Building Boston 2030

Boston is known for its world-class universities, international thought leaders, medical and technological centers, and cultural institutions, but today’s economy offers unique challenges for local businesses. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, Boston must find ways to handle budget constraints in the public sector and increase investors in the private sector.

The Center for Real Estate has partnered with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board to offer Building Boston 2030, a series of public forums on Boston development. The Building Boston 2030 series encourages statewide dialogue on public policies and business considerations that can help Boston continue to create good jobs, attract and retain a skilled workforce, and attract private capital to spur innovation.

The forums bring together prominent leaders in Boston’s business, academic, media, and civic communities to discuss Boston’s future and exchange ideas about development opportunities.

For updates on the series, follow @SUBizSchool on Twitter, and use the hashtag: #BuildBoston.

Is Climate Change Flooding Boston's Future?

According to the Climate Ready Boston Report, Boston has experienced 21 weather-related events that have triggered federal or state disaster declarations since 1991. How does climate change affect Boston’s future? On October 25, 2017, attendees explored with experts the future impact of extreme heat, storm water flooding, as well as coastal and riverine flooding for greater Boston.

Panelists

  • Bill Golden, Co-founder and Executive Director, National Institute for Coastal & Harbor Infrastructure
  • Kathy Abbott, President & CEO, Boston Harbor Now
  • Kate Fichter, Assistant Secretary for Policy Coordination, Massachusetts Department of Transportation     
  • Yanni Tsipis, Senior Vice President, WS Development - Boston Seaport
  • Richard McGuiness, Deputy Director Waterfront Planning & Development Agency, City of Boston
  • Moderated by: Peter Howe, Denterlein

Moderator

Peter Howe, Denterlein

Co-sponsored with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board

Real Estate Strategy as Business Strategy

The convergence of real estate and business strategy is more prevalent in Boston than ever before.

On October 19, 2016, top executives from businesses that have relocated, redefined or transformed their companies in Boston, participated on this panel to discuss the factors that drove their re-location to Boston, how real estate factored into their business strategy and how their companies leveraged their location.

Panelists

  • John Barros, Chief of Economic Development, City of Boston
  • Tom Hynes, Co-chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Colliers International’s Boston office
  • Charles Pappalardo, Vice President, Corporate Real Estate and Operations, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Pam McDermott, McDermott Ventures
  • Tom Hynes, Co-chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Colliers International’s Boston office
  • Jim Halliday, Managing Director, NB Development Group

Moderator

Peter Howe, Senior Advisor, Denterlein

Co-sponsored with the Greater Boston Real Estate Board

Widett Circle: Boston's Next Frontier for Innovation

Widett Circle—off the southeast expressway—is on the brink of major redevelopment. The area was once slated to become a temporary stadium for the Boston Olympics. But now, with Mayor Martin J. Walsh's support, developers are determined to create workforce housing and economic opportunities.

What does the future of Widett Circle look like? Will it become the next Kendall Square—a hotbed for technological innovation? A new place for people to live and work like Fenway? Or an upscale shopping and entertainment center like Assembly Row in Somerville?

Panelists explore how development would affect existing businesses and addressed potential issues surrounding residential expansion and public transit.

MBTA: Just Fix It

There’s no question—the MBTA is in trouble. With nearly $9 million of debt and a $3 billion maintenance backlog, major changes are in order.

Experts at the MBTA: Just Fix It panel weighed in on potential solutions and addressed Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed legislation on May 5, 2015. They talked about everything from transparency and accountability to revenue, operating costs, customer service, and employee absenteeism.

Panelists

  • Stephanie Pollack, Secretary of Transportation, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • James Aloisi, Principal, Pemberton Square Group
  • Kristina Egan, Director, Transportation of Massachusetts
  • Eileen McAnneny, President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
  • James O’Leary, Partner, Alternate Concepts, Inc.
  • Greg Sullivan, Research Director, Pioneer Institute

Moderator

Peter Howe, business editor at NECN.

Boston 2024: Going for Gold

With an official bid in place for the 2024 Olympics, Boston may be next in line to host the summer games.

But the proposal is controversial. It raises questions about escalating costs, infrastructure improvements, and the city’s ability to accommodate and transport thousands of visitors, all while ensuring long-term benefits for residents.

On March 17, 2015, Suffolk University’s Center for Real Estate and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board hosted a public forum to address both sides of the debate.

Should Boston Go Bigger?

There’s no question—Boston is growing rapidly, and it’s not about to slow down. As Mayor Marty Walsh plans to build 53,000 new housing units by 2030, Suffolk University’s Building Boston 2030 Forum examined how increased density could impact the city.

The panel, moderated by New England Cable News Business Editor Peter Howe, discussed the pros and cons of loosening zoning regulations and providing financial incentives that could lead to more residential buildings in the city’s neighborhoods, especially near public transportation. 

The Race for Living Space

Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s plan to develop 30,000 new housing units in Boston by the year 2020 is ambitious. But is it doable? And what major obstacles do we need to overcome?

Panelists at “The Race for Living Space,” a forum sponsored by Suffolk University Sawyer Business School and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, shared their thoughts on October 2. The event was moderated by NECN Business Editor Peter Howe.

Speakers included Richard Davey, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation; Lawrence DiCara, Partner at Nixon Peabody; and Paul McMorrow, Associate Editor of Commonwealth Magazine.

Casinos: Deal Us In?

Supporters and opponents of Massachusetts casinos came together for a panel discussion at Suffolk University on May 9, 2013.

The forum – Casinos: Deal Us In? – was hosted by Sawyer Business School’s Center for Real Estate and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. It included two out of the three bidders for the sole Eastern Massachusetts casino license, as well as host community representatives. NECN Business Editor Peter Howe moderated the discussion.

“Now is the time to talk to the bidders,” Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, told attendees. “This is the moment of absolute maximum leverage. There will never be a moment like this again.”

Foxwoods Resort Casino CEO Scott Butera, who aims to build a casino off Interstate 495 in Milford, said he plans to keep 80 percent of the 200-acre site undeveloped, possibly enhanced with new hiking and biking trails.

"You don’t have to be the biggest game in town. It's good to be the nicest," Butera said.

But Steve Trettel, of Casino Free Milford, argued that the casino would do more harm than good for his community by lowering property values and increasing traffic and crime. “Why would we ever want to give up the semi-rural, suburban environment of our town?”

Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle hopes to convert the Revere and East Boston horse racing track into a Caesars Entertainment resort. He plans to partner with downtown Boston hotels, restaurants, and theaters.

Celeste Ribeiro Myers, of No Eastie Casino, said “Only one of these locations can be awarded a casino, if you consider it an award. However, it’s important to note that none of us has to have a casino.”

Meyers said her grassroots group has had difficulty getting information from bidders. “We can’t get access to the most basic data. We’re marching to an arbitrary timeline that’s been set by the Gaming Commission and our local officials.”

Everett resident Evmorphia Stratis is fiercely opposed to the casino proposal. Looking back at a trip she made to a Connecticut casino, she said, "What a boring, stupid thing to do with your life: Sit there, pull slots, drink, smoke. All the buses come in, all the people who are addicted, nonstop. Are you kidding me? This is what we're going to bring to Boston?”

Although the mayor and other officials strongly support the project, Stratis said no one should underestimate opposition in Everett.

Crosby noted that the plans won’t go anywhere without first winning voter support in host community agreement referendums. He said he expects the commission to award the slot-parlor license in October and casino licenses early next year.

Micro-Housing: Rethinking Urban Living

How do we make Boston living affordable and convenient for young professionals?

One idea is to develop micro-units, or mini apartments, in the downtown area.

Panelists at “Micro-Housing: Rethinking Urban Living,” a forum sponsored by Suffolk University Sawyer Business School and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, explored this idea on March 26.

The talk, moderated by NECN Business Editor Peter Howe, comes as developers are constructing micro-units as small as 350-square feet in the fast-growing Seaport District. So far there are more than 700 units being built on Boston’s waterfront, including the $100 million Boston Wharf Tower, which is under construction on A Street.

Sacrificing Space for Location

In Boston, the average rent is about $4 per square foot of space, said Tamara Roy, senior associate principal at ADD Inc. That’s a big price tag for young professionals just graduating from college.

The idea behind micro-units is that they'll help Boston business attract and retain quality employees.

Michael Glass, senior director of learning and development at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, believes that micro-units will help his company win what he calls the “war for talent.” As Vertex plans to move its headquarters from Cambridge to Fan Pier on the Boston Waterfront, Glass sees the potential in micro-units.

Kelly Saito, president at Gerding Edlen, is a long-time advocate of smaller, more efficient, creatively designed, and strategically located urban housing. Although micro-units are designed for a very specific demographic, that demographic is growing dramatically, he said.

Kairos Shen, chief planner at Boston Redevelopment Authority, believes young professionals will prioritize location over more space, especially if they have access to shared amenities, such as roof decks and gyms, which allow residents to eat, work, and socialize outside of their individual units.

Thoughtful Design that Doesn’t Feel like a Compromise

Karen Clarke, co-director of the Interior Architecture and Design program at New England School of Art and Design, offered a unique perspective. She said the interior space of micro-units should be thoughtfully designed and innovative to make up for a smaller space.

Her students designed several interior themes to assist in marketing the units. They feature creative storage spaces and dual-purpose furniture to make small living more comfortable.

Clarke’s students also helped construct a 300-square-foot micro-unit, designed by ADD, Inc., that served as a backdrop to the panel discussion.

The Future of Micro-Housing

Richard Taylor, executive in residence and director of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University, is studying how micro-housing will affect the Greater Boston markets. He’s found that small units are not just about cheaper rent. “It really is an extension of the zipcar, social media, green/eco, digital, and entrepreneurial collaborative generation."

Downtown Crossing: Back in Business

On June 13, 2012, business development leaders exchanged ideas on how to revitalize Boston’s Downtown Crossing during a seminar at Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre.

Suffolk University’s Center for Real Estate Development and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board hosted the event, “Downtown Crossing - Back in Business.” NECN Business editor Peter Howe moderated the discussion, which was part of the Building Boston 2030 series.

Just days after Millennium Partners unveiled its plans to redevelop the former Filene’s site, panelists shared their ideas about new retail, housing, office, entertainment, and hospitality opportunities that can contribute to the area’s ongoing transformation and dispel the perception that it is unsafe.

Howard Elkus, principal at Elkus Manfredi Architects, said there are “fantastic opportunities” to make Downtown Crossing an area to “live, work, play, grow, and learn.”

Inspired by major cities like Istanbul, Elkus suggested that Boston examine innovative ways to transform open spaces in Downtown Crossing. Creative elements, such as illuminated streets, painted buildings, and water fountains; as well as street vendors and entertainment, can help attract people to the area, he said.

Elkus also asked fellow panelists whether the revitalized district would need a new brand. Rosemarie Sansone, president of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District (BID), and Mike Tesler, founder and partner, at Retail Concepts, agreed that it may be premature to rebrand Downtown Crossing-at least until the Filene’s development project is finalized.

Although Downtown Crossing is one of the busiest areas of the city-attracting more than 250,000 pedestrians every weekday-there is concern about the lack of nightlife. Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, said he has been "tempted" to open a restaurant in Downtown Crossing, but is deterred by inactivity at night.

To help attract more people to the area, several upcoming events, including block parties, talent shows, car shows, and a running of the bridesmaids, are underway, said Sansone. Macy’s also plans to extend its hours to 10 p.m.

As for the crime problems, Randi Lathrop, deputy director of Community Planning at Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), said that statistically, Downtown Crossing is safe compared to other Boston neighborhoods. People just have a negative perception of the area.

Sansone agreed, noting that she is meeting with police officials this week to discuss issues in the area, including homelessness and panhandling, as well as litter and graffiti.

Downtown Crossing offers “one wild opportunity after another,” said Elkus. “This is a vital and timely discussion that absolutely needs to be continued.”
Student Vision and Design Competition

Suffolk students were also invited to join the discussion by participating in the "Student Vision and Design Competition.” Three winning teams each received a $1,000 reward for their suggestions on how to redevelop the area.

Is Being the Smartest City Enough?

The future of Boston and its ability to compete for innovative companies and jobs was the subject of a Nov. 29 forum featuring four prominent leaders in Boston’s business, academic, media, and civic communities. The forum was sponsored by Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.

Experts addressed not just how Greater Boston can better attract emerging companies, but also how to ensure that these firms remain committed to the area through all phases of their growth.

Panelists addressed why businesses often incubate in the Boston area but some leave for other regions to grow and develop, using the example of Facebook as “the one that got away.” Mark Zuckerberg—who launched Facebook at Harvard University but moved the company to California’s Silicon Valley where it grew into a social media juggernaut—recently was quoted as saying that if he had to do it again, he would have kept Facebook in Boston.

Panelists

  • Peter Meade, chief economic development officer, City of Boston
  • George Donnelly, editor of the Boston Business Journal
  • Ed Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard University and author of Triumph of the City
  • Michael Greeley, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, which is focused on investments in information technology, health care and medical technology

Moderator

Peter Howe, business reporter at NECN