I recently attended a panel discussion hosted by Link Boston in an absolutely stunning unit on the 26th floor of the new building in downtown Boston, 45 Province. Here is a view from one of the floor to ceiling windows in the brand new 3+ bed, 3 bath unit:
Suffolk Construction, First Republic Bank and Gentle Giant Movers were all present, and helped contribute to the event. Many Realtors and developers were also in attendance, and the conversation was focused on "Building Boston." Specifically, the future of new construction in the city.
I will preface my recap of the discussion with two things. 1. Boston is by far one of the healthiest markets in the country right now. 2. Rentals versus sales is a cyclical process.
With that said, Boston is all about the rentals right now...luxury and otherwise. The BRA, Boston Redevelopment Authority, has approved many developments of late, and they are almost exclusively rental housing. A lot of people just aren't in a position to buy right now, but just about everyone wants to rent. (However, many of the rental units being built are being designed so that perhaps someday they could be converted into condos).
So, the first thing we know about the Modern Bostonian is that they want to rent. What else? Since buildings are being designed and built for them right now, it is important to understand the culture of these target clients and create something for them that reflects their culture-- complete with its values and expectations from housing. Here is a list the Modern Bostonian's priorities:
Number 1: Fitness center. Gone are the days when a few treadmills in the corner of a building's poorly lit basement sufficient for a rental building. It used to be that people would be able to justify a unit saying, "Oh, I'll work out if I live here..." and then forget about it. Now, it is absolutely essential for there to not only be a fitness center, but it needs to be large, well lit, front & center and state of the art. It all boils down to the Modern Bostonian needing to see and be seen. Which leads to...
Number 2: A club room: a place for people to communicate, connect, relax, see and be seen. People will accept less space in their unit if there is an attractive common area for them to interact with others.
Number 3: No parking. The Modern Bostonian is no longer dependent on parking. Therefore, gone are the days of 1.7 spaces on average per unit. The Modern Bostonian lives right next to work, likes a walk and isn't afraid of a taxi. I hate to say it, but it's moving towards the NYC lifestyle in some parts.
Number 4: Service. People want service in their rentals: cleaning, food, maintenance, etc. The Modern Bostonian, and people in general, like to feel like they are getting a lot for their money.
Number 5: Environmentally friendly. The Modern Bostonian loves solar panels, rain barrels and HE appliances.
Now that I've talked about the residential market, we see some of the same trends in the commercial buildings. Although Boston's market is healthier than most, it is in no position to build a brand new high rise office building. However, we are already seeing changing office spaces. Today, they are more open than ever.
No longer are we seeing private "corner offices" surrounded by other closed off spaces on a building where the higher up in floor number you are, the more powerful your influence is. Today's offices are opening up. In the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, people are interacting in one large open space where ideas can flow and people can talk. Interestingly, as a result we are also seeing a shift in office furniture design. New, modern, streamlined & airy designs are taking precedence over large, dark, bulky wooden installations.
I am excited to see what happens down the road. As buildings continue to pop up around Boston, I am looking forward to seeing the new styles and cultures. This city is evolving and changing in response all of the new dynamic forces that continue to shape the values and expectations of the Modern Bostonian.