By Kenan Bigby, Managing Director
From Boston’s urban core to its outer neighborhoods, mixed use developments are helping to shape the future of the city. On August 11, I spoke on a panel for Bisnow’s Boston Major Projects event, joining Samuels & Associates’ Joel Sklar, AEW Capital Management’s Robert Plumb, Sam Park of Sam Park Companies, and HubSpot’s Ken Papa to discuss how the way people live, work and play is impacting mixed-use developments, as well as the nuances around financing mixed-use projects depending on their uses.
A building’s mix of uses is fundamental to the success of a project. The process for programming a successful project in one of Boston’s outer neighborhoods can be very different from downtown and the suburbs, as we experienced with developing One Canal in Bulfinch Triangle versus developing Treadmark (Dorchester) and Boston East (East Boston). For instance, in developing Treadmark and Boston East, we needed to focus on providing neighborhood-centric retail in non-core locations, which can be a challenge. While the retail uses themselves may be similar to those in more traditional locations, locally-owned, smaller proprietors aren’t going to be as well capitalized, which requires a whole different process for underwriting and creative ways to make the deal feasible. Attracting the right retailers to our projects matters and we seek to bring in businesses that identify with each of our buildings’ unique identities. At Trinity, we take creating projects that reflect the neighborhoods they are in, and meeting the needs of those neighborhoods, seriously.
I also had the opportunity to emphasize a few of Trinity’s projects that are transit-oriented, where we are creating vibrant, mixed-use projects outside of downtown. Two recent groundbreakings — Treadmark, in Dorchester’s Ashmont neighborhood, and Boston East — showcase the viability of mixed-use developments in the neighborhoods of Boston. Housing on public transportation is not a new phenomenon, but it can still be tricky to finance. Although these projects are often more complicated, we have a proven-track record of creative, private-public partnerships, and we believe tackling development that are harder to do, bring the greatest reward.
As Boston looks to maintain its identity as the home of innovation – and a sought after destination for companies like GE – it also needs to remain affordable to the very people responsible for making Boston such a desirable destination. Earlier this year, the City of Boston released a report detailing how Boston should guide positive physical change over the next 15 years, which included middle-income workforce housing as a top priority. Of the 53,000 unit housing production goal delineated in the report, 20,000 are slotted to be middle-income workforce housing. To help those units come to fruition and promote economic growth and housing for the middle class, we need to be willing and able to create buildings that will help create a lasting legacy of a diverse, inclusive and sustainable Boston for years to come.
Thanks again to Bisnow for hosting a great panel!