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Blog :: 05-2018

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.