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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.


What really toppled Cape Wind’s plans for Nantucket Sound

With the ambitious wind project seemingly dead, a look back at what went wrong.

The Boston Globe | By Eileen Mcnamara
January 30, 2015

Cut down turbineIn the end it was about money and politics, as are so many things in Massachusetts. But it was not Koch cash or Kennedy pique that may have killed a commercial offshore wind plant in Nantucket Sound. It was the hubris of Cape Wind’s developers themselves.

Almost 14 years after Cape Wind Associates unveiled plans to erect 130 wind turbines across 24 square miles of pristine Horseshoe Shoal, Jim Gordon and his investors seem to have run out of time, money, and political capital. The decision by NStar and National Grid to walk away after Cape Wind missed a December 31 contract deadline appears to leave Cape Wind “dead in the water,” as Gordon’s nemesis, Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, so poetically put it.

Gordon blamed the collapse of what would have been the first offshore wind facility in the United States on litigious obstructionists financed by Bill Koch, the conservative scion of his family’s oil refining fortune, and other wealthy property owners protective of their ocean views. Then, without apparent irony, he promptly lashed out at the utilities that abandoned him, essentially claiming the relentless legal battle he has been whining about for more than a decade was an unanticipated disaster akin to an act of God.

The truth is, Gordon simply could not deliver. He never won the lasting support of the people of the Cape and Islands whose homes bear no resemblance to Koch’s Oyster Harbors manse or the Kennedys’ Hyannis Port compound. The Town of Barnstable opposed him. So did a Wampanoag tribe.

Among the legal challenges the project has faced was a suit by struggling fishermen from Martha’s Vineyard who argued that the massive wind plant threatened their livelihood. (The fishermen withdrew their lawsuit only when they found themselves unable to pay their lawyers and Cape Wind offered them an undisclosed settlement.) Fifty-nine percent of respondents to a Cape Cod Times online poll in January pronounced themselves “happy” that Cape Wind looks doomed.

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Target Acquires Fenway Site For $59M

Banker & Tradesman
January 29, 2015

Fenway SiteTarget Corp. has acquired a retail site in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood from developer Samuels & Assoc. for $59 million.

The Minneapolis-based chain will anchor the retail portion of the mixed-use Van Ness development under construction at 1325 Boylston St.

Target acquired a 21 percent interest in the property, and FAE Holdings, a real estate affiliate, acquired an 79 percent interest according to records filed this week with the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds.

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Mass. economy grows at strong pace

The Boston Globe
January 30, 2015

The Massachusetts economy expanded significantly faster than the nation’s at the end of 2014, capping a strong year of economic growth that included the biggest job gains since the dot-com era, the University of Massachusetts reported Friday.

UMass estimated that the state economy grew at a 4.7 percent annual rate in the last three month of the year, after expanding at a 6 percent rate in the previous three months, and 5.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014. The US economy grew at 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter, after expanding at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter and 4.6 percent in the second quarter, the US Commerce Department reported Friday.

“The state and national economies appear to have achieved escape velocity following an extended but steady recovery from the ‘Great Recession’,” said Alan Clayton-Matthews, the Northeastern University economics professor who analyzes a variety of data to estimate the state’s economic growth rate.

The estimates are released quarterly in MassBenchmarks, a journal of the state economy published by the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. They are based on the analysis of data such as employment, unemployment, and sales and income taxes, which are indicators of wage and salary growth and consumer spending.

UMass estimated wages and salaries grew 6 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period a year ago. Consumer spending grew by about 5 percent over the year.

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Boston Properties Pushes Ahead On Back Bay, North Station Projects

Banker & Tradesman | By Steve Adams
January 30, 2015

North Station 2Boston Properties has passed milestones on projects transfiguring two of the city’s largest transit hubs, with a vision of large commercial developments rising above Back Bay and North Stations.

The real estate investment trust said this morning it has entered a joint venture to acquire the air rights for the 377,000-square-foot initial phase of the North Station redevelopment. It also has signed a 44-year extension on its lease for the Clarendon Street parking garage with the state Department of Transportation, part of a larger proposal to build two towers containing offices, residences and retail above Back Bay Station. As part of the agreement, Boston Properties will take over management of the renovated station, which serves the Orange Line subway and several commuter rail lines.

The design and size of the new buildings is still under review, executives said Friday.

Last summer, Boston Properties released renderings showing a new shopping and dining space inside the building and additional retail space in front of the station entrance on Dartmouth Street.

Boston Properties bought the 2,000-space Clarendon Street parking garage and the Hancock Tower in 2010 for $930 million.

During its fourth-quarter earnings conference call, executives also announced progress on the $950-million North Station redevelopment, on which the company is partnering with Boston Bruins ownership.

The project built on a parking lot in front of the TD Garden will include three towers containing offices, residences, a Star Market, restaurants and stores. The project was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in December 2013, including a $7.8-million tax break granted in the waning days of the Menino administration.

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Wind power auction draws limited interest

The Boston Globe | By Dan Adams
January 30, 2015

TurbinesAre falling energy prices and the collapse of the Cape Wind project undermining other offshore wind projects?

A federal government auction of four leases to build wind farms off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard drew little interest, selling for a fraction of what previous auctions raised recently.

Just two of 12 qualified bidders participated in the auction Thursday by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to sell wind development rights for a 1,161-square-mile swath of ocean about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Two of the four leases did not receive any bids.

One of the winning bidders, the renewable energy company RES Americas, paid $281,285 to lease 187,523 acres, while the second, New Jersey-based MW Offshore LLC, paid $166,886 for 166,886 acres.

That works out to just $1.50 and $1 per acre, respectively, for each lease.

In contrast, Deepwater Wind New England LLC paid about $23 an acre in 2013 with its winning bid of $3.8 million for a nearby stretch of ocean closer to Rhode Island. The federal ocean energy bureau has also sold offshore leases off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.

Despite the poor showing, officials noted the new leases would nearly double the amount of acreage the bureau has leased for offshore wind power through competitive sales.

“I‘m very encouraged by the fact that two experienced wind energy companies have chosen to bid,” said bureau director Abby Ross Hopper, adding that the leased areas have “exceptional wind energy potential.”

But Hopper acknowledged that the site’s remote location, in deep water miles from the coast, prompted the agency to set a lower minimum bid than it had in past auctions.

Putting towering wind turbines further offshore may help the companies avoid the kind of intense opposition endured by the Cape Wind project, located in Nantucket Sound within eyesight of some of the priciest ocean-front properties in New England.

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TripAdvisor may nearly double its new Needham HQ to accommodate 2,500 employees

Boston Business Journal | By David Harris
January 29, 2015

TripAdvisor HeadquartersNewton-based travel website TripAdvisor, which is scheduled to move into its new Needham headquarters later this year, may have big expansion plans for its office over the next few years.

The company is establishing its new $120 million 290,000-square-foot headquarters in the 128 East office park to accommodate 1,500 employees, but has the option of expanding that in the next few years to 440,000 square feet to accommodate a total of 2,500 employees, according to TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter.

TripAdvisor (Nasdaq: TRIP) currently employs 2,700 people worldwide.

Normandy Real Estate Partners, which is developing TripAdvisor’s headquarters, has plans to expand its existing 13-acre office park in Needham to a 41-acre “superpark,” with commercial office space, residential and retail that’s designed to be “a catalyst for creativity.”

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With condos in mind, developer buys Building #19 property in Hingham

Patriot Ledger | By Carol Britton Meyer
January 29, 2015

Building #19HINGHAM – Hingham developer Thomas Hastings recently purchased the former Building #19 property at the Hingham Shipyard with the idea of building 150 luxury condominiums there.

As Hingham’s senior population grows, so does the need for luxury housing for that age group, Hastings said.
“All the other empty-nester housing in Hingham is sold out,” he said.

Hastings said the envisioned development would probably include some affordable units.

He described the plans as being “in the very preliminary stage.”

The zoning board of appeals and the planning board will meet jointly with Hastings at 7 p.m. Monday to discuss the possibility of Hastings seeking a mixed-use special permit.

Hastings said he is looking forward to working with town officials to “hopefully get this project going quickly.”

The project would entail tearing down the existing 160,000-square-foot building, which takes up most of the 4-acre parcel.

“This is the last undeveloped parcel in the shipyard,” Hastings said. “I’ve talked with (Building #19) owner Jerry Ellis and his family over the past 15 years, and recently they decided they wanted to sell this property when they wound down the Building #19 operation. Other developers also expressed an interest in this parcel, and I am very happy that they decided to sell it to me.”

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BU buys Beacon Street building from Lesley University for $11.5M

Boston Business Journal | By Mary Moore
January 29, 2015

Boston University has bought a Kenmore Square building from Lesley University’s for $11.5 million in a deal that closed Jan. 20, Lesley University President Joseph Moore has confirmed.

The building at 700-704 Beacon St. had housed Lesley University’s College of Art and Design. Until the late 1990s, the building had been known as the Art Institute of Boston until the Art Institute merged with Lesley University.

In selling the Beacon Street building to Boston University, Lesley University also gave up a lease at 601 Newbury St. — a building owned by Boston University.

Boston University didn’t comment on its plans for the Beacon Street and Newbury Street buildings in time for deadline.

The sale comes amid a turbulent run for Lesley, which reported an 8 percent enrollment decline in the fiscal year that ended June 30. With 4,067 full-time equivalent students, the school’s enrollement was down about 350 students on a year-over-year basis and was off 18 percent from the 4,978 FTE students on Lesley’s campuses just three years earlier.

The contraction rolled into the current academic year as well, as Lesley also reported drops in applications to enroll in the fall semester. The school booked $104.7 million in revenue in fiscal 2014, versus $109.5 million in the year-earlier span.

Meanwhile, Lesley University has moved its College of Art and Design over to a new $46 million arts center it has built in Porter Square. Students and faculty will be using the building this semester, and the grand opening for the 74,000-square-foot Lunder Arts Center, as the building is known, is scheduled for this weekend.

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House bill aims to address state’s power shortfall

The Boston Globe | By Jon Chesto
January 29, 2015

Power CompanyA sweeping new bill on Beacon Hill aims to dramatically reshape the state’s energy landscape in an effort to address high electricity prices and concerns about the regional grid’s reliability.

The bill is unusual in its scope, showering many corners of the industry with assistance. Among its goals: expand the state’s pipeline capacity, line up contracts for offshore wind farms, and build power lines to Canada’s massive hydropower plants.

Proposed by Representative Patricia Haddad, who has been a top lieutenant of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the bill signals what could be a new commitment from the Legislature to counter the effects of a series of retirements of massive power plants. The largest of the outdated plants — the coal- and gas-fired Brayton Point, due to close in 2017 — is the biggest taxpayer in Haddad’s hometown of Somerset.
This bill, filed earlier this month, will serve as a starting point for negotiations. Environmental groups say they want to see energy efficiency and storage projects rewarded. The legislation does not directly deal with solar power, but the state’s generous solar programs could be addressed in a separate legislative debate.

The most controversial aspect of the bill could be a tax that would be imposed to pay for more construction of natural gas infrastructure — a proposal that resembles one supported by New England’s governors about a year ago.

Environmental groups say public subsidies should not be used to underwrite pipeline expansions. New England’s electric grid, they say, is already too dependent on natural gas. “We should be seeking to make a transition that doesn’t lock us into [new] fossil fuel infrastructure for decades,” said Joel Wool, an energy advocate with Clean Water Action in Boston.

Tony Buxton, a lawyer at Preti Flaherty in Maine who represents about a dozen big industrial clients in the region, said he would prefer to see New England states working together. “It’s easier to have a regional solution,” Buxton said. “But it’s good to have the states empowered if [a regional solution] doesn’t work.”

A DeLeo spokesman declined to comment on the legislation late Wednesday.

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Chinatown creates land trust

Boston Herald | By Donna Goodison
January 29, 2015

Chinatown ProtestChinatown residents and activists have formed a land trust in an attempt to buy properties and keep them affordable for residents of the Boston neighborhood, which has been giving way to gentrification.

“What we’re really trying to do is preserve as much of the residential stock that exists in Chinatown in a form that is more affordable so the whole neighborhood doesn’t become luxury, thus pricing out the Chinese community that is here,” said Jeff Hovis, president of the nonprofit Chinatown Community Land Trust. “It’s not all going to be ultra-low end properties. There may also be some mixture of more middle-income, condo-type properties really designed for families.”

Row houses are the primary target of the trust, which hopes to get funding from sources including the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development and foundations, and partner with nonprofit or for-profit developers. Some residents held a rally yesterday on Hudson Street, to protest what they said was a forced relocation of tenants from a row house.

“The city of Boston funds affordable housing development, so it’s very conceivable that we would be able to fund, at least in part, a purchase of housing in Chinatown if it was going to remain affordable,” DND director Sheila Dillon said.

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The Tower That Hopes to Remake Downtown Crossing

Curbed Boston | By Tom Acitelli
January 28, 2015

Millenium TowerOn a chilly, damp afternoon in December, architect Blake Middleton stood diagonally across the street from his latest downtown Boston creation, the under-construction Millennium Tower, and explained the particular challenge the 685-foot skyscraper posed.

“How do you fit a tower of this complexity and magnitude into a very narrow and tight urban site?” Middleton, a partner in Manhattan-based Handel Architects, asked. “And particularly into an historic city center?”

The condo-and-retail tower, which should be completed this year and opened by the summer of 2016, looms large, even as a construction exoskeleton. It is rising in the neighborhood known as Downtown Crossing, which Middleton is correct in calling historic. In fact, that might be an understatement. The area is one of the oldest established neighborhoods in the United States, with roots in the 17th century and an identity as Boston’s retail center stretching back to at least the late 19th. The 1912 opening of the Filene’s department store flagship, designed in a grand Beaux Arts style by Daniel Burnham, cemented that reputation. (Burnham, an architect and urban planner, also designed New York’s Flatiron Building and Washington’s Union Station.)

For a time, Filene’s was a Boston attraction on par with Fenway Park or Faneuil Hall. A plaque outside declared the store “the Hub of the universe,” a spin off of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.’s nickname for the Massachusetts State House, a nickname that Bostonians eventually embraced for their entire city

Filene’s is gone now. Downtown Crossing as a neighborhood—densely built, frustratingly narrow in a lot of places, its street grid forever indentured to centuries of planning and re-planning—is mostly busy during the daytime business hours. Shoppers shop and commuters commute. At dusk, though, the noise quiets; the traffic on the streets and sidewalks thins; Downtown Crossing goes to bed.

The Millennium Tower, where contracts have started to go out to buyers, is supposed to change that, according to its champions in the real estate industry, City Hall, and the business community. The tower is the one gigantic—by Boston standards, its height is huge—catalyst that is supposed to remake one of America’s oldest neighborhoods, while also, as Middleton pointed out, preserving its character. That such a remarkable challenge is even before him, as well as before developer Millennium Partners and the City of Boston, is itself remarkable.

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Patriots Place general manager eyes Foxborough expansion

Banker & Tradesman | By Catherine Carlock
January 27, 2015

Robert KraftMost of Boston is snowed in right now, but that’s not stopping Patriot Place — the open-air shopping complex surrounding Gillette Stadium in Foxborough — from preparing for its biggest Sunday of the year.

You can read about how the Patriot Place General Manager Brian Earley is gearing up for the big game in this Friday’s print edition of the Boston Business Journal. But until then, consider what else Earley has on his mind beyond football’s biggest game of the year: an expansion of the 1.3 million-square-foot complex, which already includes 16 restaurants, a range of retailers, a Brigham & Womens/Mass General health care facility, a 154-room Renaissance Hotel & Spa, a 14-screen movie theater and a Trader Joe’s grocery.

“We’re working very closely with (Foxborough) on their overall entertainment expansion,” Earley said. “There’s definitely plans to expand.”

A likely first project would be an additional hotel, likely 100 to 120 rooms, Earley said. The on-site Renaissance Hotel averaged more than 75 percent occupancy for all of 2014, and Patriot Place expects another hotel to be well-received.

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Crews still working to restore power

Boston Herald | By Marie Szaniszlo
January 28, 2015

Nstar ContractorCrews were working through the night to restore power to about 28,000 households and businesses, including most of Nantucket, who remained in the dark after heavy snow and falling trees downed wires across the Bay State.

National Grid and Nstar officials said it’s likely power could be out for a few days in some areas.

“We’re still facing very difficult weather and road conditions on Cape Cod and the South Shore,” Nstar spokesman Mike Durand said, “and our 24/7 emergency restoration efforts are continuing.”

Nstar had restored power to about 40,000 customers by last night, leaving 17,000 others without electricity, Durand said. Cape Cod and the South Shore between Marshfield and Plymouth were hardest hit, he said.

The utility tapped crews from nearby states, as well as private contractor lineworkers and tree workers. And, to avoid fines like those levied by the state in 2011 for delays, Nstar increased the use of remote switching technology to restore power to customers before crews arrive, Durand said.

National Grid had 13,800 customers without power at the storm’s peak and that was down to 11,500 last night, spokesman Jake Navarro said, as crews from as far away as Georgia and Canada tackled downed lines.

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Utilities wired up for storm outages

Union says response mistakes corrected

Boston Herald | By Bob McGovern, Marie Szaniszlo and Prisca Pointdujour
January 27, 2015

NStar SpokesmanWith Bay State utility workers deployed to respond to the mammoth blizzard, their top union rep said Nstar and National Grid have learned from their mistakes — after being slapped with heavy fines and stung by barbs from outraged municipal and state officials for bungling in the past.

“I think we corrected a lot of the issues that existed before,” said Dan Hurley, president of UWUA Local 369 and the Brotherhood of Utility Workers. “Over the last three years we’ve worked closely to try and get crews dispersed and work on response time.”

Both Nstar and National Grid were fined for their poor performances in 2011 during Tropical Storm Irene and the Halloween snowstorm. National Grid had to pay $17.8 million for not having adequate manpower. Nstar was hit with a $2.1 million penalty for poor communications.

“Things have gotten better. We told them some ideas we had, and they’ve adopted some of those and that seems to have worked,” Hurley said. “We have two things in mind: The safety of our workers and the safety of the public. This is going to be a multi-day event, and you can rest assured the men and women in utility work won’t rest until every house has power.”

Nstar called in all 3,000 of its employees and contract crews from as far away as Tennessee to respond to expected outages.

“We’re preparing for a storm that could be another Nemo,” Nstar spokesman Mike Durand said, referring to the February 2013 storm. “This is absolutely all hands on deck.”

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Shire Picks Lexington Property For New HQ

Banker & Tradesman
January 27, 2015

Shire has leased 202,492 square feet at Two Ledgemont Center in Lexington for its new U.S. headquarters.

Transwestern | RBJ’s Robert Richards, president, and Brian Cohen, senior vice president, represented Shire in the lease for the entire five-floor building at 95 Hayden Ave.

The lease creates the largest suburban biotech campus in Greater Boston. Two Ledgemont Center is adjacent to Shire’s existing campus, which consists of more than 650,000 square feet of office and laboratory space at Lexington Technology Park. In total, Shire will occupy approximately 900,000 square feet in eight buildings in Lexington. In November 2014, Shire announced plans to establish Lexington as the company’s U.S. operational headquarters.

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