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1256 <p>Many millennials and other young people walking through Somerville’s vibrant squares and neighborhoods would be surprised to know what it was like in the 1960’s and 70’s.<br></p> <p></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="100" alt="Print" src="" height="48"></a> <p><b>Powered by JM Electrical Company, Inc.</b></p><p><br></p><p>Many millennials and other young people walking through Somerville’s vibrant squares and neighborhoods would be surprised to know what it was like in the 1960’s and 70’s. Boarded up store windows. Dangerous crime levels. Houses in decay. Middle class flight to the suburbs. A city on a downward spiral.<br></p><p></p><p>Today, Somerville is one of the hottest restaurant, nightlife and real estate markets in the state – the envy of many cities around the state.</p><p></p><p>What happened? While many factors came into play (Cambridge residents getting priced out of the market; an overall shift to urban centers; improved city government and services), nearly everyone acknowledges the key: the arrival of the Red Line in Davis Square.</p><p></p><p>When Somerville was added to the region’s mass transit system, making downtown Boston a short 15 minute subway ride away, the city began to bloom. And today, the Davis Square area is in full flower.</p><p></p><p>Infrastructure spending is the key to economic development here and across the country. When we invest in our roads and bridges, our trains and subways, we see development money unleashed, which in turn leads to growth in jobs, housing and population. And the need for improvement in our country’s infrastructure is an issue that has long been debated in Congress — truthfully, it may be one of the few current political topics with bipartisan agreement.</p><p></p><p>In fact, recent reports out of Washington suggest the Trump administration may produce an infrastructure bill soon, in order to gain a victory on an issue both Democrats and Republicans can agree on.</p><p></p><p>Both the President and the Democrats agree the dollar figure for this investment is at least a trillion dollars. That’s a steep price, but it’s a small price to pay to fix our roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy.</p><p></p><p><b>Where will the funding come from?</b></p><p></p><p>Because President Trump is adamant about steering clear of taxpayer dollars, his solution is to fund these infrastructure projects through a mixture of public and private capital. Nevertheless, he would rely most heavily on private-sector investments — and these investments would be incentivized through tax cuts that can later be used to earn these companies money; for example, charging a toll for a repaired bridge or road.</p><p></p><p>Democrats, however, resist privatization of public infrastructure and favor mostly public spending. On the one hand, it could be a big victory for bipartisan success. On the other hand, it could get bogged down in partisan disagreements about how to pay for it. We’ll know more in the coming weeks.</p><p></p><p><b>Effects from the local perspective</b></p><p></p><p>Few states need infrastructure infusions as much as Massachusetts. <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">Forty-two</a>&nbsp;percent of our roads are in poor condition. On top of that, <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">483 of our total 5,171 bridges</a>&nbsp;are considered structurally deficient. And major expansion projects hang in the balance.</p><p></p><p><a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">Upon recent approval</a>, Somerville and Medford’s Green Line Extension, which will help revitalize Union Square and other parts of the two cities, now has its $2.3 billion funding intact – even without a huge infrastructure bill.</p><p></p><p>However, other transportation projects are not as fortunate. For example, South Coast Rail, an extension that could bring a commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River, might not be so lucky. Amtrak receives a substantial amount of federal funding, which Trump has proposed severe cuts to. Such would affect all of Amtrak’s long-distance train lines, in turn affecting the 500 communities served by the transit agency.</p><p></p><p>Additionally, the North-South Rail Link, which would connect North and South stations, would most likely need federal funding to become a reality. Just to conduct a study on the rail link and its cost and benefit to riders, will cost up to $2 million.</p><p></p><p>Few states could use infrastructure spending more than Massachusetts, a state that relies to a great degree on 19th century subway system and early 20th century roads and bridges. Let’s hope the President and members of both parties in Congress can finally come together and agree on one important issue. If they can, revitalizations like the one that occurred in Somerville can spring up across the state.</p><br><p></p> Trump Budget Proposal: What it Means for Development Projects in 2017 Show Edit Destroy
1256 <p>Recently, the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that it had concluded public hearings on a proposed new edition of the state building code.<br></p> <p></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="100" alt="Print" src="" height="48"></a> <p><b>Powered by JM Electrical Company, Inc.</b></p><p><br></p><p>Recently, the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that it had concluded public hearings on a proposed new edition of the state building code. Over the past several weeks, residents and local professionals from across the state weighed in on proposed changes, creating the ground rules for developers, homeowners, architects and property managers to abide for the foreseeable future. And now, the feedback from hearings and over 200 pages of public amendments has been reviewed by the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS). Once filed with the Secretary of State, projects will be expected to comply with the ninth edition code effective January 2, 2018.</p> <p>While the new building code may not generate big headlines, updating the code is a critical public service, and essential to any community’s growth and development. Almost always, these updates are intended to improve standards for important issues such as the structural integrity of buildings, the quality of water systems, and the required levels of energy conservation. For anyone working or living in Massachusetts, a build code has quiet imprints on our quality of life.</p> <p>Building codes also offer a unique perspective regarding a region’s development. One glance at the skyline underscores the obvious: the Boston development community is in the midst of one of its' largest building booms. From examples like Fenway’s Pierce Boston to the upcoming General Electric headquarters at Innovation Point, the latest iteration of the state building code aims to sustain the current growth, while ensuring safety will continue to be prioritized. &nbsp;</p> <p>Today, the International Building Code (IBC) is in use or adopted in all 50 states, setting basic guidelines to protect buildings, people and property from fire, storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. Nevertheless, most states produce their own codes to complement the IBC. And, generally, the ninth edition reflects a consensus that – increasingly – there are fewer occasions to supplement the IBC. Still, there are a few pending examples where the latest local code updates should make life easier for developers and Massachusetts construction industry.</p> <p>Coastal A zones are areas designated as special flood hazards. &nbsp;The Seaport – with its close proximity to the Boston waterfront – is an example. Previously, the higher likelihood of wind and storm activity limited the options for development in Coastal A zones. The updated code reassesses that, tapering the code’s previous caution and making it more palpable for development.</p> <p>The new state code will now also reflect the IBC’s cues on podium construction, as well as tall wood structures. Podium construction—or pedestal/platform construction—refers to multiple levels of light-frame construction over a level of fire resistant base. (Think of parking garages or retail.) In Massachusetts the current code is based on an older version of IBC and does not allow two story podiums. Recent changes in the IBC code allow six and seven story structures to be constructed in wood, as opposed to strictly concrete.</p> <p>Likewise, recent advancements in fire prevention and technology have enabled heavy timber to be used over steel and concrete frames, a welcome change for builders who often favor wood because it is lighter, stronger, and less expensive. &nbsp;The Massachusetts building code will now follow the guidelines set in the 2015 edition of the IBC, to maximize the number of stories, and – hopefully - lower construction costs.</p> <p>Boston’s recent building surge is unique for several reasons, including the growing, statewide emphasis on sustainability. The adoption of the state’s “stretch energy code in 2009, for instance, helped set the bar for large commercial buildings applying for LEED energy certification. The results are clear, in part leading to the current emphasis on energy efficiency in major urban projects. Last year, Massachusetts was named the <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">most energy efficient state</a> in the nation for the sixth consecutive year, and during this time the state had <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">136 properties</a> spanning 24.4 million square feet that were LEED certified, including the recently completed Serenity Apartments overlooking Olmsted Park. With an updated building code, Boston should anticipate higher standards for sustainability.</p> <p>BBRS members have now convened inside One Ashburton Place in downtown Boston to approve final contents of the state’s building code. With a new code now firmly in place for 2018 and beyond, it should provide a helpful set of guidelines that promoter innovation and growth in our state without losing sight of the need to promote public safety.</p><p></p> Massachusetts Building Code Updates' Impact on Local Development Show Edit Destroy
166 <p>Initiated in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the month of May is observed as National Preservation Month across the United States. Events that work towards promoting heritage, tourism and the cultural and economic advantages of preserving historic places are held throughout the month co-sponsored by local preservation groups.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="78" alt="image1" src="" height="100"></a> <p></p> <p>By <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">Haycon</a></p><p><br></p><p>Initiated in 1973 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the month of May is observed as National Preservation Month across the United States. Events that work towards promoting heritage, tourism and the cultural and economic advantages of preserving historic places are held throughout the month co-sponsored by local preservation groups. These events help create awareness about historic places and monuments in and around the city.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="640" alt="image4" src="" height="480"></a> <p>The reading room of the Boston Public Library’s McKim Building in Copley Square, built in 1895.<br></p> <p><br></p> <p>There are 57 properties and districts that have been designated the title of National Historic Landmarks in Boston, including the Boston Naval Shipyard, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum and the African Meeting House. There are several reasons why historic properties should be preserved and cared for. Historic properties have intrinsic value; they tend to be built using high quality materials such as rare hardwoods and wood from forests that no longer exist, making these properties rare and exquisite. Furthermore, the architecture of old buildings is more intricate and customized compared to many buildings built now, making them a delight for local residents and tourists alike.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="640" alt="image2" src="" height="387"></a> <p>The intricate interior of a historic South End row house restored by Haycon.<br></p> <p><br></p> <p>Boston’s historic properties evoke the city’s culture and complexities and help tell the rich story of our legacy and heritage. Boston’s historic buildings are a straight representation of our heritage and culture, and preserving these buildings represents our commitment to remembering and learning from the past and continuing to build a sustainable future. Restoring historic properties and ensuring their continued contribution to the local economy can be a powerful tool for sustaining local commerce, creating jobs and generating capital. Preservation is also an effective method for promoting sustainability and avoiding wastage of energy. When a historic building is demolished, the community loses the value of materials, resources and labor used to build it. In many cases, restoring and redeveloping historic buildings uses less energy and materials and is more cost-effective than demolishing the building and building from the ground up.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="640" alt="784-Tremont-1" src="" height="566"></a> <p>The exterior of 784 Tremont Street, a historic South End row house restored by Haycon.</p> <p><br></p> <p>The government recognizes the importance and sustainability of preserving historic buildings; the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive encourages the private sector to invest in the restoration and redevelopment of historic buildings and offers a tax credit in return, reducing the amount of tax owed. The government issues a 20% tax credit for the rehabilitation of certified historic properties that have the potential to produce income, and a 10% rehabilitation tax credit that equates to 10% of the total amount spent on rehabilitation of a non-historic property built before 1936.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="640" alt="1902-1904-Washington-1" src="" height="460"></a> <p>The exterior of 1902-1904 Washington, a historic&nbsp;South End mixed-use building restored by Haycon.<br></p> <p><br></p> <p>Hiring an expert general contractor with experience in historic preservation is the key to a successful restoration and redevelopment project. Such a general contractor will help evaluate a property’s suitability for renovation and the appropriate methods through which restoration can be executed using approved replacement construction materials and cutting down on unnecessary costs. An experienced general contractor will also be well-versed in obtaining necessary approvals for modifications to historic properties, which are protected by a number of official regulations.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="558" alt="117-Centre-1" src="" height="640"></a> <p>The exterior of 117 Centre Street, a historic Roxbury home restored by Haycon.</p> <p><br></p> <p>There are various criteria and specific standards for rehabilitation of any property listed as historic. The current condition of historic features will be evaluated to determine the appropriate level of intervention needed, and which characteristics should be kept and which are insignificant. Replacement of intact materials or repairable historic material, or alteration of features, spaces and spatial relationships that are primary characteristics of a property, must be avoided. Distinctive materials, features, finishes and construction techniques or exemplary examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be retained and preserved, in addition to any later changes to a property that have acquired historic significance.</p> <p><br></p> <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href=""><img width="626" alt="image5" src="" height="640"></a> <p>The exterior of the 1887-built Philip Munroe Residence in Cambridge, restored by Haycon.<br></p> <p><br></p> <p>Recently, the State of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs started the #ThisPlaceMatters social media campaign, encouraging people to take pictures with buildings and properties of historic value to increase awareness and gather public support for preserving various properties. The #ThisPlaceMatters campaign is educating the public about the importance of preserving and restoring historic properties in a way that honors of the property’s history and background. Historic properties endorse a sense of belonging and familiarity that locals can associate with and are a proud symbol of the city we have built, and hence should be restored and redeveloped in a way that ensures this familiarity and pride does not disappear.</p> <p><br></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Boston World Trade Center, home to .<a href="">@NESEA_org</a> <a href="">#be16</a> , will stand for centuries. Amazing masonry! <a href="">#thisplacematters</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Dwayne Fuhlhage (@DwayneFuhlhage) <a href="">March 9, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>A #ThisPlaceMatters tweet noting the intricacy of Boston’s historic World Trade Center in the Seaport District</p> National Preservation Month: A celebration of Boston’s rich architectural heritage Show Edit Destroy
1256 <p>As housing prices skyrocket and more and more neighborhoods become gentrified working and middle class people are feeling the squeeze.<br></p> <p></p><p>As housing prices skyrocket and more and more neighborhoods become gentrified working and middle class people are feeling the squeeze. &nbsp; Today, median monthly rent in Boston is nearly <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">$2,500 per month</a>, a rate that requires annual income of $100,000 to live comfortably. &nbsp; Meanwhile, the 2015 median household income for Boston was just under <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">$80,000</a> – and that includes the increasing number of wealthy neighborhoods, from Back Bay to the South End to parts of South Boston, Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. In other less affluent neighborhoods, rents remain high but wages are far less than the $80,000 median. </p> <p>Greater Boston faces a real crisis, not just of homelessness (though that has more than doubled in Massachusetts during the <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">past 9 years</a>), but of people simply paying too much just to keep a roof over their heads.</p> <p>Recent events in Somerville, for instance, illustrate the problem. Once a blue-collar community, the cost of even a condo in the city now nears a million dollars. Median rents for a three bedroom condo have reached <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">$3,400</a>.</p><p><br></p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" data-footer="true" href="" title="Maxwell&#x27;s Green in Somerville"><img src="" width="520" height="310" alt="Maxwell&#x27;s Green in Somerville"></a><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><br></p><p>The city’s housing pressure cooker finally boiled over in 2016, when the Board of Aldermen, seeking a quicker fix to the lack of reasonably priced homes, increased the number of affordable units that residential developers needed to build in their large projects from <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">12.5 percent to 20 percent</a>. Developers of many large-scale projects, especially those building at Assembly Row and Union Square, protested, saying that the requirement was too draconian and not financially viable. The result: a compromise at Assembly Row, at least, in which Federal Realty Investment Trust, agreed to make 16 percent of their units affordable ones – some at Assembly, others in key parts of the city. As part of the negotiation, the developer agreed to pay the city $10.3 million to finance the remaining units elsewhere in Somerville.</p><p><br></p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" data-footer="true" href="" title="Montaje at Assembly Row in Somerville"><img src="" width="640" height="461" alt="Montaje at Assembly Row in Somerville"></a><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><br></p><p>The Somerville story is a cautionary tale for developers, who in the months and years ahead are likely to find increasing pressure to build affordable units with their developments. &nbsp; Fortunately, some state and local efforts are easing the pressure in some communities. </p> <p>Chapter 40B, an affordable housing rule that has been on the books since 1969 but has been used even more aggressively in recent years, has yielded approximately <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">80 percent</a> of Massachusetts’ affordable housing developments outside the major cities, with nearly 60,000 units built in the Commonwealth since the law’s enactment.</p> <p>In Boston, the city has awarded <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">$22 million</a> in new funding for ten affordable housing developments in Greater Boston. The funding followed the mayor’s Boston 2030 housing announcement, outlining his goal of creating 53,000 new units of housing, including <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">6,500</a> new units of affordable housing, in the city by 2030 as well as supporting “Boston’s Way Home,” his plan to end chronic homelessness by 2018.</p><p><br></p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" data-footer="true" href="" title="The Beverly in Bulfinch Triangle"><img src="" width="640" height="379" alt="The Beverly in Bulfinch Triangle"></a><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><br></p><p>One example of Boston’s headway toward this goal is <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="">The Beverly</a>, currently under construction, which will be Boston’s first all-affordable apartment complex in more than 25 years. Set for completion in January 2018, the development will be located in downtown Boston, and 100 percent of the units will be for households earning between 30-165 percent of Boston’s median income.</p><p><br></p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" data-footer="true" href="" title="Ink Block in the South End"><img src="" width="640" height="377" alt="Ink Block in the South End"></a><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><br></p><p>But even as these efforts are yielding more units, Boston itself has forced developers to include more affordable units. All of the Boston Housing Authority’s luxury apartment complexes are required to include at least 13 percent of their residential units as affordable. High-end complexes such as Millennium Tower, Avalon North Station and Ink Block Apartments (all of which are JM Electrical projects) were required to have affordable units.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <a data-flickr-embed="true" data-footer="true" href="" title="Avalon North Station in Bulfinch Triangle"><img src="" width="640" height="424" alt="Avalon North Station in Bulfinch Triangle"></a><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p><br></p><p>As Greater Boston’s many neighborhoods work to reach their affordable housing requirements, developers will be expected to do more and more to meet these ambitious goals. While it may come at some substantial cost for builders of buildings large and small, it may be the only way Boston and the surrounding area will maintain its middle class, a goal nearly everyone agrees is worth pursuing.</p><p></p> With Housing Prices Rising, Developers May Be Under Increasing Pressure to Address Affordable Housing Need Show Edit Destroy

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