Thank You Governor Patrick

Deval_PatrickAfter eight years of leadership, later today Governor Patrick will take the Lone Walk and return to the private sector. In addition to the fact that during the past 100 years only one other governor of Massachusetts (Dukakis) has served the Commonwealth for eight uninterrupted years, Governor Patrick leaves behind a long list of accomplishments that have made Massachusetts a better place to live and work.

The Governor was one of the best salesmen/spokesmen for the Commonwealth that we have had in recent history. He traveled across the state and to numerous countries on trade missions. Having joined him on the mission to Israel, I can personally attest to the positive reactions he received from countless encounters with political leaders and business representatives. Many business partnerships have resulted from these missions and we have never seen such a spike in direct flights to and from Boston and many global markets.

The Patrick Administration supported business growth, with a particular focus on the life sciences and renewable energy sectors. This resulted in a substantial surge in employment growth, making Massachusetts a national leader in these emerging fields.

Governor Patrick also oversaw one of the first top-to-bottom regulatory reevaluations for all state agencies. Nearly 2,000 regulations were reviewed to determine which regulations should be rescinded or modified. In addition to this review, a system was put into place requiring that draft regulations go through an extensive vetting process and review by A&F, the Regulatory Ombudsman, and lastly, the Governor. As a result, MassDEP led the way on regulatory reform by establishing a target list of 21 different reforms within the Department. Most of these resulted in regulatory changes that will make a substantial improvement on the cost and time for the regulated community, without diminishing environmental protection.

While Governor Patrick worked to ensure government operated at “the speed of business,” he also never lost sight of the fact that he represented all of the citizens of the Commonwealth. People mattered to him and he learned from their stories. Their experiences shaped his leadership and policy priorities. Today’s column in The Boston Globe by Shirley Leung is a perfect example of this.

So, after eight years, we thank you Governor Patrick for your unwavering commitment to the people of Massachusetts and we wish you all the best in whatever the future may hold.

My Top Ten Predictions for 2015

2015It is that time of year when we try to look forward and plan accordingly. For the commercial real estate industry coming off a rather good year, we have to wonder if we are at the top or still growing?

Here are my predictions for the coming year:
1. Foreign buyers will outspend domestic investors for Boston and Cambridge properties and will make a dent in some communities along 128 (e.g. Burlington and Waltham). They will also be a major buyer of Boston condos.

2. Boston properties will be seeing a record number of office properties changing hands with some of those properties having already transferred ownership within the last 3 years.

3. No surprise that office rental rates in Boston and the surrounding areas will be increasing. I predict a minimum of 10% over this year. Apartment rents will continue to rise with some resistance in the newest buildings.

4. The Wynn Casino construction project will not be starting in 2015.

5. There will be one speculative office building announced in Cambridge, that’s it.

6. Design firms will have their busiest year renovating spaces and providing greater efficiency for existing tenants.

7. Construction costs are going to be up substantially, especially in downtown Boston, with greater difficulties getting multiple competitive subcontractor bids.

8. Boston will experience a major hurricane this coming Fall with substantial flooding due to storm surge.

9. The Federal Reserve will finally raise rates.

10. Boston will be selected by the US Olympic Committee to represent the US bid for the Summer Olympics.

NAIOP Congratulates Brian Golden

GOLDEN_HEADSHOT

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh today announced at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event that Brian Golden has been appointed as the new Director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Brian, who previously served as the Acting Director, has worked at the BRA since 2009.

NAIOP has worked with Golden over the course of the past year and we are very pleased to see his work recognized with this promotion. Starting with an initial audit of the agency, he has been acting on the recommendations to streamline operations and make the agency more fiscally responsible. We understand that he is promoting a more in-depth outside review of the BRA establishing a new strategic plan for the agency.  We wholeheartedly support such a process and look forward to working with him and his team as it is implemented.

NAIOP congratulates Brian Golden and applauds Mayor Walsh for selecting such strong and capable leaders to help him make the City of Boston a great place to live and work!

Progress with Boston’s Permitting

doitThis week, Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology has selected a software contractor to upgrade the City’s permitting and licensing system. The City currently issues 60 different types of permits, totaling approximately 86,000 permits annually.

In recent months, the Mayor has shown his commitment to improving the permitting process through hosting the City’s first-ever “Hubhacks Permitting Challenge” to reinvent the City’s online permitting experience. The City also created a streamlined ZBA process for small businesses and 1-2 family owner-occupied residential applications and doubled the hearing capacity for ZBA applications.

We applaud the Mayor for making permitting a priority. We look forward to seeing the improvements to the BRA Article 80 permitting process, especially as it relates to new commercial development.

Next governor needs transportation vision

This article originally appeared in the online CommonWealth Magazine.
The below version includes post-election updated information.

By most accounts, the Patrick transportationadministration and the Legislature have moved the needle forward on the issue of transportation. They know that investing in transportation infrastructure is critical to our state’s economy, quality of life and industrial competitiveness.

However, many aspects of the Commonwealth’s transportation system have already approached capacity constraints with increasing delays on congested highways and transit systems. At the same time, demand has increased and is predicted to continue over the coming years with no major increases in capacity coming soon. Without additional investments in our infrastructure, further declining services, increased travel times, and a degraded environment will be the future of the Massachusetts transportation system.

In 1970, Governor Frank Sargent created the Boston Transportation Planning Review that analyzed and redesigned the entire area-wide transit and highway system. It provided a blueprint for transportation policy and investment that we have been effectively following for the last 40 years.

In 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation outlined the investments needed to stabilize today’s transportation system and proposed designing a system for the 21st century. Working together, the Massachusetts Legislature and the Patrick administration created and provided funding for a transportation plan that responded to years of deferred maintenance, underfunded transit operating costs, and delayed mass transit and regional transportation improvements. The funding focused primarily on bringing the Commonwealth’s existing transportation infrastructure into a state of good repair.

Unfortunately, the funding that was put in place fell short of what is needed to truly meet the existing and future transportation needs of the Commonwealth’s residents and businesses. What has been missing from the conversation of late is visionary thinking and a more expansive understanding of why investments in transportation are so important to the future of our state. With one of the highest housing costs in the nation, a solid transportation network that can expand access to a larger and more affordable housing market is critical to the success of our economic development centers.

Across the country – from the Research Triangle in North Carolina to the Texas Medical Center in Houston – state governments and private industry are investing in systems and incentives designed to replicate the Commonwealth’s innovation economy. Though Massachusetts has strengths in higher education, strong academic medical centers, and a historic commitment to innovative technologies, transit and access are weak links and a potential liability for recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce – and the companies that create those jobs.

As Governor-elect Baker begins to outline the issues that will be critical for the next four years, we assert that a top priority should be the establishment of a new long-range statewide visioning and planning effort for transportation. This will require strong leadership to take the bold steps necessary to establish a vision and make it a reality. To successfully implement such an initiative, we’d propose a few guidelines:

• Connectivity is key: With several strong innovation, life science, and health care clusters that are major economic engines for Massachusetts, creating a reliable network of roads and transit is necessary for improving the flow of ideas and people.

• Out-of-the-box thinking is vital: Aligning transportation programs with energy and environmental goals, focusing on seamless connections between air and rail, bus and subway, and making transportation information an integral part of our hand-held knowledge system are all planning efforts that can begin early in a governor’s term and be implemented over the next decades.

• Embracing multiple modes of transportation and access is essential: A 21st century statewide plan must include not only roads, bridges, and public transit, but also bicycle and pedestrian needs, as well as enhanced information sharing through technology.

• Public private partnerships can extend the reach: Innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors must be part of a long-term plan that addresses the needs of businesses and residents alike.

Long-term planning and continued investments in a modern, integrated, multi-modal network are critical to our global competitiveness. Massachusetts cannot lose out to those states that know that transportation investment equals economic growth.

David Begelfer is CEO of NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association, and Marilyn Swartz-Lloyd is CEO of MASCO.

NAIOP Congratulates Governor Charlie Baker

karyncharlieCongratulations to Governor-Elect Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor-Elect Karyn Polito for winning the gubernatorial race.

NAIOP looks forward to working with the Baker-Polito Administration to move the Commonwealth forward and expand economic opportunities, so that all the residents of the state will have the chance to participate in our future successes.

NAIOP would also like to thank Attorney General Martha Coakley for her leadership and dedication to public service. We have enjoyed working with her and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

A Mayor for All

menino_409Today is a sad day for the City of Boston. Mayor Menino cared passionately about his city and his 20 years as Mayor were proof of his determination to make Boston and its residents better. He was known for his involvement in the numerous large developments constructed during his tenure in the Back Bay, Financial District, and, more recently, the Seaport.  He took a “hands-on” approach to the permitting and, many times, the actual design of the high-rises (remember 101 Huntington?). But, he was also knowledgeable about the smallest projects that were proposed in the neighborhoods, from Brighton to Dudley Square. It seemed that no project was too small for him because he viewed development as an integral part of the local economy and community.

However, it was not only the built environment that caught the Mayor’s sharp focus.  He was, after all, the Urban Mechanic. There wasn’t a major business that did not know of his commitment to finding summer jobs for the kids of Boston. Reducing crime, improving education and, above all, making personal connections with so many of the City’s residents are what made him a Mayor we will never forget. We are so lucky to have benefited from his leadership, dedication and love for the City of Boston.

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