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.
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
This guest blog post was written by Meghan Doherty of BLDUP.
The Coworking industry grew 50% between 2016 and 2018 and the variety of options within this market segment is staggering. Boston is no exception, currently, there are around 2.3 million square feet of coworking space in Boston and Cambridge. Last week NAIOP Massachusetts hosted a lively panel discussion covering all things coworking. The panel was moderated by Kristin Blount of Colliers with guests Jessica Hughes of Tishman Speyer, Bryan Koop of Boston Properties, Karina Silvester of Gensler, and Craig Robinson of WeWork.
Aaron Jodka, Chief Economist/Director of Research at Colliers International set the stage for the panel by providing some stats on coworking in Boston and around the globe. While Boston has one of the fastest coworking markets in the country, London and NYC have the largest total markets with WeWork as the single largest tenant in each market. Jodka and his research team certainly expect coworking to continue to grow while lenders in capital markets determine how best to handle deals involving coworking spaces.
As the market grows, traditional office landlords are finding ways to get into the coworking game. Jessica Hughes & Brian Koop discussed how their companies are moving into the coworking space by transforming some of their limited vacant space into a coworking option. Tishman Speyer’s coworking product, Studio, will focus on hospitality and tenant service. Their first foray into this space just opened at Rockefeller Center in NYC with the next location coming to 125 High Street in Boston. Tishman Speyer is working with Gensler on the fitouts for these spaces to ensure a high quality of design.
Boston Properties has transformed a floor of the Prudential Center into Flex – their version of coworking, which is less about shared space and more about more flexible lease terms and ready-to-occupy space. Koop told the crowd the new space has been very popular, being fully leased in its first 1-2 months. As Koop mentioned, the average lifespan of a company is getting shorter and the market is moving away from the “long and strong” leases of old. The goal of Flex is to cater to clients looking for leases in the 1-5 year range.
WeWork, now the We Companies, has been the leader in the space and continues to grow their brand across the globe with locations now in 100 cities. Craig Robinson, WeWork’s new Global Head of Powered by We Services, discussed some of the stats behind the company’s mission to “Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living”. Generally, 85% of employees are not engaged and around 51% are on the lookout for another job. Employers are finally beginning to realize that the future of work is going to be measured by how people feel and not by the old standards of productivity. Many Fortune 500 companies are already getting ahead of this trend with over 150 of them signed on as WeWork Enterprise members. Enterprise services allow these large companies the ability to offer more creative environments, the flexibility to have offices in multiple cities and the freedom to grow to new markets.
From a design point of view, Karina Silvester of Gensler discussed the broad variations of coworking space. Within this spectrum, there are a few common factors including the need for lots of flexibility along with varied activity-based workstations. Gensler has designed numerous coworking spaces both large and small including the new Reebok headquarters in Boston. For their new space, Reebok wanted a more open plan/flexible space instead of the numerous small offices they had in the past. As Karina also pointed out “the desire to cowork will extend to digital realms as people are working all the time.”
The panelists agreed the coworking model is here to stay and even in the event of a downturn flexibility will prove important. WeWork continues to diversify its portfolio and offerings and other commercial landlords are following suit as the market shifts. Employee expectations are changing and to attract and retain top talent, employers and in turn, landlords are moving to this flexible, community space.
Can’t get enough coworking? Craig, Karina, and Kristin continue their discussion on The Big Dig, BLDUP & NAIOP’s new CRE podcast. Listen now!
In March 2015, Governor Charlie Baker signed Executive Order 562, initiating a comprehensive review process for all regulations. Only those regulations which are mandated by law or essential to the health, safety, environment, or welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents would be retained or modified, making Massachusetts a more efficient and competitive place to live and work.
Agencies must demonstrate, in their review, that there is a clearly identified need for governmental intervention; the costs do not exceed the benefits; a regulation does not exceed federal requirements; less restrictive and intrusive alternatives have been considered and found less desirable; and the regulation does not unduly and adversely affect the competitive environment in Massachusetts.
Based on these specific criteria, the business community is concerned that the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is currently considering a new Stretch Energy Code as it develops the 9th edition of the statewide building code. Besides the fact that this Stretch Code undermines the statutory requirement that there be a uniform State Building/Energy Code, there is no good reason for it. This proposed energy code is unnecessary and fails the regulatory review standards, and the Baker Administration and the BBRS should not advance it.
The Stretch Energy Code was originally adopted in May 2009, despite strong opposition from the business community. The code required commercial and residential construction in those communities that voted to adopt it to be approximately 20% more energy efficient than the statewide code. The new stretch energy code would require a 15% increase in energy efficiency over the current code. The Stretch Code has caused confusion among local building inspectors and developers. Due to this and several other reasons, a new version of the Stretch Energy Code has never been adopted, even when the statewide code changed. In fact, at the close of the Patrick Administration, the BBRS voted not to advance a new draft of the Stretch Energy Code. However, in April 2015, this decision was reversed.
Massachusetts is already the most energy efficient state in the nation, with the most aggressive energy efficiency targets. Furthermore, Massachusetts will be one of only a handful of states in the nation to adopt the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) statewide. Since the Green Communities Act requires the adoption of the latest IECC (every three years), the Commonwealth’s position as a national leader in energy efficiency will be ensured even without a Stretch Code. Anything beyond that is overly burdensome and creates a significant competitive disadvantage for Massachusetts.
It is important to note that there is no statutory requirement to adopt or update a Stretch Energy Code. There is no mention of it in any statute, and it is only the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) policy that encourages the creation of this code.
According to DOER, the changes to the Stretch Code would take effect automatically in stretch code communities without any local vote. Many municipalities had no idea they would be subject to an automatic upgrade.
The business community continues to support a uniform statewide building and energy code. We believe a new Stretch Energy Code is unnecessary, will hinder economic development, and would impose an unfair and difficult burden on local building officials and the construction industry. We urge the Baker Administration and the BBRS to eliminate the Stretch Energy Code, once and for all, and acknowledge the latest version of the IECC as the only energy code in Massachusetts.
David Begelfer is the CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.