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Just Posted! The Real Estate Insider - 2018 Boston Mid-Year Review

Click on our latest issue of The Real Estate Insider:    

https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.usmre.com/5309/2018%20Mid-Year%20Review%207.25.18%20%20RE%20Insider%20.pdf

This Mid-Year Review Issue includes:

Five-Year Sales Summary of Tier-1 Doorman Condominium Sales in Boston.

Mid-Year review of all Condominiums sold in Boston's Premier Neighborhoods in Three Price Ranges.

The Best Time of Year to Sell in Boston.

 

 

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    Seaport's 150 Seaport Boulevard to be the St. Regis Residences, Boston. Billowy 22-story tower will have 114 luxury condos.

    By Tom Acitelli, Curbed Boston

    Rendering courtesy of Cronin Development

    The famously billowy condo tower planned for 150 Seaport Boulevard, on the Seaport District sites of the Whiskey Priest and the Atlantic Beer Garden, will open as an outpost of the St. Regis luxury brand, according to developer Cronin Development.

    The firm reached a licensing deal with Marriott International, which is not itself involved in the development. 

    The tower is due to have 114 condos and to reach to 22 stories. A groundbreaking is expected this fall, with an opening scheduled for late 2020. 

    Such an opening will cap a long time of back-and-forth on the plans. The Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental group, agreed in January to drop a lawsuit against the project in exchange for $13.1 million in funding for a waterfront park, a public dock, and children’s programming.

    The group had opposed Cronin’s (very expensive) plans on zoning grounds because of concerns about public access to the waterfront.

    As it stands now, the future condos will come with access to a suite of St. Regis-branded luxury services, including concierge and butler service, and to amenities such as a swimming pool, a spa, a health club, a library, and what the developer is calling a golf-simulation room. 

    Then there’s the design of the building itself, courtesy of the late Howard Elkus of Elkus Manfredi. It is meant to evoke a billowy sail. 

    Stay tuned for sales (the other kind). Those are expected to launch in the fall.

    Boston's Neighborhoods: How They Got Their Names.

    By Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

    Geography, infills, independence movements—all played roles in shaping the city’s positional vocab.Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

    Boston is named after the town of Boston in eastern England. But what about the city’s neighborhoods? A lot of them have similar roots in old Albion, while a sizable chunk are tethered etymologically to geography. 

    Read on for the origin stories of Boston’s 22 large neighborhoods.

    Allston

    This neighborhood was for years simply the stockyards and rail yards of the town of Brighton. It also had a post office and quite a bit of woodlands. 

    One gentlemen who liked to hike the woodlands was the painter Washington Allston, who lived across the Charles River in Cambridge.

    By the time Boston annexed the area in 1874, it was known by his surname.

    Back Bay

    This photo from 1858 shows the Back Bay on the left and the Charles River on the right.  Public domain.

    There is a reason many people call this neighborhood the Back Bay: From 1857 to 1882, one of the largest urban infrastructure projects in U.S. history filled in about 450 acres of pestilential tidal basin known colloquially as “the Back Bay.” 

    Beacon Hill

     

    A depiction from 1811 of the reduction of Beacon Hill to 80 feet from 138.  Wikimedia Commons

    Multiple hills—some say three, some say five—comprised what became Beacon Hill, one of the first settled areas on the Shawmut Peninsula.

    One of those hills became known as Beacon Hill because of a signaling beacon on it; and the name stuck. 

    Bay Village

    The smallest neighborhood that the city itself breaks out, Bay Village was born in the 1820s as the collection of homes for the workers who built the tonier nearby Beacon Hill. Therefore the architecture looks similar. 

    Bay Village used to go at various times by the Church Street District, South Cove, and Kerry Village. Bay Village stuck, perhaps given its immediate geographic proximity to the pre-infill Back Bay. 

    Brighton

    Brighton was its own town until Boston annexed it in 1873. 

    By that point, it had been independent for only about half a century; and, before that, was known, along with what became Allston, as an agricultural and cattle-rustling appendage of Cambridge that went by the diminutive nickname Little Cambridge. 

    It changed its name to Brighton, after a town in southern England, upon independence in 1807. 

    Charlestown

    Charlestown was named for—wait for it—an English king named Charles; in this case, Charles I, the Stuart on the losing end of the English Civil War. 

    Europeans began settling what became Charlestown in 1629—20 years before Charles I lost his head—and it remained an independent municipality until 1874, when Boston annexed it. 

    Chinatown

    This neighborhood is named after its predominant ethnic group; though rising housing costs and other reasons for emigration have reduced the number of residents of Chinese descent. 

    Dorchester

    A regional map from 1858.  Walling, H. F.—David Rumsey Collection

    Boston’s largest neighborhood by area is named for Dorchester, a town in southern England. 

    Dorchester, USA, was an independent town until 1870, when Boston gobbled it. As a town, it included parts of what became known as South Boston. 

    East Boston

    The infill-spurred linkage over 150 years of five islands east of Boston formed this neighborhood. And the “east of Boston” bit gave it its name. 

    The neighborhood’s private developers saw to its annexation to Boston in 1836. 

    Fenway

    Frederick Law Olmsted’s plans for the Back Bay Fens, circa 1887  Public domain

    Take your pick: This neighborhood’s name came either from the Back Bay Fens, a park that landscape architect extraordinaire Frederick Law Olmsted designed, or from a road that ran along it. Fens, incidentally, is a term to describe a marshy or flood-prone area, which this eventual neighborhood was.

    Boston annexed Fenway and its Kenmore Square and Audubon Circle areas from Brookline in the 1870s.  It’s sometimes called “the Fenway”—often an unconscious nod to the theory that the neighborhood was named for the road. 

    Hyde Park

    Boston’s southernmost neighborhood—and the last to be added through annexation, in 1912—is named after the park in London dating from the 1630s. 

    Jamaica Plain

    This is another tossup in terms of origin. JP was either named after the Caribbean island from which some residents drew their wealth via the slave-driven rum and sugar trades; or after the Anglicization of the name of a Native American leader. 

    Or! As in the case of Jamaica in Queens, New York, it comes from the name of a Native American tribe called the Jameco. 

    JP became part of Boston in 1874. Interestingly, it was part of the town of Roxbury and parts of Jamaica Plain became the town of West Roxbury. 

    Major Boston Developments: 9 Projects Transforming The City.

    By tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

    Boston is famously in the midst of a building boom—and not a moment too soon given the cost of housing in the city

    Here are nine major projects under construction that are not only transforming Boston’s built environment, but providing a real-time gauge of its real estate. How these go, so will likely go the commercial and residential markets overall.

    1. Fenway Center

    Massachusetts Turnpike
    Boston, MA 02215

    Visit Website

    Developers Meredith Management, Gerding Edlen, and TH Real Estate officially broke ground in late January 2018 on the five-building, 1.1 million-square-foot Fenway Center where Brookline and Commonwealth avenues meet.

    The groundbreaking capped veritable eons of planning and readjustments for what’s become one of Boston’s most anticipated projects. Lead developer John Rosenthal of Meredith had been trying to build at the 4.5-acre site for nearly 20 years.

    The infrastructural alchemy inherent in the project, which includes building over the Mass. Pike, as well as financing challenges had delayed it interminably.

    All totaled, it’s expected to have around 650 housing units, 160,000 square feet of offices, 50,000 square feet of retail, 1,290 parking spaces, community space, a daycare center, bicycle storage, and a bike-share station.

    The first phase includes two apartment buildings with 313 units total.

    2. The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences One Dalton Street

    1 Dalton St
    Boston, MA 02199

    Visit Website

    The Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences One Dalton Street—a.k.a. One Dalton—is almost finished, according to developer Carpenter & Company.

    Workers with Suffolk Construction have raised the condo and hotel tower to its 60th floor and have been adding about one and a half floors per week. That means it will soon reach its 61st and final floor any minute now.

    When all is said and done, the 742-foot property will be the tallest new tower in Boston since 200 Clarendon opened in 1976. It’s already the city’s third-tallest building.

    And, due to myriad reasons that include construction costs, a dearth of sites, and shadows, One Dalton will likely be the last Boston tower—the last New England tower—of more than 700 feet for a long, long while.

    One Dalton is due to include 215 Four Seasons hotel rooms that the international hospitality firm will manage and 160 luxury condos (which Four Seasons will also service). The architect is a collaboration between Cambridge Seven Associates and Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed. Cobb, incidentally, designed 200 Clarendon (formerly known as the Hancock).

    One Dalton is expected to top off in July, and to start opening in March 2019.

    3. Back Bay/South End Gateway

    100 Clarendon St
    Boston, MA 02116

    Developer Boston Properties plans to build 1.26 million square feet of housing, offices, and retail over and around Back Bay Station (and to redevelop the garage at 100 Clarendon Street in the process). 

    The Boston Planning & Development Agency signed off on the plans in November 2017, capping well over a year of wrangling, in particular because of the shadows it would likely cast. One of its three new towers is expected to reach 364 feet.

    Boston Properties reached a deal with opponents concerned about the shadows just before the November vote. The developer will pay $3 million to opponents such as the Old South Church to mitigate the impact and a further $3 million to an affordable housing fund that Boston runs.

    The project is envisioned as a kind of transformative gateway connecting Back Bay and the South End; and includes improvements to the station itself.

    Rendering via Pelli Clarke Pelli/Boston Properties

    4. The Hub on Causeway 

    100 Legends Way
    Boston, MA 02114

    Visit Website

    Developers Boston Properties and Delaware North officially broke ground in January 2016 on the humongous project at the old Boston Garden site. It continues to unfold and is part of a forest of new development around North Station

    Ultimately, what’s dubbed the Hub on Causeway will mean more than 1.5 million square feet of shops, restaurants, offices, hotel rooms, and residences, as well as an expansion of nearby TD Garden and transit improvements to North Station.

    Phase I is expected to wrap in 2018 (it topped off in January). It includes flourishes such as the city’s largest supermarket; a 15-screen movie theater; 10,000 square feet of outdoor space for a new entrance to TD Garden and North Station; and 175,000 square feet of what the developers are calling “creative office space.”

    Phase II will include a 440-unit, 38-floor residential tower and a 260-key, 10-floor micro-hotel; and Phase III is an office tower with a proposed height of 495 feet.

    The Hub on Causeway under construction in March 2018.  Boston Globe via Getty Images

    5. Bulfinch Crossing

    100 Sudbury St
    Boston, MA 02114

    Visit Website

    The ongoing conversion of the 2,300-space garage at 50 Sudbury Street is expected to produce 812 residential units, 196 hotel rooms, 1.15 million square feet of office space, and 85,000 square feet of retail.

    Dubbed Bulfinch Crossing, The conversion will produce six buildings with 2.9 million square feet total. (Here is a cool timelapse video of part of Government Center Garage being demolished.)

    Interestingly, in the summer of 2017, HYM announced that 118 apartments in the project’s 45-story, 486-unit rental tower were going condo instead—likely a nod to Boston’s incandescent sales market. The HYM Investment Group, the developer behind the project, expects to finish that residential tower by 2020.

    6. Winthrop Square Garage tower 

    115 Devonshire St
    Boston, MA 02109

    The Boston Planning & Development Agency in mid-May 2018 approvedthe development of the former Winthrop Square Garage in the Financial District into a 690-foot tower of condos and offices.

    The building will be one of the tallest new ones constructed in Boston since at least the mid-1970s, and the BPDA’s approval caps nearly two years of back and forth on its height and scope.

    It was once slated to stretch to 775 feet, making it the second-tallest building in Boston—in New England—behind 200 Clarendon. As it looks now, the Winthrop Square tower will still rank among the 10 tallest in the city and the larger region.

    But! The BPDA wants developer Millennium Partners to reexamine the 1.6 million-square-foot tower’s size and density before it can get building permits. Whether that reexamination leads to any (other) changes still remains to be seen, though.

    As of early July 2018, the BPDA signoff appeared to be the tower’s last major hurdle to development. The garage itself has been demolished in preparation for construction.

    Rendering via Handel Architects

    7. Omni Boston Seaport Hotel

    370-430 Summer St
    Boston, MA 02210

    What will be the fourth-largest hotel in Boston got officially underway in late May 2018 with a groundbreaking that drew VIPs such as Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh.

    The $550 million Omni Boston Seaport Hotel will plant 1,055 rooms on Summer Street across from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District.

    The project goes back to 2017, when the Massachusetts Port Authority designated a development team that includes Omni Hotels & Resorts to build on a state-owned parcel in order to boost the room count in an area still underserved hospitality-wise—despite the convention center being right there.

    The 21-story complex will include 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space of its own, including the largest hotel ballroom in the Seaport District. Interestingly, too, six local nonprofits will share in the hotel’s profits; and the developers pointed out in the spring of 2018 that the Omni inn will create between 700 and 1,000 permanent jobs.

    There is one potential snag for the whole affair, which is supposed to be finished in 2020: Money management giant Fidelity Investments has sued the developers over the name. Fidelity’s own Seaport Hotel opened in the neighborhood 20 years ago.

    The two sides continue to wrangle as of early July.

    8. EchelonSeaport

    133 Seaport Blvd
    Boston, MA 02210

    Visit Website

    Developer Cottonwood Management officially broke ground in June 2017on this 1.33 million-square-foot project on 3.5 acres of very, very valuable land at B Street and Seaport Boulevard. Sales started about 10 months later (and the units ain’t cheap). 

    The three-building project is set to have 717 apartments and condos. Its 447 condos will constitute the largest single amount of for-sale housing in the Seaport District. A third tower will have apartments.

    EchelonSeaport will include 50,000 square feet of in-house amenities—among them two outdoor pools, a fitness center, and two so-called sky lounges—and a 19,000-square-foot landscaped plaza accessible to the public and 125,000 square feet of restaurants and retail over two levels.

    There will also be enough parking in two garages for each condo to have one space. 

    The towers are expected to start opening in late 2019.

    9. Suffolk Downs 

    525 William F McClellan Hwy
    Boston, MA 02128

    The Boston Planning and Development Agency in early February 2018signed off on plans for two office buildings at the site of the shuttered Suffolk Downs racetrack on the Boston-Revere line off the busy, busy Blue Line.

    That was the second key approval the site received toward the start of 2018, with the state expediting an environmental green light for redevelopment there. And the city’s zoning appeals board green-lighted the office-building construction shortly after the BPDA approval. 

    Why all the thumbs-up? Because if one site in the Boston area is going to host Amazon’s second headquarters, it’s the 161-acre East Boston parcel. The area was among the 20 finalists for that second HQ that Amazon named shortly after the start of 2018.

    Come what may, Suffolk Downs developer HYM Investment Group plans to build big, big, big at the juicily located site, near as it is to two Blue Line stops and Logan Airport. With or without Amazon, HYM plans on 16.5 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, hotel, and lab space built out over as long as two decades.

    Eleven million square feet of that would go in Boston and 5.5 million in Revere.

    Rendering via HYM Group

    Boston Airbnb regulations target tenants, investors renting per night

    Rules largely spare owner-occupied properties

    By Tom Acitelli  Updated 

    Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

    The Boston City Council voted overwhelmingly on June 13 to impose new regulations on home-sharing sites such as Airbnb that operate in the city.

    The 11-2 vote ensures that the chamber could override any veto from Mayor Marty Walsh, though such a veto is unlikely as Walsh has called for reining in the use of such sites.

    The new regulations target tenants and investors who rent out apartments on a per-night basis. The rules largely spare smaller owner-occupied properties such as two- and three-family homes. Units in those can still be rented out if the owner is there.

    The regulations also establish a city registry for short-term rental hosts, who will have to pay a $200 fee to join it. That registry will be publicly available, ostensibly making it easier for residents to know who or what is renting out space in their neighborhoods through Airbnb.

    The June 13 vote caps months of contentious debate on the subject, and brings Boston more in line with neighboring Cambridge as far as Airbnb regulations. Proponents of the rules say that Airbnb and the like drive up cities’ already-high housing costs. Opponents say the regulations rob tenants and investors of extra income.

    Enforcement is expected to be an issue in Boston, where any number of units might be rented out through Airbnb every night. The rules take effect January 1, 2019.

    We will add to this article as reaction comes in.

    Airbnb released this statement after the vote:

    For two years Airbnb and our Boston hosts have worked closely with the Mayor and members of the City Council to share helpful data and collaborate on fair home sharing policy. Today’s disappointing vote is proof that our community’s feedback and concerns were not heard. The new ordinance unfortunately creates a system that violates the privacy of our hosts, and prevents Boston families from making much-needed extra income in one of the country’s most expensive cities. We’re hopeful there will be an ongoing discussion on these topics so that our community can continue to fight for their ability to share their homes and make ends meet.

    Hospitality trade group the Massachusetts Lodging Association, which has supported new regulations on Airbnb, sent out this statement:

    Today, Mayor Walsh and the Boston City Council demonstrated true leadership by acting to protect Boston from exploitation at the hands of wealthy, out-of-town interests who have been buying up thousands of housing units in order to turn them into illegal hotels. Today’s action preserves the rights of real home-sharers while reining in the bad actors who are contributing to Boston’s skyrocketing housing costs and wreaking havoc on many of our neighborhoods.

    Now, the state legislature must act to ensure that Airbnb pays its fair share of taxes and abides by a common set of health, safety and non-discrimination rules across the Commonwealth.

    Mayor Marty Walsh does plan to sign the legislation into law.

    Mayor Marty Walsh@marty_walsh

    My goal in regulating short-term rentals is to responsibly preserve affordable housing while still allowing Bostonians to benefit from this new industry. I look forward to signing the legislation & continue monitoring impacts to ensure it serves its purpose in our neighborhoods.

     

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      Kenmore Square's Citgo sign development to include two new buildings

      by Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

      Commonwealth Building  Renderings courtesy of Related Beal

      Developer Related Beal has filed detailed plans with the Boston Planning & Development Agency that would add two new buildings to Kenmore Square—one of which Boston’s most famous sign would bestride. 

      The plans include incorporating 660 Beacon Street, which has been holding up the famed 60-foot-by-60-foot Citgo sign since 1965, into one of the new buildings. 

      The prolific Related Beal bought 660 Beacon and several other buildings in the area in 2016, touching off speculation that the sign was doomed. 

      Organized opposition to its demolition arose even before the sale, when former owner Boston University announced it was putting the buildings on the block. Related Beal and the oil concern behind the sign struck a deal in March 2017 intended to keep the clarion beaming for decades.

      And it will likely do so from atop a major office development, as the recently filed details make plain.

      Plans include construction of an eight-story property called the Commonwealth Building at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Deerfield Street. It would have 130,000 square feet of modern office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, 60 underground parking spaces, and rooftop terraces with what Related Beal describes in a release as “unmatched views of Kenmore Square and the Charles River.”

      Beacon Building

      As for 660 Beacon, it would be renovated and incorporated into a 143,000-square-foot Beacon Building, per the developer, “an adaptive re-use development that will include more than 110,000 square feet of re-positioned office space and 18,000 square feet of retail space.”

      Related Beal expects the office space to go quickly in the Boston-area’s rather scorching office market. It cited a recent brokerage report which concluded that “[office] vacancies in Boston and Cambridge will remain at or near all-time lows.”

      The developer wants to start construction during the first three months of 2019. Stay tuned.

       

      This is the best day and time to list your home for sale

      By Diana Click of CNBC

      For homesellers, even in a market with next to nothing for sale, timing is everything. Listing your home on a certain day — and even a certain time of day — may make it sell faster and for more money.

      Thursday is the most popular day for agents to debut new listings, and homes listed on that day apparently sell fastest, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage. Redfin analysts based their findings on a sample of 100,000 homes that sold in 2017. It used Sunday, the worst day to list, as a baseline and then calculated the relative advantages for every other day.

      Homes listed on Thursday sold an average of five days faster than homes listed on Sunday. Redfin also found homes listed Thursday were more likely to sell within 90 to 180 days.

      "Our market is programmed to look at houses Thursday and to plan their weekends out," said Marshall Carey, a Redfin agent in Washington, D.C. "You really want to have the most eyes on your property, and Thursday seems to be the day to do that."

      The theory is that most people tour listings over the weekend, and they begin planning their weekends on Thursday. Redfin found that a home gets five times more views on the first day it is listed than on subsequent days. This is likely because most online real estate sites offer alerts of new listings to potential buyers. Before the internet, new listings were put in newspapers on Sundays, advertising open houses, and some even in late editions Saturday night, but the model has completely changed.

       

      A home is offered for sale in Chicago, Ill.

      Getty Images

      A home is offered for sale in Chicago, Ill.

      "I normally aim for Thursday or Friday," said Peggy Ferris, an agent with Compass. "I don't like to put it on too early because then agents want to show it and you lose the really good momentum for an open house on Sunday."

      Sunday open houses are still popular but losing the momentum they used to have now that people can tour homes in pictures and video online. In today's incredibly competitive market, some sellers are getting offers without home tours or getting tour requests immediately. Offers are coming in even before the first open house.

      "In this competitive market, most of the agents are sort of abiding by the Thursday, Friday and then taking offers on Tuesday," said Karen Kelly, also with Compass. "I like to give everybody a shot and take a look at 10 offers instead of just one."

      While listing the home later in the weekend can create more urgency, listing it slightly early, on Wednesday, could actually get your more money. Homes listed on Wednesday had a $2,023 advantage in sale price over homes listed on Sunday, according to Redfin, although analysts there could find no clear reason as to why. Most agents I spoke with didn't buy that finding but were definitely interested to hear it.

      "I think false," said Jennifer Myers, a real estate agent with Dwell in the D.C./Virginia area. "It's not just what day you list but also your entire strategy."

      Myers agrees with the Thursday plan but adds a specific time of day. She puts her new listings online at 5 p.m.

      "The afternoon is better because on Thursdays all of us are listing, and so if you list in the morning, you end up actually on Page 2 of the listing, you end up further down, and you want to be on the top," she said.

      Luxury Homes That Promise to Reduce Stress For $4 Million

      By Amy Gamerman of the WSJ

      A meditation courtyard with a reflecting pool. An open-air yoga studio hung with silken hammocks. A medicinal garden planted with calming herbs. 

      It may sound like a tour of an ashram, but these are some of the features that mark a trend in luxury real estate: the mindful mansion.

      “Mindfulness is paying attention—it’s being present in the moment. When you build and design a house, you can design it in a way to cultivate mindfulness,” said Jeny Mathis, who created the gauzy yoga studio for her home in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., about 30 miles outside of Atlanta. Ms. Mathis, 46 years old, who teaches aerial yoga, often starts her day in a hammock, meditating.

      The path to inner peace may lie in the right amenities, or so the rising popularity of wellness real estate would suggest. Upscale home buyers are demanding eco-sensitive homes built with natural products—and opting for interior design that incorporates nature to reduce stress and promote mental clarity. To lure the enlightened buyer, luxury developers are offering morning yoga, mindfulness coaches and meditation chambers with ergonomic cushions.

      “It’s not just about physical health, people are also thinking of how our space affects us emotionally,” said Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow at the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute, who headed a study that tracked the expansion of the wellness industry into the real-estate market. 

      In Palm Beach, Fla., sales have begun at the Amrit Ocean Resort and Residences, set to open in 2019. Buyers of the 182 “wellness residences,” priced from $700,000 to over $4 million, can opt for heated reflexology floors, circadian lighting systems and vitamin C-infused showers. Dilip Barot, CEO and founder of Creative Choice Group, Amrit’s developer, said every homeowner will be matched with a personal wellness consultant to advise on mindfulness, sleep and relaxation—as well as fitness and nutrition. A large communal meditation room will offer chants via headsets, and cushions designed for extended periods of sitting. 

      Walden, a 600-acre “nature-focused retreat” on California’s Monterey Peninsula, is being pitched as a place where Silicon Valley elite can escape their screens and cultivate mindfulness.

      Travis Rice meditates in his Jackson Hole, Wyo., home in a space that doubles as a tea room. The house got a $1.2 million remodel to make it more focused on wellness. PHOTO: GREG VON DOERSTEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

      “It’s like Thoreau going into the woods to find peace and quiet—you think a lot differently when you are sitting under a 200-year-old oak tree,” said Nick Jekogian, Walden’s developer. The undeveloped lots, which average 20 acres and have ocean views, are $5 million each; buyers are urged to spend a night or two in a sleeping pod to experience the landscape before building homes.

      The Mathis’ home in Georgia, completed last year for about $1 million, was the first to break ground in Mado—a new wellness-focused neighborhood that is part of the Serenbe planned community. Its centerpiece is a medicinal garden—a 1-acre “food forest” with edible native plants. Next year, a naturalist will lead workshops for residents on how to use its St. John’s wort and other plants for homeopathic remedies and tonics.

      In the Wyoming home, pine paneling was replaced with earthen plaster; the hearth is a monolithic stone slab. PHOTO: GREG VON DOERSTEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

      To create her home, Ms. Mathis and her husband, Gil, 47, a real-estate agent, turned to Wellness Within Your Walls—an organization that offers guidelines on building practices that reduce contaminants, and certifies products low in toxins, including paints, textiles and formaldehyde-free doors. The house has large windows and high ceilings for maximum airiness.

      “Being able to see green from every window—it’s fascinating to me how that really does impact your mood and well-being,” Ms. Mathis said. Other design elements are more subtle, such as the use of one soothing color for the walls and trim rather than contrasting shades, to create a sense of continuity and openness.

      Evan Mack and her fiancé, Travis Rice, took their mountain home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., down to the studs for a complete mindfulness makeover that cost $1.2 million in 2015. They worked with Veronica Schreibeis Smith, whose Vera Iconica Architecture firm specializes in “wellness architecture,” to replace varnished knotty pine paneling with walls of earthen plaster and baked steel. The white oak floors have been pocked with dents and ripples to provide some of the stress relief of reflexology, hitting pressure points on the foot. 

      “Every person says, ‘This floor feels amazing on my feet,’” said Ms. Mack, 36, a private chef and co-founder of Joan of Sparc, a membership-based personal-development website. “When sunlight hits the floor, it looks like wind on water.”

      Pam Merle in the massage room of her Lake Nona home in Florida, which is on the market for $4.5 million. PHOTO: BETSY HANSEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

      Ms. Mack and Mr. Rice, 35, a professional snowboarder and filmmaker, can meditate, practice yoga or nap in their Japanese-style tea room-—a former vestibule transformed into a cozy space with a barrel-vaulted ceiling and a heated floor. The tea table is on a winch so it can be lowered out of the way.

      “That was designed as a space for introspection—it’s all about holding you and nurturing you,” said Ms. Schreibeis Smith.

      At Lake Nona, a 17-square-mile planned development in Orlando, Fla., about 1,000 residents are active participants in a long-term study on health and well-being conducted by the Lake Nona Institute, a nonprofit established by the community’s Tavistock Development Co. in 2010. Free yoga classes are offered in a Lake Nona park, and integrative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra led an open-air guided meditation last year that drew hundreds of residents. A customized version of Dr. Chopra’s health and wellness app, Jiyo, designed for Lake Nona residents, will be launched in June.

      Ms. Merle in the meditation garden of her home. PHOTO: BETSY HANSEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

      Natalia Foote, 37, moved to Lake Nona with her family in 2015 and one year later became a yoga teacher. She and her husband, Mike, 36, a lab-services salesman, built a bright blue home for $451,000. The couple, who have begun meditating since moving into the community, are members of the Lake Nona Life Project, which tracks health and wellness through biannual surveys.

      At Lake Nona’s Golf and Country Club, Pam Merle and her husband, Didier, a partner in a satellite broadcasting company, designed a walled meditation garden with a reflecting pool just inside the entrance of their 9,000-square-foot home. Their 2.4-acre property also features a swimming pool, a lap pool and a hot tub. The Merles, who have a 17-year-old son, have put their home on the market for $4.5 million but plan to stay in the community.

      The 1,900-square-foot meditation garden is peaceful, with travertine floors, palm trees and a screened ceiling to keep out bugs. The dark-bottomed pool is filled with circulating saltwater. 

      “We wanted to have a more quiet, secret spot where we could be more solitary—we liked the idea of meditation,” said Ms. Merle, 52, who sits on a cushion near the pool for an early morning moment of mindfulness.

      “It can be used as a party space as well,” she adds.

      Top spots to Live in Greater Boston in 2018

      By Jon Gorey of The Globe Magazine

      Boston’s housing market, fueled by strong economic growth, has been blisteringly hot the past few years — and nearby towns and cities are basking in the warmth and glow. With few exceptions, communities in or near Boston have seen Massachusetts’ biggest gains in median home prices between 2012 and 2017, even in already expensive markets like Brookline and Cambridge. The Boston real estate bonfire has now spread to once-affordable pockets of the city like Southie and Roslindale, and gateway cities like Lynn, Lawrence, and Brockton.

       “Real estate is about jobs,” says Timothy Warren, CEO of the real estate market tracking firm The Warren Group in Boston, which also publishes Banker & Tradesman. “Just being close to the Seaport and Kendall Square and these centers of good-paying jobs, that makes a big difference.” No surprise, then, that all 12 of this year’s hot communities offer subway or commuter rail service to the city and its jobs.

      Our desirable dozen have seen the largest leaps in single-family home values across four different price categories (more than $1 million, $750,000-$1 million, $500,000-$750,000, and under $500,000). Results are based on median single-family home price increases from 2012 to 2017, using sales data from The Warren Group. (We’ve excluded cities or towns with fewer than 75 single-family sales last year or in 2012.)

      While we highlight the very hottest of local markets, nearly all of Greater Boston has experienced a dramatic surge in home values. It’s hard to find a community inside Route 128 where median, or midpoint, home prices didn’t climb at least 30 percent since 2012.

      That’s great news for folks who bought their home in the post-recession slump. But if you’re on the other side of the homeownership divide, these steep increases are nothing to celebrate. “Affordability is a big issue, and creating new housing is difficult, so we’ve got real problems there,” Warren says. “We can’t sustain this kind of growth if we don’t have [affordable housing].” 

      City Plaza To Get Beer Gardens And Puppy Wednesday

      City Plaza To Get Beer Gardens And Puppy Wednesday

      BOSTON, MA — Starting soon, the overlook area on City Hall Plaza will transform into something called "The Patios" complete with a daily beer garden, ice cream, mini-golf, and puppies. Yes. Puppies.

      It's part of a a three year plan put together by Boston Garden Development Corp and the City of Boston to revitalize the plaza at City Hall and create "a vibrant welcome public space." The city contracted Boston Garden Development Corp, a subsidiary of Delaware North to oversee the effort.

      And the summer Pop Up opens on May 4 and will be there through August with special events and food trucks

      The area will feature a beer garden from Wachusett Brewing open daily, ice cream from Honeycomb Creamery from Cambridge mini-golf, a mobile book program from Boston Public Library and picnic promotions from Boston Public Market.

      "The Patios project is a flexible public space that brings a scale of intimacy to a place famously the opposite," said Smith in a statement.The city commissioned Sculptor Jeff Smith to help design the area, including an art installation entryway and patio design made of local, reclaimed wood that will display a Boston sign. Smith is a sculptor and filmmaker who built the 'Smallest House' in the World and is now on a mission to popularize the perfect shape. He has created sculpture using salvaged material for some three decades, according to his website.

      So when will the beer garden be open? Every day. Wachusett will rotate through their selection of beer on tap and also feature several guest brewery tap takeovers to bring variety to those who visit.

      WACHUSETT Beer Garden Hours 

      • MONDAY-WEDNESDAY: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. 
      • THURSDAY + FRIDAY: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. 
      • SATURDAY + SUNDAY: noon to 10 p.m. 

      But you're here for the puppies, aren't you?

      Those fuzzy adorable ones will be brought to City Plaza by Shultz's Guest House, a 501c3 dog rescue shelter, based in Dedham. Its mission is to rescue lost, homeless and abandoned dogs in the southern part of the country; to provide for the medical care, sheltering, and transport; and to focus on adoption of healthy puppies and dogs.

      Each Wednesday, "Wag Wednesday" from noon to 2 p.m. you can come play with some of their furry friends and learn more about their adoption process.

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