Boston's Next Generation of Developers: Ionic Development Co 10/26/23

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The ever-changing development landscape of Boston requires developers to be resourceful and agile as they adjust to countless challenges such as new energy and building codes and a tough financing market. While historically Boston has seen a group of big-name players leading the development game, a new crop of firms have started to make their impact known.  In this series, BLDUP speaks with Boston’s Next Generation of Developers to discuss how they got their start, what makes for a good project, and their thoughts on the future of development in the city.

In our fifth installment, we highlight our first female founder, Kaitlin McCarthy, Founder & CEO of Ionic Development Co. McCarthy has extensive experience across multiple areas of the industry including time spent at Turner Construction and most recently working as Vice President at The HYM Investment Group where she managed development of both the The Sudbury and One Congress. Now McCarthy has formed Ionic Development Co. which aims to bring positive impact to communities through development.


BLDUP: How did you get into real estate development?

Kaitlin McCarthy: My passion for real estate development began from a young age with a love of architecture and infrastructure. In high school, while I was exploring different options for colleges, I had a math teacher that suggested I look into engineering. Eventually, this led me to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering at Northeastern University. Through the co-op program at Northeastern, I was able to try different roles within the industry giving me a clear understanding of the engineering side of the business (in fact, I still work with all of my co-op companies today.

My last co-op led me to a full time job with Turner Construction Company where I developed expertise on the more technical side of the commercial real estate industry and grew my understanding of working on construction sites.  I then went to Harvard Business School and received a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), which honed my financial and business skills. I briefly left the industry to work as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. Here, I was able to hone the skills from my MBA through consulting for C-suite executives at Fortune 100 companies. I gleaned best practices from other industries that I have since brought back to real estate. I was then able to apply my diverse skillset as a Vice President at The HYM Investment Group. One thing I’m always grateful for is having both the technical and business skills. Understanding both sides has helped me tremendously in my career and has been a great asset to have in the development world.

BLDUP: Your background includes time at HYM working on some of Boston’s most notable projects including Bulfinch Crossing, why did you decide to branch off to form your own firm?

Kaitlin McCarthy: There were several rationales that went into the decision to start my own business. After gaining experience in the different facets of the real estate development business, I felt I had the skills and the opportunity to make a difference as a woman-owned developer in the Boston landscape. Given where I was in my career, it also felt like the right time personally for me to take a risk. Additionally, the City and State’s focus on equity and inclusion in the development space created a welcoming environment for me to pursue this venture. I’m really grateful for the experience I gained in prior places, like working on Bulfinch Crossing at HYM; that prepared me to begin Ionic and grow our diverse project portfolio.

BLDUP: What makes a “good project” or investment for Ionic Development Co.? 

Kaitlin McCarthy: Throughout our development projects we are always seeking to provide infrastructure that will be both impactful and beneficial to whatever community it is located in. We’re open to a wide variety of different opportunities or types of projects, as long as they follow that principle.

Additionally, we look to work with partners and teams that share these same core values. We are lucky to have found this for all our current projects and it is inspiring to see how the positive impact can multiply when teams work together to tackle tough problems. 

BLDUP: Thoughts on the future of Boston development given new regulations (energy efficiency, affordable housing, etc)?

Kaitlin McCarthy: It is an exciting time for development right now in Boston. Affordable housing is of the utmost importance, and Ionic is excited to be a part of creating that in the South Boston Waterfront District. We recently were a part of a winning bid that will create over 200 units of income-restricted housing in the neighborhood and will be the first affordable housing development in the South Boston Waterfront neighborhood. I’m looking forward to continuing to create opportunities for affordable housing throughout Boston, and I think it’s a great time to be a developer here.

BLDUP: How have current market conditions (rising interest rates, construction costs) affected your pipeline?

Kaitlin McCarthy: I began my career during one of the most economically challenging times in the recent past – the recession in 2008, which affected real estate globally. From that experience, I gained expertise that helped me navigate tough economic climates. Having that prior experience, I feel well equipped to tackle the current market conditions and still find success during this dynamic time in the development world.

BLDUP: What project(s) are you most excited about?

Kaitlin McCarthy: We’re thrilled to play a role in several upcoming projects in the Boston area. We are a part of one of two teams bidding to redevelop 6 acres near the Massachusetts Convention Center. Our bid has an unprecedented community benefits and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) package and would benefit South Boston in countless ways.  Ionic was also recently honored to be a part of the chosen bid for the development of Parcel D-4, the first all affordable housing development in Boston’s South Boston Waterfront neighborhood, slated to deliver 200 units of income-restricted housing. It’s going to be a great addition to the neighborhood.

BLDUP: What do you think the CRE industry can do to better advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and attract more women & people of color to the industry?

Kaitlin McCarthy: Inclusion must continue to be an active priority in the commercial real estate world and development sector moving forward. As development in Boston continues to evolve, it’s imperative that we continue to bring more voices to the table. While the industry has made strides in inclusion of women and people and color throughout firms, it has been slower to include women and people of color as part of Ownership or Investment teams.  These are the areas with the most influence and wealth building opportunities for those that have historically been excluded so it is critical that women and people of color be included in these roles. 

Contributor Bio

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Ionic Development Company is a Boston-based, woman owned, full service real estate development and consulting company. The company focuses on large, mixed-use developments and has expertise developing science, multi-family, retail, and office asset classes. Ionic is passionate about projects that bring positive impact to communities and industry through development.