North end boston

The Minds Behind Innovative Development

As Boston continues to grow as a city, a diverse group of buyers, similarly, continue to migrate towards Boston’s city center. And, while the vast amount of new construction is from the ground up, this diverse buyer’s group is looking to all of the options presented in the market. According to Toni Gilardi of The Gilardi Group, a division of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, Boston real estate buyers are interested in more than just the new construction on the rise. Furthermore, a majority of Gilardi's clientele are interested in properties that have old, Boston charm at their core, but ultimately possess modern, updated interiors (and also low condo fees, wink wink).

Enter Joe DiGangi principal at Urban Core Development and the visionary relationship between the Gilardi Group and Urban Core's 55 Hull Street project in the North End neighborhood of Boston. Gilardi and DiGangi paired up to bring Boston's budding group of real estate buyers a "new kind" of residential, multi-family development – one that integrates the modern, clean aesthetics offered in Divine Design Center’s wide range of European cabinet lines:

Toni Gilardi of The Gilardi Group: My name is Toni Gilardi, and I am with The Gilardi Group. Which, is a division of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. I have been selling real estate for 34 years in the Downtown Boston Area.

Joe DiGangi of Urban Core Development: Hi. I am Joe DiGangi. I am the principal of Urban Core Development. We are a Boston-based real-estate development firm specializing in multi-family, residential projects.

Divine Design Center: What is the background on the 55 Hull Street building, and how did you wind up acquiring it?

TG: This building was owned by the same family for about 35 years. Maybe even longer? Maybe like 45 years. So, when the family had passed away, the building sat vacant for 20 some odd years. The inheritor of the property just couldn’t part with it. One day I was walking through a parking lot and ran into the owner and she was chatting with me. And, I asked her if she would ever be willing to sell the property, and she finally said yes. I immediately called Joe from Urban Core and asked if he would be interested. I thought that this would be a wonderful project. I thought we needed something new, shiny, and edgy in this neighborhood that wasn’t in a full-service, luxury building with very high condo fees. It was a product I felt we needed in this area, and I thought Joe was the best person to help bring it to market.  

JD: So Toni asked us to come down and take a look at the building. I was born and raised in the North End, so I am very familiar with the neighborhood. And, Urban Core had never done a project in the neighborhood. So, we were looking to get in there. We have another [project] that we are permitting right now. But, we hadn’t started anything in the North End. And, this was the perfect opportunity for us – it is right up our alley. It was a vacant building, and it had already been gutted out. So, we could start construction immediately.

DDC: Why did you choose to go towards the “modern style” in selecting the cabinets, and overall design choices throughout Hull’s two units?

JD: As far as design goes, I am not personally a fan of the old, traditional style that you see in the Back Bay from a hundred years ago. It is crown molding, big furniture. I like very clean, modern, and simple.
And, if it is done right, it stands out more than anything else a buyer is looking at. You know, a buyer has a lot of choices now. Or, in theory, a buyer has a lot of choices, but we have limited supply right now. But, our goal at Urban Core is to really differentiate ourselves. And, there are details within this building that I’m confident that a buyer shopping around in the North End, or any neighborhood, for that matter, will see the details that we put into this project. This is almost custom built.

DDC: What are the details?

JD: Well, first of all, if you take a look at the staircase. We have the wood tread and the wood riser. And, the detailing on the side [of the staircase], it is very expensive, and most developers wouldn’t do this. The alternative being your standard pine riser painted, and your tread – an oak tread. But, when you’re upstairs [inside of the unit], the staircase serves as almost an architectural focal point. And, that was really one of the features we were looking to hi-light. The steel rod railings are a nice touch. Additionally, the TV wall which was initially going to be a fireplace, but when we got it in, we felt it was too bulky and stuck out too far. So, we had to pivot, and I thought that it might be nice, to again, have a center point for the living room. We provided the TV, we built it in, and we designed this custom wall-unit that picks up on the doors throughout the condo. Which is another detail. The doors throughout this whole project are European-designed doors. They are all from Italy.

TG: Basically, this whole design is exactly the product that my customers have been looking for: in a smaller building, and without $3,000 a month condo fees. So, with the interest rates as low as they are, people are looking for high quality, very modern, European style, and in a small building that is extremely manageable. So, this kitchen, these bathrooms, and the whole design is a product of what the customer has been asking for, for a very long time.

JD: The other thing that was important for us too, was that if you look at the exterior of this building it certainly does not blend in with the neighborhood. And, our intent wasn’t to create something that stood out. But, this building already had aluminum sidings. It was a wood frame with aluminum sidings when we bought it. So, this building already was something that stood out from the neighborhood. And, we wanted to do an updated take on the exterior façade using Hardie Panel and Parklex. And, floor-to-ceiling windows here. That very modern exterior look already set the expectation. And, when a buyer walks in, the first thought in their head should be – this is exactly what I thought it was going to look like [on the inside]. The buyer shouldn’t be thinking – oh, this isn’t what I thought it would be based on the outside. So, if you’re setting an expectation on the outside, then you really better deliver on the inside.

TG: The truth is, the exterior, as it is now, with the color composition to the rest of the neighborhood matches better than the blue clapboard that is original to the surrounding buildings.

DDC: Why did you choose European cabinets as opposed to American cabinets?

JD: Well, because of where we are at. We thought it would be a nice selling point to have Italian-made cabinets here in the North End.

TG: It’s called “ecco”. Ecco means “this is it” in Italian.

DDC: Whether you’re developing a pre-existing, brownstone project, or working on one of your larger, ground-up parcels, do you think modern style will exist in all of those? Or do you see yourself edging towards a more transitional style to try and appeal to all tastes?  

JD: You are never going to see Urban Core doing shaker cabinets in any of our projects. That’s just not what we do.

DDC: How was your experience with Divine Design Center?

JD: Working with Divine was great. First of all, the selection [at Divine Design Center] is exactly what we like to build. We like to use those and that type of look in our projects. Lead times and collaborating with Divine was great. Everything was great. [Divine] are professionals, we’re professionals, so everything ran smoothly. It was a smooth transaction.

TG: I remember the first time I walked into the [Divine] showroom. And, it was just completely WOW. I was not only wow-ed by the showroom and the products that you had out, but by the staff. The owners of Divine Design Center are amazing. The staff is absolutely on point. Everybody is so professional, and everybody really knows what they are doing. At the same time, I walked in and the first thing I thought was I have to get my clients in here – I have to get my developers in here. I called Urban Core and they had already heard about the Divine Design Center. And, we made that immediate decision – these were the people that we wanted to work with for this new project.

JD: And, the nice thing is the selection, as far as price point goes. Because these units are a 1-3 million plus price, and so you need an elevated finish. However, if you’re building a product that is in the range of $500,000-900,000, then you are not going to put in the same level of finish into them. It is a totally different price point. So, to have that selection, you know, where these are the level and prices of the units we’re doing here, and here we’re doing high luxury and we need this finish here, Divine has that range of price and selection. And, it’s still a quality product.

To find out more about Divine Design Center ’s products and services for your next project visit our showroom located at 2 Battery Wharf in Boston, visit us online here, or give us a call at (617) 443-0700!

~ Madison Silvers

Contributor Bio

Mariette Barsoum and her company Divine Design Center have offered developers luxury, European cabinetry at cost-effective rates since 2004.

Subsequently, Divine Design Center, a woman, minority-owned business, has provided Boston’s multiplying developments with premium quality kitchens, wardrobes, and bathrooms suitable for expanding buyer’s demands that permeate the metropolitan area.

Apart from their 8,000 square foot modern + transitional European showroom which showcases the before mentioned, Divine is heralded for their:

•         Top quality product with global name recognition

•         Value engineering

•         Developer-only pricing through exclusive partnerships

   with our European manufacturing partners


•         Detailed plans

•         Local, competent support

•         Timeliness

•         Strict adherence to budget

•         Reliable deliveries

•         High-end design services at no additional cost with

   Boston’s top design team

•         3D photorealistic rendering to pre-sell units

•         Financing to qualified developers


Increase the value of your units under development via Divine’s modern, European manufacturers. Garner the pre-sale of your project’s units well before completion with cabinetry that exudes seamless design and beautiful finishes. Our quality, cost-effective cabinets + Boston’s top design team emanate the best solution for your development’s needs.

Divine Design Center >>

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