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Business Manager’s Blog

John P. Dumas

John P. Dumas, the Business Manager of Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents more than 7,000 electrical and telecommunication members in the Greater Boston area.

A 37 year member of Local 103, Dumas is a seasoned and experienced leader. Along with serving as 103’s president for the past 18 years, Dumas served the union in a number of leadership roles, including business agent, member of the union’s executive board and trustee of the health, ANNUITY, pension, LMCT and JATC funds. He also has served as a member of numerous contract negotiation teams, playing a pivotal role in several major contracts governing members’ benefits.

Throughout his career he has shown a keen interest in nurturing younger union officers in preparation for leadership roles in the future, and his leadership style has always been one of inclusion and accessibility to all members.


Many urging Mass. to ease access to public records

The Boston Globe | By Joshua Miller
May 26, 2015

William Galvin 2Advocates and elected officials pressed for a stronger state public records law Tuesday, telling stories of roadblocks to getting basic public information and arguing that an opaque government is at odds with the essence of democracy.

Massachusetts is widely seen as having one of the weakest public records laws in the country. At a State House hearing, a wide variety of public officials, journalists, and representatives of good-government groups spoke in favor of legislation that would update the law and give it some teeth.

Similar efforts have fallen short in the past, and there is no guarantee the proposals will move forward.

Tom Duggan, publisher of the North Andover monthly Valley Patriot newspaper and the website of the same name, told legislators and a packed hearing room a story of submitting a public records request to the city of Lawrence for bills paid by the city to outside lawyers. Duggan recalled the mayor at the time telling the newspaper that since there was no penalty for not complying with the law, he wasn’t even going to make the effort to find the requested records.

Duggan described a multiyear odyssey and thousands of dollars worth of legal bills. Judges ruled in the newspaper’s favor, he said, but the paper obtained the records only after a new mayor came into office.

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Mail facility move is key in vision for Boston Olympics

Deadlock a concern in plan for walkway

The Boston Globe | By Jon Chesto
May 26, 2015

Fort Point ChannelA longstanding bid to move the US Postal Service sorting facility out of the way of a South Station expansion essentially remains stuck on the tracks — and may also jeopardize a second project: building a new boulevard that would let thousands of Olympics spectators walk along Fort Point Channel to the main stadium.

The Boston 2024 Partnership in January unveiled details for an Olympic boulevard along the now-closed part of Dorchester Avenue between South Station and the Broadway T station. In the group’s vision, thousands of spectators would empty out of the train station and walk along the Fort Point Channel, on their way to the main Olympic stadium to be built at Widett Circle.

Given its location behind South Station, the massive postal service property has a starring role in the Olympics dream. But that has done little to rekindle the negotiations to move the mail-sorting operation — on-again, off-again discussions spanning at least 15 years. Some say the move is crucial for this boulevard to materialize, in part because the postal service controls the stretch of Dorchester Avenue in front of its complex and doesn’t let the public through.

“Negotiations have to start with the post office in a more serious way in order for this Olympic Boulevard to really have a chance,” said Alex Krieger, a principal at architectural firm NBBJ who worked on plans for the site on behalf of the postal service roughly a decade ago. “Momentum for the Olympics might accelerate [the land deal] even if we don’t get the actual bid.”

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Searching For A Solar Path Forward

Financing Strategies For A Boom-Bust Industry

Banker & Tradesman | By Vincent DeVito
May 24, 2015

A recent task force report in Massachusetts did not lead to the conclusion many expected – that net metering caps must be immediately increased. Instead, the report gave a mixed bag of recommendations without a definitive path forward. Then, a panel of stakeholders in a Statehouse meeting illustrated the contrarian views between certain developers and particular concerns in the local distribution business.

Add to this a growing list of solar generation projects in queue and a new administration that has instituted a regulatory freeze and review, and we have replaced a once-robust market with one, yet again in search of answers, customers and financing.

The administration currently is against raising net metering caps, consistent with its not-picking-winners-and-losers policy. However, this is not the final word. Gov. Charlie Baker has always said that he will support and encourage the renewable energy market and will work to find ways to make it more affordable for all ratepayers.

The solar and renewable industries have been part of a boom-bust cycle for decades. Incentives to develop renewable energy seem to come and go, unlike any other industry incentives out there. This fiscal heartbeat makes it difficult, if not irrational, for customary banks and investors to finance small-scale projects without personal guarantees from land owners or developers. In turn, unless those land owners or developers can see an immediate return for their energy investment dollars and a stable government market to sustain those return, they too become disinterested.

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Too Many Condos, Not Enough Office Space

Office Rents Projected To Spike 30 Percent In 3 Years

Banker & Tradesman | By Scott Van Voorhis
May 24, 2015

Maybe all our hardworking developers should have built few more office towers to go along with all those new soaring apartment and condominium palaces taking shape on seemingly every block in downtown Boston.

The Boston office market is in the grips of a rental spike, one that is on track to boost the cost of a corporate suite by a stunning 30 percent by 2017, a new study by Cushman & Wakefield contends.

That puts us at the very top of the country in terms of rising office rents, leaving powerhouses New York, San Francisco and Washington in the dust.

Sure, that projection may be bit “aggressive,” as one very sharp local office market researcher at rival firm Colliers International put it, yet no one is disputing that rents are rising and will continue to do so over the next few years.

And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, with plans for new skyscrapers that would ease the crunch still mainly on the drawing boards.

“Our out-of-state clients and investor groups and increasingly insurance companies, they are hot to be here in Boston,” said William Pezzoni, a partner at Day Pitney LLP who specializes in real estate and economic development.

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DOT Block plans grow as new Dot Ave parcel acquired

Dorchester Reporter | By Lauren Dezenski
May 21, 2015

DOT BlockDOT Block, the proposed development at the fulcrum of Dorchester Avenue and Hancock Street, has expanded its footprint to include another “significant” parcel along Dorchester Avenue–now truly occupying the entire block of Dorchester Avenue from Greenmount Street to Glover’s Corner, project developers told the Reporter today.

RODE Architects, the group behind the mixed-use development, filed a new letter of intent with the Boston Redevelopment Authority today with their updated plans that include the new parcel, which includes the gas station at the Dorchester Avenue and Hancock Street intersection.

The addition creates another 160 units of housing and additional retail space, with ground-floor retail space and apartments built above, said RODE’s Eric Robinson. He added it was too early to say what the configuration of rental and ownership will look like for the new parcels.

All-told, the DOT Block proposed to the BRA today will include 420 units of housing and 68,000 square feet of retail space. Robinson said as the planning process continues, RODE will work to create something that “serves as a real signature-type piece there,” at the Dorchester Avenue/Hancock Street/Freeport Street intersection.

Because of the updated proposal, DOT Block’s architects now plan to make another set of rounds to local civic associations in the coming weeks and months, said Catherine O’Neill, who is representing the developers at community meetings.

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Two pivotal Fairmount projects get green lights from city commission

Dorchester Reporter | By Lauren Dezenski and Bill Forry
May 21, 2015

Cote Ford SiteA little-known, but powerful city commission today approved a pair of redevelopment projects along the Fairmount Line corridor that have wide-ranging implications for the Walsh administration’s ambitious goals to build new, affordable housing over the next 15 years.

The three-member Public Facilities Commission voted unanimously to approve recommendations by the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) to award development rights to a partnership led by a longtime Uphams Corner community development corporation that will transform an abandoned industrial plant on East Cottage Street into a mix of housing and commercial space; the commission also endorsed a plan by a trio of nonprofit developers to convert an old Mattapan car dealership into a mix of housing, retail space, and a new satellite branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.

The commission, which met on the 10th floor of the DND headquarters on Court Street, made their decision after presentations from DND’s respective project managers and input from DND chief Sheila Dillon. The city agency issued requests for proposals for each property last year and has been supervising a community input process that was — according to Dillon— pivotal in their recommendations to the board. The board members present were Katherine Craven and Lawrence Mammoli. A third member of the commission, Patrick Brophy, was not present for the vote.

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Primark Stores Coming To Braintree And Burlington

Banker & Tradesman
May 22, 2015

As it prepares to open its first U.S. store in September at Boston’s Downtown Crossing, Irish fashion retailer Primark is branching out into the suburbs with plans for locations at the Burlington Mall and South Shore Plaza in Braintree.

Sears is leasing the space to Primark at both properties. Sears and its auto center will continue to occupy 196,000 square feet in Burlington, while Primark will occupy 73,000 feet on the second level of the 1.2-million-square-foot mall, including 54,000 square feet of retail space.

In Braintree, Primark will lease 71,000 square feet from Sears. Sears will continue to occupy 138,000 square feet on the lower and second levels of the 1.6-million-square-foot center. Both properties are owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group.

Dublin-based Primark will open a 70,000 square-foot store in the former Filene’s building at Downtown Crossing for its first U.S. store and has short-term expansion plans for as many as 10 stores nationwide.

Primark previously announced plans to move into former Sears locations in Danbury, Conn.; Freehold, N.J.; King of Prussia, Penn.; Staten Island, N.Y.; and Willow Grove, Penn.

“Sears Holdings continues to strategically transform its real estate portfolio by working with leading retailers such as Primark and mall owners,” Jeff Stollenwerck, president of real estate for Sears Holdings, said in a statement.

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Apartments comprise almost 80% of Boston’s housing projects so far this year

Boston Business Journal | By Catherine Carlock
May 21, 2015

Ink Block HousingThe city of Boston has permitted 13,000 housing units since January 2011, with another 8,000 units approved, putting the city on track to meet Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s goal of creating 53,000 housing units by 2030, according to the city’s first-quarter housing plan progress report released Wednesday.

That total of 21,000 units permitted or approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority since 2011 is “just a staggering number,” said Sheila Dillon, the city’s chief of housing and director of neighborhood development, at a roundtable discussion of the report.

In the first quarter, Boston permitted 1,187 total units and approved 825 total units, the report said. Apartment units made up the significant majority of housing permitted or aporoved in the first quarter, at 77.5 percent of the 1,187 units permitted and 79 percent of the 825 units approved, the report showed.

“We’d like to see more homeownership opportunities,” Dillon said.

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Samuels’ Spec Office Development In Fenway Lands First Tenant

Banker & Tradesman | By Steve Adams
May 21, 2015

Van Ness 2Boston-based Samuels & Assoc. has landed its first office tenant at the Van Ness, its 550,000-square-foot mixed-use project rising at 1325 Boylston St. in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Cambridge-based health care risk manager CRICO leased 45,000 square feet in the 237,000-square-foot office building, which is being built on speculation. All 130 employees will relocate from its 101 Main St. office in Cambridge upon the building’s completion later this year, spokesman Missy Padoll said.

The office complex is part of a $250-million mixed-use project that includes 200,000 square feet of retail space and 172 luxury apartments with rents starting in the low $3,000s.

Samuels & Assoc. is seeking to recruit tech and creative companies to a new class A office cluster near Fenway Park by offering lower rents than East Cambridge and the Seaport.

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Mass. jobless rate falls to 7-year low

The Boston Globe | By Jack Newsham
May 21, 2015

The Massachusetts economy added jobs for the eighth consecutive month, dropping the state unemployment rate to its lowest level since the earliest days of the recession.

The state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday that unemployment in Massachusetts fell to 4.7 percent in April, from 4.8 percent in March. The US unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in April.

After a winter slowdown, hiring has rebounded strongly in the state. Massachusetts employers added 10,100 jobs last month, after adding 12,000 in March, the state labor office said.

Unemployment in Massachusetts hasn’t been this low since January 2008. The recession officially began in December 2007, when the state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. The rate peaked at 8.8 percent in late 2009.

There are some signs that the low unemployment rate is putting pressure of Greater Boston employers to boost pay.

Total compensation for Boston workers rose 3.6 percent over the year ending in March, compared to 2.8 percent in the rest of the country, federal data show.

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Neighbors who sued to cut Cambridge tower’s height lose in court

The Boston Globe | By Casey Ross
May 20, 2015

Middlesex Courthouse 2A $250 million redevelopment plan for the former Middlesex County Courthouse in Cambridge cleared a major legal hurdle when a judge rejected claims by neighborhood opponents of the project.

Massachusetts Land Court Judge Robert Foster ruled late Tuesday that the developer, Leggat McCall Properties, has the right to preserve the building’s 280-foot height as part of a renovation that would add office space, retail stores, and residences.

A group of neighboring property owners, including architect Graham Gund, had argued that the state’s sale of the building to a private owner extinguished an exemption that allowed the building to be significantly taller than surrounding properties. They want to see the building demolished or substantially reduced in size.
Mark Bobrowski, a lawyer for the neighbors, said his clients intend to appeal the ruling.

He also said the neighbors are considering pursuing additional claims that the Cambridge Planning Board acted wrongfully in granting a special permit for the project.

Gund, whose office is located across the street from the former courthouse, could not be reached Wednesday.

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Jobless claims fall over past month to 15-year low

The Boston Globe | By Victoria Stilwell
May 21, 2015

WASHINGTON — The average number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits over the past four weeks dropped to a 15- year low, a sign the labor market continues to strengthen.

The four-week average for jobless claims decreased to 266,250 in the period ended May 16 from 271,750, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The figure corresponds to the week the government surveys employers to calculate the monthly payroll data. On a weekly basis, applications rose by 10,000 to 274,000.

Such a limited pace of dismissals indicates companies are anticipating a pickup in demand for their goods and services in the coming months. More job security that sparks bigger wage gains would help propel consumer confidence and make households feel more comfortable spending.

‘‘It’s indicative of a labor market that’s showing no signs of reversal even if the pace of job growth is going to slow,’’ said Eric Green, head of US economic research at TD Securities USA in New York. Whether it’s 260,000 or 274,000, ‘‘the theme here is claims are very low.’’

The median forecast of 51 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was 270,000 initial applications for last week. Estimates ranged from 264,000 to 285,000. The prior week’s claims were unrevised at 264,000.

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Big plans and price tags for Union Square

Wicked Local Somerville | By Dan Atkinson
May 21, 2015

SOMERVILLE The latest designs for Union Square could bring more than $2 million in annual revenues to the city and add a 5-acre park in Boynton Yards, but are also contingent on acquiring more than $40 million in property.

And as city officials keep looking to future development, Union Square activists are continuing to push for a community benefits agreement to govern the area that is already under city control and slated for construction by master developer US2. “I know you all asked us not to talk about the CBA, but it’s all tied together,” Union United member Benny Wheat told city officials and contractors at a May 13 design meeting.

Union United is a coalition of area residents and activists groups pushing for citizen involvement in crafting a CBA. Officials at the May 13 meeting showed off the results of a three-day design charette in early March, where residents looked at initial plans for Union Square and the surrounding area created by city officials and city-hired consultants Principle Group and offered critiques and suggestions.

Officials took those suggestions to revise plans for the area. But the charette and the Somerville By Design process came under fire from Union United and other residents for not focusing on creating a CBA with US2, which will develop seven parcels in and around Union Square, including the parcels next to the incoming Green Line Station.

A CBA guarantees a developer will provide benefits like local jobs and affordable housing in exchange for being able to develop a property. Mayor Joe Curtatone has promised that US2 will not begin development until a CBA is in place, but it is unclear if residents will be able to help negotiate the CBA or if only city officials will negotiate with US2.

At the My 13 meeting, city economic development director Ed O’Donnell said he and other officials have been examining CBAs in other municipalities to figure out what would work best for Somerville.

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Megaprojects Help Boost April Construction Starts, Dodge Data & Analytics Says

Engineering News-Record | By Tom Ichniowski
May 21, 2015

Construction starts rose 10% in April from March levels, thanks in part to two megaprojects that got under way during the month, Dodge Data & Analytics reports.

Dodge D&A’s latest monthly look at new-construction volume, released on May 21, showed that April starts climbed to an annual rate of $698.7 billion, seasonally adjusted.

But excluding $1-billion-plus projects, April’s volume was down 3% from the previous month, the company noted. (ENR is part of Dodge D&A.)

The April results received a major boost from an $8.1-billion Sasol petrochemical plant in Louisiana and a $1.2-billion mixed-use high-rise at Hudson Yards in New York City, both of which began last month.

Dodge D&A also said that, for the first four months of 2015, total construction starts soared 24% year over year, to $208.2 billion, not seasonally adjusted.
When megaprojects of more than $1 billion are excluded, the January-April total still was a 10% gain from the year-earlier amount.

April’s starts brought the Dodge Index up to 148, compared with March’s 134. The 2000 figure equals 100 for the index. Last year’s index averaged 124.

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Walsh says Boston mostly on track to hit 2030 housing goals

The Boston Globe | By Dan Adams
May 20, 2015

Mayor Marty Walsh 3It’s early going, but a report released by Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Wednesday shows that, so far, Boston is on track to hit ambitious goals he set to build more affordable housing in the city.

Between January 2011 and March of this year, the city issued permits for more than 13,000 new apartments, condos, and homes, according to the report, surpassing the goal of 10,200 Walsh had set for that period.

But much of that new housing — 60 percent — has been out of reach for most middle-income households, roughly those with incomes below $100,000. And only 1,538 of the units permitted since 2011 were affordable for low-income households, a total that nonetheless exceeded the city’s modest goal of building 1,256 such units during that period.

“The housing plan is a response to a lot of the high-end housing being built in the Seaport and Downtown Crossing and other areas,” Walsh said at a briefing with reporters.

“For it being so early, the numbers are good. We have a ways to go to do better, but I think we’re doing OK where we are.”

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