of 1,200,000.00 (Based on 261 condominiums greater than 850 square feet in the South End and Back Bay that sold over the last 6 months). Very few of these are one bed units! However buyers are finding a solution.

There are an abundance of Lofts in Boston that many times go unnoticed. Most of these loft buildings reside in the Leather district, Financial District, or South Boston. Many young professionals are finding spacious large newly renovated lofts to be the perfect solution. Many lofts offer a lot of natural light and fantastic character that just isn’t found in a more traditional unit! As compared to more traditional units in the Back Bay and South End lofts greater than 1000 square feet in the leather district, Seaport or South Boston have an average sales price of $408,000.00 (Based on 156 condominiums with greater than 1000 square feet of space sold over the past 6 months in the Seaport, Leather District and South Boston.). Also, it just so happens that many of these buildings are new construction or newly renovated. A great example is the new Allele building which was completed in 2008. The Allele Loft Development currently has a large 1 bed listed for $459,000.00 that is over 1000 square feet!

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