climate change continues to threaten homes, businesses, and infrastructure,
Massachusetts’ coastal communities
will need flexibility to properly implement their coastal resiliency plans. Many
of these plans, including the Climate Ready Boston initiative, will require the
use of fill to protect the City against the impacts of rising sea levels
and climate change. Such projects could include berms, waterfront parks, and
seawalls. S.430 provides a
framework for these critically important projects to be reviewed and approved.
laws and regulations, including the Wetlands Protection Act, were written
decades ago and did not anticipate the potential impacts of sea level rise, nor
the range of solutions that might be required to reduce flood risk,” testified
Kruel. “As noted in the October 2018 Coastal
Resilience Solutions for South Boston report, to be able to implement
proposed resiliency measures, some existing regulations and permitting
requirements may need modification to consider the impacts of sea level rise
and flood protection projects. In the same vein, Bill S.430 is intended to prevent
provisions of the WPA and 310 CMR 10 from inhibiting the construction of
coastal resiliency projects.”
“Coastal municipalities in the Commonwealth must be given the tools and resources they need to implement their coastal resiliency plans,” said Small. “We believe that the flexibility this bill provides allows for the public and private sectors to work together to protect communities from the impacts of climate change.”
NAIOP believes that S. 430 is a critical component to the Commonwealth’s climate resiliency efforts and will continue to advocate for the passage of this legislation.
At first glance, it might seem like a simple courtroom showdown between the MBTA and the Town of Sudbury over an underground power line.
But to the state’s major commercial real estate trade group, the fight that played out at the Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday is about much more.
NAIOP Massachusetts isn’t a party to the case. But it did weigh in — on the side of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and utility company Eversource — through a friend-of-the-court brief.
The reason? Should the state’s highest court side with the town, NAOIP worries that transfers of publicly owned properties across the state could grind to a halt.
To get this far in its appeal, the town homed in on the state’s “prior public use doctrine” — a common-law understanding that land already devoted to one public use can’t be changed to a different one without state legislation. A Land Court judge ruled in 2018 that the doctrine didn’t apply in the Sudbury case, because the land would be leased for a private use. The town appealed, and the SJC decided to take up the issue.
George Pucci, a lawyer for Sudbury, argued Tuesday that this is an unusual case, one that would not open the floodgates. He noted that much of the right-of-way had once been acquired by eminent domain for transportation purposes.
But the potential broader impact was on the minds of the justices, as their line of questioning made evident.
NAIOP got involved after the SJC put out a call for input in May. Of particular concern to the trade group: The judges said they wanted to review whether the public-use doctrine should be in effect for transfers of property that would lead to private uses.
That request didn’t come out of left field. Pucci, in his initial appeals brief, argued it wouldn’t make sense to prohibit the transfer to an inconsistent public use while allowing the sale for an inconsistent private use. This, he wrote, would defeat the purpose of the doctrine: to protect public land from being converted to a different use without legislative approval.
Words like those can strike fear in the heart of any developer. Tamara Small, NAIOP’s chief executive, says a mandatory trip to the Legislature would open up a whole new layer of uncertainty and expense for public-private partnerships. Begging on Beacon Hill would bog down the development process, the mere prospect preventing many deals from happening in the first place.
In its brief, NAIOP offered a smattering of examples to emphasize some of these partnerships’ public benefits: an apartment complex in Chinatown with more than two dozen affordable units, clean energy from solar panels that dot state land along the Massachusetts Turnpike and other highways, the pending Polar Park stadium that will be built on city-owned property for the soon-to-be Worcester Red Sox.
What about Eversource? What public benefits would the electric utility offer with its deal? The company says its 9-mile Sudbury-to-Hudson line, mostly in a rail corridor, would bring nearly $9.4 million in lease payments to the T over 20 years. The line would help improve grid reliability in Greater Boston, with a side benefit of allowing a rail trail to be built along the stretch.
To the Sudbury town officials who authorized the litigation, these benefits don’t seem worth the adverse environmental impacts, such as damage to wetlands and wildlife habitats along the corridor.
Jessica Gray Kelly, NAIOP’s lawyer, says her client is agnostic on the fate of that project. But the association’s members do worry that the effects could ripple far and wide if the court decides legislative approval is needed for any change of use in a public property deal, not just for those in which control would be transferred to another public agency.
It would be a new world for real estate development in the state. Kelly demurs when asked how she thinks the court will react. But NAIOP’s insertion into this seemingly local fight shows the trade group is not taking any chances.
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) affirmed
the Superior Court’s decision in favor of the Boston Planning and Development
Agency (BPDA), formerly known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), in
the case of Joseph P. Marchese vs. Boston Redevelopment Authority. The
Court determined that the plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the
BPDA’s actions in this case.
In April, NAIOP submitted an amicus brief in
support of the BPDA,
drafted by law firm WilmerHale. NAIOP chose to pursue this opportunity
because the case addresses the “demonstrations clause” of the urban renewal
statute, which is a critical economic development tool, often used for
artistic, cultural and historical preservation in the City of Boston.
“We are pleased with today’s decision,” said Tamara Small, CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts. “This case was closely watched by the industry and the decision will allow the BPDA to continue to leverage important public-private partnerships to positively impact the City’s communities and public spaces.”
NAIOP files amicus briefs from time to time in cases that may have far reaching implications for real estate development in the Commonwealth.
Very special thanks to the team at WilmerHale including Michael Bongiorno, Julia Harvey, Arjun Jaikumar, Matthew Costello, and Keith Barnett. Additional thanks to the NAIOP Amicus Brief Advisory Committee for their in-depth review and input on this issue.
Every year, NAIOP takes its members on a walking tour that explores the latest real estate development projects in a specific neighborhood. This year, NAIOP members toured the Seaport, where they had the chance to see recently opened buildings and get an invaluable sneak peek of what’s to come. A still evolving neighborhood, the Seaport has seen incredible investment in everything from office and lab space, to residences along the water, and innovative retail. The district is 23-acres of mixed-use zoning, including 10 acres of open space, and has become a new hub of commerce, culture, and innovation in the City of Boston.
The sold-out walking tour kicked off at the Icon Theater. The group got a lesson on the history of the neighborhood from David Martel of Newmark Knight Frank, and an important reminder that what is happening in the Seaport now is the result of over 30 years of work from visionaries, investors, and developers who came together to transform the Seaport into what it is today. Yanni Tsipis of WS Development discussed the billions of dollars of public investment, including the Harbor cleanup and Big Dig, that catalyzed the growth of the Seaport. He also discussed his firm’s massive, transformative development, Seaport Square, including the forthcoming 88 Seaport, a mixed-use retail and office project, and 111 Harbor Way, future home to Amazon.
121 Seaport Boulevard
The group then headed to 121 Seaport, home to PTC’s global headquarters and Alexion Pharmaceuticals. Developed by Skanska, the project officially opened earlier this year. Carolyn Desmond of Skanska discussed the development of this 17-story, 450,000 square foot elliptical tower, which included the discovery of a long-buried ship during construction! Marc Margulies of MPA then covered the cutting-edge design of the PTC headquarters. The building’s unique shape provided increased opportunities to build out a truly unique space for the offices, providing optimal light and functionality. Attendees then toured the PTC office, including its incredible rooftop terrace.
Outside of 121 Seaport, Martin Zogran from Sasaki discussed his firm’s work to create an expansive public realm program, which weaves together a unique fabric of residences, offices, shops, restaurants, civic uses, and hotels.The master plan is designed to encourage walkability and alternative mobility options with 39% of the total project area being exclusively devoted to pedestrian-only open space. As an example, a tree-lined pedestrian path, Harbor Way, punctuated by plazas and amenity spaces serves as the district’s cultural corridor and north-south connector between the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). Their work will bring a diverse mix of uses, pedestrian-oriented public space, and greater coherence and connectivity to the Seaport.
A quick walk across the street brought attendees to EchelonSeaport. Developer Michael Schumacher of The Cottonwood Group and Phil Casey of CBT gave an overview of this 1.33 million square foot community, featuring two condominium towers and one multifamily tower with 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor residential amenity spaces. The design, focused on the intersection of art and commerce through the lens of luxury hospitality, will include significant public space and promises to be a striking addition to the Boston skyline. With amenities for both towers ranging from pools to private dining rooms, EchelonSeaport promises to provide residents with much more than just a place to live.
The St. Regis Residences, Boston
Attendees then went to the former Whiskey Priest location, which will soon be the St. Regis Residences, Boston. Sean O’Grady of Cronin Development and Rebecca Eriksen of Elkus Manfredi Architects discussed the project, which broke ground in Fall 2018. The project faced a unique caveat in initial design – the property borders the Harbor on two sides. Rising to the challenge, the latest residential waterfront development in the Seaport promises to evoke nautical themes in every aspect of its architecture and décor. Currently slated to open in early 2021, the 114 residences will provide a highly curated experience, featuring signature design, dramatic views, an 8,000+ square foot bistro with additional terrace space, on-site spa, and other luxury amenities.
From there attendees went to the Seaport’s Fort Point Channel, where Jamie Carlin and Paul Connolly of Crosspoint Associates discussed the future of Thomson Place – a renovation and reinvigoration of one of the area’s historic warehouses. Scheduled to open in Fall 2019, the project will include office, retail and mixed-use space. Currently home to Trillium Brewing, Bartaco, and a new public plaza, the project brings new energy to the neighborhood, while preserving its historic character.
The group wrapped up the day at The Grand for a networking cocktail hour sponsored by WS Development. Attendees had the opportunity to chat with brokers, project teams and each other to wrap up a successful tour with a well-deserved cocktail in hand. Plans are already underway for next year’s tour. We look forward to seeing you then!
On Tuesday, July 9 NAIOP CEO Tamara Small testified before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Cable in support of NAIOP bill H. 2861, An Act to Encourage Predictability in Utility Connections. Introduced by Representative Thomas Golden of Lowell, the legislation is targeted at addressing the frustrations the commercial real estate sector has expressed for years regarding the lack of transparency and predictability for utility connections at development projects. If passed, the bill will ensure that commercial customers, as well as new connections and relocations of existing connections, are included in the service quality standards.
Currently, when utilities request a rate increase, they are
“graded” based on how they perform under the Department of Public Utilities’
Service Quality Standards. Customer
satisfaction, response times for service outages, and repairs and maintenance
are some of the criteria considered under M.G.L. Chapter 164 §1E. However,
utilities are only judged based on their performance with residential
customers, not commercial customers. In
addition, only existing connections, and not new connections, are included in
the service quality standards.
“As we saw with the gas moratorium and lockout last fall, new
utility connections are absolutely critical for economic growth,” testified
Small. “Small business owners could not open their doors, companies could not
relocate to new office space, and tenants who had signed leases for new
apartments did not have a place to call home.”
believes that by including commercial projects, the relocation of existing
connections, and new connections in the review process, we will have greater
transparency and accountability in the regulation of our utilities statewide. NAIOP
will continue to advocate for the passage of this bill so that future real
estate development projects could benefit from the proposed change.
Earlier this month, NAIOP’s
Government Affairs Associate, Anastasia Nicolaou, testified before the Joint
Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure in support of H.
208, An Act Relative to Large Project Based Licenses. If passed, the bill would allow owners of large real estate
development projects to apply for an “umbrella liquor license” with the local
licensing authority, overseen by the State Alcoholic Beverages Control
Commission. Under the “umbrella license” the local licensing authority would be
able to issue restricted project-based liquor licenses for restaurants. These
licenses would not be subject to the quota established in the Massachusetts
General Laws. They would be tied to the property, not available for resale, and
Currently, liquor license quotas in a city or town in Massachusetts create a barrier for including restaurants in real estate development projects, weakening the project’s overall feasibility. In her testimony, Nicolaou underscored the importance of shop/work/live to the future of retail. Restaurants are critical components to the success of mixed use developments, which create jobs, tax revenue, and community centers for their residents and municipalities.
Nicolaou also focused on the
important role of local government in the proposed process.
“This legislation allows the local government to participate in the decision-making process by requiring the adoption of a local ordinance or bylaw to allow this process within their jurisdiction,” said Nicolaou. “This encourages a partnership between the developers and local government as they work together for the future economic prosperity of the community.” NAIOP was pleased to testify in support of this legislation along with representatives from ICSC and will continue to advocate for passage of the bill so that future real estate development projects could benefit from the proposed change
On May 14, NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small testified before the
Joint Committee on Housing in support of H.3507, An Act to
Promote Housing Choices. If passed, the bill would enable cities and
towns to adopt certain zoning best practices related to housing development by
a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.
Small testified on a panel with representatives from a
coalition of groups responsible for permitting and building housing throughout
the Commonwealth including Jon Robertson, Legislative Director at the Mass
Municipal Association; Benjamin Fierro III, Counsel to the Home Builders and
Remodelers Association of MA; Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate
Board; Robert Brennan, President of CapeBuilt Development; and Kathleen Franco,
CEO of Trinity Management. The group expressed their strong support for the
bill, which would make it easier for communities to enact local zoning changes
that encourage housing development.
In her testimony, Small underscored the importance of
partnerships between developers and the communities. “Any successful housing
development requires a partnership between the developer and the community to
ensure that the project addresses local needs,” said Small. “The legislation
preserves that partnership by requiring a majority vote, while making it easier
for communities to rezone property to encourage more housing production.”
Throughout the hearing, mayors, housing advocates, and
business leaders, including Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem, Mayor Joseph Curtatone
of Somerville, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Smart Growth
Alliance, CHAPA, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable testified in support
of the bill and called on the Joint Committee to report H. 3507 out favorably.
NAIOP will continue to advocate for passage of the bill as
soon as possible. Because communities enact zoning changes at annual Town Meetings,
quick passage of this bill is needed to ensure that implementation of these
important reforms is not delayed another cycle.