Featured post

Business Manager’s Blog

Michael Monahan

Michael P. Monahan, 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.

In addition to the strong and steady leadership he provides to his Local Union on a daily basis, he exudes the same qualities when providing services for the community, whether it is coordinating volunteer efforts for electricians who are donating their skills at various places, such as schools and private homes for disabled individuals, or the installation of wireless capabilities for the City. From his days as a rank-and-file member through his current position as Business Manager, Mike has met every challenge and serves his membership with pride and distinction.

Cathy Thompson, co-managing director for DTZ in Boston, on why Boston needs new office towers

Boston Business Journal | Thomas Grillo
July 22, 2014

Cathy Thompson

Last fall, veteran commercial real estate executive Cathy Thompson was named co-managing director of DTZ’s Boston real estate office. Thompson, who co-founded and operated Thompson Hennessey & Partners for more than two decades, had also served as senior managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. She recently spoke with BBJ real estate editor Thomas Grillo about the downtown office market, the future of the suburbs and why, despite double digit office availability rate, the city needs more towers.

Boston’s office market seems to improving for landlords. What’s your take on what’s happening in the downtown?

Boston is definitely a good owner’s market right now. We’re in that sweet spot for landlords.

Read more.

Olympics quest is shaping up to be high-profile project for the ‘New Vault’

Boston Business Journal | John Chesto
July 20, 2014

Dan O'Connell

Meet the New Vault. Just don’t call them that.

The bid to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston could very well shape up to be the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership’s most high-profile project in its roughly five-year history.

The nonprofit group is often referred to by its initials, MACP. But CEO Dan O’Connellwould prefer if you don’t refer to the organization as the “New Vault” — despite its similarities to the old Vault, the group of top executives that used to meet in the basement of the old Boston Safe Deposit & Trust Co. to plot the city’s future.

To a some extent, though, this really is the New Vault: Sixteen top executives from some of the state’s biggest employers, meeting in the Back Bay six or seven times a year to tackle some of the state’s most pressing issues.

O’Connell says that the statewide focus is one major aspect that differentiates MACP from the old Vault. Also, he says, this group has a more diverse range of industries at the table, compared to the old group’s financial services emphasis.

Right now, O’Connell says education and workforce training represents MACP’s No. 1 issue. The group is also focusing on big data and, in particular, its application to health care and biotech, to help make sure the next big thing in those fields emerges in Massachusetts, and not Silicon Valley. In the past, the group has tackled community college reform and bringing more international business to Boston. (The latter effort was led by Patriots owner Bob Kraft, O’Connell says, and is at least partly responsible for the surge in international flights we’ve seen at Logan Airport recently.)

Last year, Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, then the chairman of MACP, asked his colleagues in the group for support to launch a bid for the 2024 Olympics. Some donated their own money, or offered help from their firms. MassMutual and Suffolk, for example, provided staff members to assist, O’Connell says. The entire group allowed O’Connell to devote some of his staff time to the Olympics project. The project now has its own nonprofit, the Boston 2024 Partnership, with its own staff, that Fish is leading to explore the Olympics bid. O’Connell is wearing two hats now: one as president of the Boston 2024 Partnership, and the other as CEO of MACP.

Read more.

Wynn Agrees to Terms with Unions: Everett Project to Be Built with Union Trades

Everett Independent
July 21, 2014

Wynn MA, LLC has announced that it has reached a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with all major local trade unions, ensuring that the $1.6 billion proposed Wynn Resort in Everett will be built with union contractors. The comprehensive agreement covers all aspects of construction, work rules and hours and was unanimously endorsed by the Massachusetts Building Trades Council—which represents the IBEW, Teamsters, iron workers, brick layers, sheet metal workers, and other trades—and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

Construction of the proposed 5-star Wynn Resort in Everett will require more than 10 million man hours of labor and generate 14,300 construction jobs, 4,000 permanent jobs and drive more than $4 billion in revenue to other local businesses over five years—numbers that are significantly higher than any other proposed gaming resort in the state. This agreement is another major step forward for the Wynn project which recently filed its Final Environmental Impact Report and is months ahead of Mohegan Sun in this important requirement that precedes construction.

Read more.

Transmission projects aim to tap Canadian hydroelectricity

The Boston Globe | Erin Ailworth
July 20, 2014

Canada SubstationAcross the Canadian border, massive dams generate a seemingly endless supply of hydroelectricity — a source of power that could help New England replace its closing coal and nuclear plants while cutting greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. But there’s a big problem: getting it here.

At least five major transmission projects — some estimated to cost more than $1 billion to build — have been proposed to connect New England to this plentiful power source to the north. The projects, however, are not only spurring opposition in the communities where the lines would cross but also a broader debate about the region’s energy policy and the role hydroelectricity should play.

That debate flared again last week as New England governors met with the leaders of eastern Canadian provinces in New Hampshire to discuss energy and economic issues. Opponents of a hydro transmission project that would cross wilderness areas in New Hampshire, the so-called Northern Pass, staged protests; so did opponents of a proposed pipeline to transport natural gas from shale fields in Pennsylvania and other nearby states across Massachusetts.

These protests underscored the challenges policy makers face as they try to balance growing demand for energy against increased urgency to slow the pace of climate change, which scientists attribute to the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. While solar, wind, and other renewables are certain to play larger roles in the region’s energy mix, they remain intermittent power sources without the scale to easily replace the more than 4,000 megawatts of generating capacity, or enough to power 4 million homes, that will be lost over the next few years with the shutdown or planned shutdown of three coal-fired plants in Massachusetts, a nuclear plant in Vermont, and other facilities in New England.

Read more.

Next Stop, Alewife? Cambridge Office And Lab Market Sizzles Investors Bet On Alewife Biotech

Banker & Tradesman | By Steve Adams
July 20, 2014

Kendall Square StopDowntown Office Market Feels Like It’s 2005 To read the sidebar accompanying this article, click here. Strong demand for office and lab space in Cambridge has pushed double-digit rent increases in the last year. With vacancies dwindling in East Cambridge, investors are betting on the Alewife neighborhood absorbing future spillover demand.

Waltham-based King Street Properties acquired two vacant former Pfizer lab buildings near the Alewife MBTA station for $54.5 million last week, and plans to spend $57.5 million repositioning them to attract the next wave of biotech companies.

Thomas Ragno, founder and principal of King Street Properties, hopes to attract suburban tech companies looking for transit-friendly sites and those squeezed out of Kendall Square.

Read more.

Solar energy technology for those with no access to electricity

With 1.7 billion people living without access to mains electricity, we look at five solar-powered products that could ease the problems of those ‘off the grid’

The Guardian | John Still
July 21, 2014

solar-devices-africaAround the world approximately 1.7 billion people still live off the grid, with no access to mains electricity. This comes with numerous problems, with lighting and access to income among the most pressing.

Once the sun goes does down those off the grid are reliant on kerosene, which is not only hazardous but expensive.
While mobile phone use is widespread off the grid, recharging can be a difficult process requiring a long journey, and the lack of charge can mean restricted access to business opportunities or basic services.

Solar power could have a major role in solving these problems and others, with a number of new products aimed at improving conditions and opportunities for those in off the grid, base of the pyramid markets. Some are being directly marketed to developing nations, while some have applications with the potential to make a difference worldwide.

A number of these companies owe their success to crowdfunding campaigns, highlighting the role that the general public have to play in ensuring that such projects, with sustainability applications for both developing and developed nations, get further than the planning stages.
Here are five examples of solar power innovations aiming to make a difference to those living off the grid.

Read more.

Workshop on home solar energy

Newburyport News
July 21, 2014

NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport Office of Recycling and Energy has announced that their program, Newburyport No Wasted Energy, is making great strides toward the first tier goal of home energy assessments for residents.

With that momentum, the office announces a new workshop on home solar energy Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Plum Island Coffee Roasters.

As an added incentive for resident participation in the No Wasted Energy program, partner Next Step Living will make contributions to the Newburyport High School library as part of the Sustainable Energy Education Drive (SEED) by donating $10 per home energy assessment, $50 per solar assessment and $250 for any solar installation on Newburyport residents’ homes.

Molly Ettenborough, who heads up Newburyport’s recycling and energy office, was pleased by the full house she greeted at the first workshop on energy efficiency.

“We were delighted with the level of interest we received from residents. Our goal is to sustain that interest throughout the year to benefit to residential energy expenses,” she said in a press release.

An interim goal is to complete a total of 104 energy assessments by mid-August to reach the first tier goal in the No Wasted Energy program.

“We are making good progress toward our first tier goal,” said Ettenborough. As a matter of record, all Newburyport municipal buildings have undergone energy assessments.

Read more.

UMass to open new facility in downtown Boston

The Boston Herald 
July 21, 2014

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts says it plans to boost its presence in downtown Boston by opening an academic and administrative building in 2016.

All five of the UMass campuses will be given the chance to offer classes at the Beacon Street facility near the Statehouse. University officials say those classes will serve people who work in the city and want to continue their education.

UMass president Robert Caret said the new facility, to be known as the UMass Center on Beacon Hill, represents a major step forward for the school.

Read more.

Health center teams with Winn to develop veterans housing in Brighton

Boston Business Journal | By Thomas Grillo
July 18, 2014

Brighton Marine Health CenterThe Brighton Marine Health Center and WinnCompanies have submitted plans to build a 101-unit apartment building in Brighton.

Under the proposal that was filed this week with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the developers plan to demolish four vacant single-family homes on an 8.3-acre campus at 77 Warren St. and replace them with a 111,650-square-foot building. The six-story residence will contain 7,500 square feet of amenity space and a below-grade parking garage that will include 49 spaces.

All the units will be leased with a preference to veterans, in keeping with the Brighton Marine Health Center’s mission.

Read more.

Fenway condo prices spike on neighborhood’s resurgence, Symphony Court sales

Boston Business Journal | By Thomas Grillo
July 18, 2014

Fenway CondosThe Fenway, historically among the most affordable neighborhoods in Boston, saw year-over-year condo prices jump by nearly 43 percent in the second quarter due to strong demand and a flurry of activity at a new development near Symphony Hall, according to a new report and interviews with brokers.

Median prices in the Fenway increased to $531,500 in the quarter that ended June 30, up from about $374,000 a year earlier. The pricing data was based on 104 sales in the most-recent quarter, according to the Listing Information Network, or LINK, a Boston-based company that tracks real estate sales.

Colin Bray, a broker at Century 21 Cityside who is listing a 1,084-square-foot, two-bedroom unit on Miner Street for $774,900, said he’s not surprised that prices are rising in the Fenway. In fact, he contends the area near Kenmore Square and Fenway Park is still undervalued.

“Fenway is the hottest neighborhood in Boston outside of the Seaport District and South Boston,” said Bray. “If you walk down Boylston Street, there are three major luxury apartment projects with commercial space on the ground level under construction. The buyers see the Fenway as the next ‘it’ neighborhood and it’s booming.”

The neighborhood’s new buyers, Bray said, are a mix of people who are priced out of Back Bay and the South End as well as investors seeking to rent to the area’s abundance of college students. Among the buyers in Q2 was Gloria Estefan, the Latin-music icon who paid $1.1 million for a new two-bedroom, two-bath condominium near the Fenway’s border with the South End. The condo is a stone’s throw from Symphony Hall is reportedly for Estefan’s daughter, Emily, a freshman at the Berklee College of Music.

Read more.

Koch appoints new Quincy Planning Board member

The Patriot Ledger | By Patrick Ronan
July 18, 2014

QUINCY – Mayor Thomas Koch has appointed a new member to the city’s planning board.

On Wednesday, Koch appointed Sean Callaghan, a business agent for electrical workers union IBEW Local 103, to the five-member board, which is responsible for reviewing subdivision plans and special-permit applications for city construction projects.

“It’s typical to have labor representation on regulatory boards,” Christopher Walker, a spokesman for Koch, said.

Callaghan replaces former board member James Fay, who had to resign because his work schedule kept him from attending meetings, city Planning Director Dennis Harrington said.

Read more.

Nahant official resigns amid probe into spending

The Boston Globe | By Andrea Estes and Sean P. Murphy
June 17, 2014

Nahant Town HallNAHANT — Essex County prosecutors are investigating whether town administrator Andrew Bisignani improperly funneled public contracts to favored contractors, prompting him to resign abruptly and roiling this normally tranquil island community.

State Police raided Town Hall Friday, seizing computers, paperwork, and lists of the town’s vendors, Selectman Michael Manning confirmed, part of what he called a “very broad investigation” into spending by Bisignani. Manning said he learned of the investigation two weeks ago when prosecutors subpoenaed records from the town clerk.

Officials in nearby Saugus, where Bisignani served as town administrator until 2011, said that Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s investigators are looking at Bisignani’s conduct there, too. Audits conducted by accountants identified more than $2 million in questionable spending during the last two years of Bisignani’s tenure, including what they called “intentional violation” of state laws and rules.

Read more.

Southie Residents Have Beef with a New Condo Development

A new condo project means the end for a long-time neighborhood restaurant.

Boston Magazine | By John A. Keith
July 15, 2014

Liberty Bell Roast BeefThe Liberty Bell Roast Beef restaurant has been open at 170 West Broadway in South Boston since 1979, meaning the family-owned business has been feeding generations of Southie families. But now, perhaps sensing the tides of change are strong, its owners have decided what their neighborhood needs is less food and more housing, and the restaurant will be torn down to be replaced with condos, parking, and a new and different street-level restaurant.

The headline writes itself (“Give Me Liberty Beef or Give Me Death!”), but the story is anything but humorous for some South Boston residents who are opposed to the 33-unit condominium project, which was approved last week by the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Board of Directors.

Few Southie residents were unhappy with the loss of the existing building—although many will miss the Bell’s King Beef sandwiches—but were concerned about what would take its place. City zoning regulations for the area limit buildings to a 35-foot height, but the approved project will rise to 59 feet, or 68 percent, higher. The floor area ratio is more than two-and-a-half times what zoning allows. And, the building will be closer by half the acceptable distance to the homes behind it on Athens Street. This was a lot to accept by neighbors who have had to deal with the negative effects of constant construction of condos and apartments during the past decade.

In the beginning, South Boston residents were presented with plans for a much larger project. Some of the neighbors’ wariness is a result of this. When first unveiled last summer, the proposal was for a larger building-14,000-square feet larger, or 30 percent, with 47 condos proposed, and 11-feet taller. Facing strong resistance from the neighborhood, the developer sent his architect back to the drawing board, and ended up reducing the number of units, increasing the number of parking spaces, and moving resident parking access from Athens Street behind the lot to West Broadway in front.

After eight months of meetings with abutters and members of the St. Vincent Neighborhood Association, the developer had enough public support to submit the proposal to the BRA on April 30.

South Boston residents have had their opportunity to talk with the developer and the BRA about the proposal, but it seems not everyone is satisfied with the final result. Comments on the Caught in Southie blog have been pretty furious. A sample:

Read more.

Officials break ground on $50 million South End development (slide show)

Boston Business Journal | By Thomas Grillo
July 16, 2014

SepiaMayor Martin J. Walsh joined National Development on Wednesday to break ground on Sepia, the $50 million condominium project at the edge of Boston’s South End neighborhood.

The 112,000-square-foot development is the latest phase of Ink Block, the Newton developer’s $200 million redevelopment of the former Boston Herald site at Harrison Avenue and Traveler Street.

“When the Herald was here, it didn’t look like there was this much area,” said Walsh. “It’s been incredible watching the project grow from the ground up. It’s really exciting to see Boston expand in the South End.”

The 83 condos will be priced starting at $500,000 for a 512-square-foot studio to $2 million for the three-bedroom dwellings. Amenities include underground
parking, a rooftop sundeck, private balconies, a rooftop pool, fitness center and a clubroom.

Ted Tye, National Development’s managing partner, said 60 percent of the units have been presold.

Read more.

Is the Entire City of Boston ‘Gentrifying’?

America’s cities are sorting themselves by education level.

Boston Magazine | By Eric Randall
July 15, 2014

Boston SkylineForget Southie: Is the entire city of Boston gentrifying?

An interesting piece in the Washington Post this week argues that America is seeing its highly educated population and its less educated populations segregate themselves not just by neighborhood but by entire city:

“It’s easy to recognize this phenomenon in San Francisco, or even Washington. College graduates have flooded in, drawn by both jobs and amenities,” the Post’s Emily Badger writes. “Yet more amenities have followed to cater to them (luring yet more college graduates). Housing costs have increased as a result, pushing low-wage and low-skilled workers out.”

As the wage gap between college grads and non-educated workers has widened, those that could afford a more expensive standard of living actually sought it out in expensive cities, making those places even more expensive and pushing out those with less income. On the macro-scale that’s an unsettling trend. But on the micro scale, individual cities probably want to ask themselves, “Who wins this game, and why?” The Post has some answers:

Between 1980 and 2000, cities that already had a lot of college graduates increasingly became magnets for more of them … A city like Boston historically had an advantage on this front, but its advantage has only grown stronger with time

Managing the shift away from well-paid manufacturing jobs to high-skilled industries is also important. And there, Boston also seems to be doing well:

Good-paying jobs that didn’t require a college degree have been vanishing. Cities like Boston, meanwhile, have shifted their labor demand away from such jobs and toward college grads who now work in industries like biotechnology or medicine. Detroit, once a mecca of a good manufacturing jobs, has had a harder time with that same transition.

Read more.