Why is GE naming its Boston headquarters ‘Innovation Point’?


Boston Business Journal | By Catherine Carlock
April 27, 2017

Earlier this week, multinational conglomerate General Electric Co. sent out an invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony for its $200 million Boston headquarters campus. The name of that campus?
“GE Innovation Point.”

GE (NYSE: GE) officially became a Boston-based company last August and is working out of temporary space on Farnsworth Street. That office, and GE’s 2.5-acre future site along the Fort Point Channel, are located fully within the Fort Point neighborhood.

Yet GE, when announcing its headquarters move to Boston last January, specified that it was moving to the Seaport District. (Just to make things a tad more confusing, the Seaport is often referred to as the Innovation District.)

That the Fort Point neighborhood is separate from, yet at the same time enmeshed in, the Seaport District (aka the “Innovation District,” aka the “South Boston Waterfront”), is a separate conversation. But the question remained: did GE name its campus “GE Innovation Point” in an effort to combine the Innovation District and Fort Point names into one? I called up Jeff Caywood, a GE spokesperson, to ask.

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Center Fire Station project is priority for Town Meeting


Lowell Sun | By Kori Tuitt
April 20, 2017

TEWKSBURY — The Annual Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting in Tewksbury are set for May 1 and May 3, respectively and some major budget items will be up for a vote.

Town Manager Richard Montuori is recommending a $103 million budget for the fiscal 2018, up from the $100 million budget of fiscal 2017.

One of the most significant articles on this year’s Town Meeting Warrant is Article 15, which is looking to appropriate $15 million to construct a new Center Fire Station in town. The Center Fire Station project would raise the average tax bill in town by approximately $101 for the next 20 years.

“This is an important project for the community,” Fire Chief Michael Hazel said in an email. “The town continues to evolve and our services and infrastructure need to evolve with it. A new Center Fire Station will provide a facility that will take into account today’s fire service and the challenges we face as a department and community.”

The town has held a number presentations on the debt exclusion projects, with another one coming informational coming up just on the fire station on Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Hazel said residents are also welcome to call 978-640-4410 to schedule a tour of the station. Hazel added that the building is outdated and expensive to maintain.

During the Annual Town Election, the project was only one of three debt exclusions on the ballot to pass.

DPW facility upgrades and the Town Center project were not approved during the election. However, Article 8 is looking to use $746,270 for capital equipment and improvements for the DPW, fire station and parks. Some of the equipment and improvements traffic sign and signal updates, an articulating asphalt roller and more. The Fire Department would get a new ambulance and equipment as well as a pickup truck.

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New Minuteman school set to open ahead of schedule


Wicked Local Arlington | By Bram Berkowitz
March 30, 2017

A brand-new $144.9 million Minuteman Regional High School is expected to open one year ahead of schedule.

Minuteman Superintendent Edward Bouquillon told the Arlington Advocate on March 30 that students are expected to be in the classrooms and workspaces of the new building by August 2019, a change from the initial planned opening date of fall 2020.

According to a press release, demolition of the existing school building and construction of athletic fields would be completed by the summer of 2020.

Bouquillon said the main reason for the expedited schedule is due to the hiring of Gilbane Building Company as the general building contractor on an at-risk contract back in January.

“We selected Gilbane for many reasons,” said Bouquillon, who said eight different general contracting companies were interviewed. “But one of them is that they had a fairly aggressive construction schedule. Since Gilbane was selected, they have added a tremendous amount of value to the project.”

Leaky roof, broken building bedevil Minuteman

The new building is moving forward after years of planning and negotiating with various towns in the district over size of the building and enrollment that took immense efforts from the Minuteman administration.

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Aldermen approve bond authorization for Somerville High


Construction for the new high school is expected to start in 2018.

Wicked Local Somerville | By Katie Bowler
March 24, 2017

Somerville High School will soon begin a massive transformation.

On Wednesday the Board of Aldermen voted to authorize a bond for additions and renovations at the school.

The vote was approved by all nine of the 11 aldermen present. Matt McLaughlin and Alderman Dennis Sullivan were not in attendance.

The Somerville High School Building Committee first submitted the schematic design for the new building in January, and the following month the Massachusetts School Building Authority approved a grant for the $255,982,704 project.

There are two potential reimbursement figures, explained Director of Finance Auditor Ed Bean in an email.

The first, he wrote, is $119,706,988 of state reimbursement if the MSBA does not approve construction contingencies. The second is $123,963,307 of state reimbursement if the MSBA does approve those contingencies.

“I am focusing on the $123,963,307 number,” wrote Bean. “Assuming this amount of reimbursement, the city’s share would be $132,019,397.”

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About 50 Liberty


50 Liberty Drive, Seaport District, Boston, MA

BLDUP

120 luxurious waterfront condominiums under construction on Fan Pier opening Fall 2017. 50 Liberty will feature breathtaking views of Boston Harbor and the Downtown Boston skyline. Residents will be situated at the heart of Boston’s most innovative neighborhood, the Seaport District, steps to multiple dining and entertainment options. Residential amenities will include top luxury finishes, floor-to-ceiling glass window walls, warm wood floors and high ceilings throughout. Building amenities will include a private waterfront club room, a board room for meetings, a private gym, 24-hour concierge service and underground garage parking. Luxury condominiums at 50 Liberty are now on sale. Visit 50liberty.com for more information.

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Councilors divided on aggressiveness of affordable housing push


Wicked Local Cambridge | By Bill Whelan
January 6, 2017

Cambridge city councilors are at odds over the details of an affordable housing proposal that could affect whether or not hundreds of affordable housing units are built in the city.

The Ordinance Committee met Wednesday to debate a set of amendments to the city’s inclusionary housing provisions that force developers to set aside a certain number of housing units as affordable.

Fear of Trump administration a factor

Affordable housing advocates in Cambridge pleaded for city councilors to quickly move forward on the proposal. With the uncertainty of federal housing policy under the Trump administration looming, advocates said it’s imperative to make changes to the city’s inclusionary housing provisions.

“We’re very concerned about what happens on Jan. 20. We’re going to have to fight to keep Section 8 subsidies. If [the Department of Housing and Urban Development]’s budget is cut and Section 8 is cut we’re going to have people displaced all over the country,” said Susan Susan Schlesinger, member of the Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.

Roughly 960 affordable units have been created or are under construction in Cambridge through the city’s inclusionary housing measures. The current inclusionary zoning laws in Cambridge haven’t been changed in 18 years. The proposed amendments would increase the amount of space set aside for affordable housing from 11.5 percent of units in a development to 20 percent of the total unit floor area. The proposed amendments would also incentivize developers to create larger family-size units with at least three bedrooms in new developments.

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Briscoe School could be declared surplus property and sold


The Salem News | By Arianna MacNeill
December 7, 2016

briscoe-middleBEVERLY — The future of the Briscoe Middle School building is far from certain, but there’s a chance it will be declared surplus property and turned into something else.

The city’s Temporary Building Reuse Committee, charged with making a recommendation to Mayor Michael Cahill on Briscoe’s future, met Tuesday night to discuss three scenarios involving the middle school and city offices — among them a brand-new police station.

Planning a future use for Briscoe is key since it will be vacant when the new Beverly Middle School opens, planned for September 2018. The city has other space concerns as well — the Police Department has long outgrown the station on Cabot Street, and some municipal offices are housed outside of City Hall because there simply isn’t room.

The first scenario, and the one heavily discussed Tuesday, involves building a new police station on an empty parcel of land at 175 Elliott St., which sits at a front corner of the Cummings Center property next to the commuter rail. Moving the Police Department there means the city could rework the current police station into office space for the city offices not currently at City Hall.

“That essentially puts the Briscoe Middle School into surplus,” said city planning director Aaron Clausen. While it would mean the future of Briscoe is uncertain, the city could have some control over its destiny by putting out a request for proposals, like it did for the former McKay School.

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Survey: US businesses add 216,000 jobs, most in 5 months


Boston Herald | By Associated Press
November 30, 2016

WASHINGTON — U.S. companies added a solid 216,000 jobs in November, the most since June and evidence that the incoming Trump administration is inheriting a solid economy.

Payroll provider ADP said Wednesday that nearly all the gains occurred in service sectors such as retail, hotels and restaurants, as well as higher-paying professional services. Construction firms added 2,000 jobs, while manufacturing shed 10,000.

The figures add to other recent signs that the economy is expanding at a decent pace. Growth reached 3.2 percent at an annual pace in the July-September quarter, the government said Tuesday, much higher than the 1.1 percent rate in the first half of the year. Americans bought homes at the fastest pace in a decade in October and consumer confidence is at a nine-year high.

By one measure, home prices nationwide have finally surpassed their bubble-era peaks, boosting household wealth. And there are signs wages are picking up after years of sluggish growth.

“Overall, consumers are feeling confident and are driving the strong performance we currently see in the job market,” Ahu Yildirmaz, head of the ADP Research Institute, said.

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Mayor proposes $11.4 million park improvements in Weymouth


Some out-of-town sports leagues are reluctant to play on Weymouth’s well worn fields, but a proposed $11.4 million park improvement plan will encourage these teams to play in the town and provide more user fees for the coffers, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Wicked Local | Ed Baker
November 2, 2016

Some out-of-town sports leagues are reluctant to play on Weymouth’s well worn fields, but a proposed $11.4 million park improvement plan will encourage these teams to play in the town and provide more user fees for coffers, according to Mayor Robert Hedlund.

Hedlund said the biggest proposed improvements would be a $6 million makeover at Lovell Playground and a $3 million in upgrades at Libby Field.

“Early last year, Mayor Kay put forward an $18 million debt exclusion override with $11 million of the funds would be for work at Lovell Playground,” Hedlund said.

Kay withdrew the debt exclusion override one hour before a town council public hearing in April 2015.

The council then approved a proposed $6.5 million Proposition 2 1Ž2 operation override during the session to boost the spending plans for the police, fire department, department of public works and schools at the urging of council President Patrick O’Connor.

Voters turned the measure down by approximately 1,600 votes in August 2015.

Hedlund said financing for the improvements at Libby, Lovell and 12 additional park sites is available because some prior long term town debts have been paid off.

“None of this will increase our debt service in our budget,” Hedlund said.

Hedlund said the financing for the park improvements would include some borrowing under a flexible payment plan.

“We want to keep this flexible,” Hedlund said. “We have Chapman Middle School and the library further down the road.”

A building study committee is seeking reimbursement from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a proposed feasibility study of Chapman’s worthiness.

The MSBA could approve Weymouth’s application for the reimbursement when agency officials meet Nov. 9.

Hedlund’s administration is also seeking a state grant to cover 46 percent of the cost of constructing a new library or a renovation of Tufts.

A new facility could cost approximately $26.6 million, according to Hedlund.

Hedlund said his administration reduced the cost of a previously proposed makeover plan for Lovell Playground from $11 million to $6 million in response to environmental concerns raised by the conservation commission.

Commission members deadlocked on issuing an order of conditions in December for a plan proposed by Kay’s administration that included three multi-purposed artificial fields to accommodate youth soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.

Commissioners voiced concerns during a meeting about metals breaking loose from the fill under the turf and polluting the nearby town herring channel.

A revised plan will involve the use of organic fill under the turf to ease concerns about the herring run being negatively impacted by surface water runoff from the fields.

“The commission has given preliminary approval for the plan,” Hedlund said.

Hedlund said a restoration of Libby Field would involve having a baseball diamond that would meet the high school’s playing requirements and accommodate Triple A leagues, the town’s Babe Ruth League, the Cranberry League and American Legion teams.

“What we are proposing is to have high school varsity baseball play there,” Hedlund said. “We do expect to get some additional revenue from permit fees because of greater usage. Some of the field will be lighted.”

Hedlund said the lighting is designed to prevent unwanted light from illuminating the backyards of adjacent homes.

The Libby makeover plan also includes installing two semi-enclosed dugouts, construction of a small grandstand, a utility building, a walking path around the field perimeter, irrigation and a small storage building.

“I have heard nothing but optimism about the Libby Field plan,” Hedlund said.
Hedlund said the park improvement plan includes a $1.5 million makeover at Weston Park.

The proposed improvements include a natural grass field for youth baseball and girls softball, lighting to accommodate night games, extending a left-field fence, a reconfiguration of the park’s walkways, resurfacing a basketball court and improved landscaping.

Plans for Stella Tirrell Park call for replacing a baseball infield, renovating a bleacher area, removing a skate park and replacing it with a parking lot in addition to creating a walkway next to the backstop.

The improvement plan additionally proposes $278,000 in upgrades to a high school baseball field, installing a temporary outfield fence, relocating player benches in the dugouts, placing additional padding on the dugouts, constructing two outdoor basketball courts and renovating an existing basketball play area.

Additional improvements planned include a $120,000 appropriation to install new irrigation at Gifford Park and Brad Hawes Park.

The funding for Gifford includes investigating mosquito control, a new infield mix for the baseball diamond and an irrigation system.

The improvement plan also proposes to spend $120,000 to construct a new basketball court at Lane Beach and a playground.

Town council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 14 to elicit input from residents and sport interests about the proposed park improvement plan.

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Plans unveiled for new downtown boutique hotel


The Salem News | By Dustin Luca
September 22, 2016

hotel-salemSALEM — A hotel being developed in an uncommon space downtown is planning some uncommon features, including basement level shuffleboard, a vintage design up front and rooftop dining options.

Meet Hotel Salem, the 44-room Lark Hotel boutique hotel at 209 Essex St., by all approximation the heart of downtown’s Pedestrian Mall.

The plans for Hotel Salem got special attention at a series of informal, informational meetings hosted by Ward 2 City Councilor Heather Famico on Tuesday and Wednesday. Plans for Peabody Essex Museum’s long-awaited expansion also got a showing at the events.

Today, the building’s windows facing Essex Street are mostly covered in kraft paper. An opening in the kraft coverings allows for limited line of sight to an empty, unoccupied space in the midst of construction and demolition.

“We’re pretty far along the process,” said Paul Durand, principal at Winter Street Architects, the company handling the design of the project, as he presented the future of the building to neighbors. “I’m going to show you where we are.”

The project is expected to take about seven months and aims to begin after Halloween, leaving crews enough time to take care of outside utility work before the ground freezes toward the end of the year, according to Durand.

On the outside, the Newmark Building will see extensive masonry repairs and enlarging of all the windows on Essex Street, according to Durand.

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Developer riles Roxbury residents


The Boston Globe | By Astead W. Herndon
August 12, 2016

They plugged electrical equipment into neighbor’s homes and didn’t use proper fencing and signage at the construction site, residents said. They left hazardous materials and a portable toilet unsecured throughout the evening, attracting criminal activity.

And for all these things, Rocco Scippa, a controversial developer with a history of construction violations and financial impropriety throughout the state, is asking Roxbury — specifically the residents of Robey Street — for forgiveness. At a community meeting held this week at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Scippa apologized for purchasing several vacant plots of land on the tiny street — only to shirk some city requirements during his initial construction on the property.

In addition to the alleged behavior towards residents, Scippa also ran afoul of officials by deviating from city-approved design plans. The city approved wood-based siding for the first of the 19 buildings he planned for Robey Street. Scippa installed vinyl.

“I will address these issues,” Scippa said after the hours-long meeting with residents. “Let’s just move from August 10 on and do what we have to do to get it right.”

As penance for violating design plans, Scippa promised to provide new greenery and landscaping on the street. The framework of the compromise was proposed and agreed upon at Wednesday’s meeting, which was attended by about one dozen Robey Street locals, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, and Commissioner William “Buddy” Christopher of the Inspectional Services Department.

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Quincy boards to consider townhouse condo project


A property owner’s plans to build 17 townhouse-style condominiums on Quincy Avenue is scheduled to go before two city boards next week.

Patriot Ledger | By Patrick Ronan
July 6, 2016

A property owner’s plans to build 17 townhouse-style condominiums on Quincy Avenue is scheduled to go before two city boards next week.

Anthony Agnitti and his brother, Lawrence, have proposed knocking down the three-family home at 150 Quincy Ave. and the two-family home next door at 154 Quincy Ave. to make room for five three-story buildings holding the townhouses.

The development, which would be named Faxon Edge, is expected to be considered by Quincy’s zoning board of appeals Tuesday night and by the planning board Wednesday night. Both meetings – zoning starting at 7:15 p.m. and planning starting at 7 p.m. – will be held inside Old City Hall at 1305 Hancock St.

The project site is across from the intersection of Quincy Avenue and Faxon Park Road, one property down from Olindy’s bowling alley. The Agnitti brothers own several properties in Quincy, including an apartment complex at 28 Wollaston Ave. and an office building at 21 Franklin St.

At a public meeting held in January to discuss the proposal, neighbors voiced concerns about the development’s impact on traffic, parking and drainage.

The project requires dimensional variances from the zoning board of appeals as well as site-plan approval and a special permit for a parking-requirement waiver from the planning board.

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Hedlund asks developer for larger development in Weymouth Landing


Patriot Ledger | By Christian Schiavone
July 6, 2016

WEYMOUTH – Mayor Robert Hedlund is asking a developer to scale up a proposal for an apartment building in Weymouth Landing that already faltered once amid criticism that it was too large to fit in with the neighborhood.

Hedlund requested that property owner Nick Delegas boost the size of the four-story building, which also includes commercial space, to help the town qualify for a state grant to uncover a section of Smelt Brook next to Delegas’ property in a process known as “daylighting.”

Obtaining the $2 million MassWorks grant could hinge on increasing the overall value of the building Delegas wants to put up, Hedlund said.

To meet the requirement for the grant, the project would need 30 more apartments for a total of 84, but the mayor said the design should suit the area. “I’m comfortable with what is on the drawing board. We’re not done with it yet,” Hedlund said. “I’m enthused about it in many ways.”

Delegas owns stretch of vacant property along Commercial Street on the Weymouth side of the neighborhood, which spans the border with Braintree.

He demolished a strip of vacant, boarded-up storefronts last November after years of butting heads with the town and neighbors about the deteriorating buildings and the future of the property.

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Framingham: Neighbors nettled by Nobscot plaza plans


Wicked Local | Danielle Ameden
December 15, 2015

FRAMINGHAM – Calling the Nobscot plaza a “dump,” selectmen said they are excited Tuesday about the chance to draw up new zoning to support redevelopment.

During a meeting with town planning and economic development officials, selectmen saw Nobscot Shopping Center owner Andy Rose’s conceptual plans to build a four-story, 150-unit apartment building at the plaza with a small number of stores.

Board members said they want residents to weigh in on the plans for the plaza, which sits nearly vacant at the corner of Water Street and Edgell Road. “What’s not acceptable is what’s there right now,” Selectman Jason Smith said.

Rose shared his redevelopment concept as consultants for the town’s Economic Development and Industrial Corp. worked on a new strategic economic development plan for the Nobscot village commercial center.

The town shared the vision and idea for village zoning with Nobscot residents last month. In providing a recap for selectmen, Community and Economic Development Director Art Robert said building a consensus around a preferred “look” is the key first step. “Then we can go about the process of developing zoning that will support what we want,” he said.

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New online tool to improve exasperating permit process


The Boston Globe | By Dan Adams
September 25, 2015

permiting

After years of complaints, the Walsh administration is promising to improve a notoriously painful city process: getting a permit.

City Hall will launch a permitting website next month, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday, making it easier for residents and businesses to win permission for renovations and other projects.

Walsh announced the website in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

The new system is a welcome step for homeowners and small-business owners, who have long griped that the city’s approval process — even for such seemingly simple jobs as adding a deck in the back yard — is confusing, maddeningly slow, and scattered among umpteen agencies.

“It will make permitting quicker and easier,” Walsh told business leaders Thursday. “At long last, Boston has a modern, online permitting experience . . . that supports new ideas rather than pushing them away.”

Officials said the initiative is part of a broader push by the Walsh administration to make it easier for residents and companies to do business with City Hall.

Last year, for example, the city set up a separate panel to approve minor zoning variances, so homeowners and small-business owners would not have to wait in line behind major developers. More recently, Boston debuted a site at which residents can get moving van parking permits online instead of waiting in line at City Hall.

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