A hostel takeover in the South End

The Boston Business Journal reports that one our local power couples (he's a former BRA director, she's on the Kennedy Greenway Conservancy board) have sold a 206-room hostel at 40 Berkeley St in the South End to a developer for roughly $6 million more than they paid for it four years ago.

H/t Christian Koulichkov for the headline.

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    more affordable housing bites the dust

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    which for so many years housed our
    most vulnerable populations

    I hope our new Mayor will do something
    to replace our vanishing SRO (single
    room occupancy) housing!

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    Great Idea!

    How are you helping the cause? Are you investing your money into apartments and then charging below market rents? Then good for you. You are a great person. If not, you are filled with a lot of good intentions, but no action, thus, you aren't helping.

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    ???

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    Or maybe voting certain ways? Giving money to groups that advocate for affordable housing? Volunteering? Informing your neighbors and the general public?

    The notion that the only way to correct things is through blunt direct action is very false. All that does is discourage those who aren't in a position to help in the way you suggest. Sounds like that's most likely your intention.

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    Actually, since you ask.

    I have in the last few years started investing in local/regional real estate companies. I've been using my shareholder votes to voice my opinions, as small as they may be.

    Here are a few of them:
    http://ir.bostonproperties.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=120176&p=irol-irhome
    http://investor.winthropreit.com/stockquote.cfm
    http://www.snhreit.com/investors/investorinformation.aspx
    http://www.govreit.com/investors/investorinformation.aspx

    And you? Just criticizing Poe statues?

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    Those REITs are no different

    Really, you think those REITs are any different from this transaction? They invest in real estate, looking for good gains. FWIW, I see no problem with that.

    I don't understand what your real estate investments have to do with affordable housing. If by simply "voicing your opinions" makes you feel all good about yourself, I think you need to re-evaluate things, or at least invest in a REIT whose goal is to invest in affordable housing real estate.

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    Ha! Mort and the boys must love that.

    I would love to see the review of the comments made after the Boston Properties shareholders meeting "Look, someone says we should lower rents in our buildings and decrease our share value." They must put that one over the urinal to try to see who can keep from laughing while they pee.

    Please don't talk about affordable housing in the South End when only steps from the Y which sold there is massive amounts of land being taken up for tenants' parking in Castle Square. You get subsidized rent and a parking space and you get to live in the South End. Same thing for Methunion Manor. Low cost housing and a parking space. All this while people (me and you; the investor) have or have had until priced out to double up in basement studios paying through the nose for a room and have to fight for parking.

    Better yet, there is a full block between Tremont and Shawmut along East Berkeley that is used to grow tomatoes. Why have more housing, thus lowering rents for everyone, when you can have all the tomatoes and peppers that the homeless people don't steal? Great idea!

    Start charging market rate for parking at Castle Square, Methunion, Cathedral, Villa Victoria and build market and below market units instead of having New England's most expensive truck farm / condom disposal area along East Berkeley Street and I will back off on the Crap of Amontillado.

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    Oh please.

    By on

    Those gardens, along with many others in the South End and elsewhere, were created back in the days--maybe you've forgotten--when it was a rough neighborhood, full of abandoned or burned out buildings and vacant lots. The old timers fought for those spaces and reclaimed them. A lot of work has gone into those gardens and they continue to be a source of not only pleasure and recreation but also fresh food for a lot of people. Maybe you'd like to see every square inch of land devoted to housing but the loss would be much greater than the gain.

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    There's Fresh Food at Whole F., Tropical, & Shaw's Every Day

    You can't buy or rent housing though. I know the old South End. I used to play throw the rock at the dead rat on Fay Street and know that Harry The Greek used keep a revolver in his belt. That's why his shirt was always untucked. These places have changed too. Why can't these gardens and parking spaces?

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    Are you honestly arguing that

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    if we plow under all of the community garden spaces in the South End, then yippee! We'll have affordable housing there? Why not just fill in the parks too? I mean heck--while we're at it, let's just ditch those wasteful brownstones and put up a few hundred cement high-rises.

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    That's not my point and you are daffy.

    There is land being wasted on parking. There is land being wasted on incredibly under productive garden plots. I never said get rid of a park. I never said put up a high rise. There are plenty of open spaces within the South End and environs. It is the city remember, not Weston.

    What I said was that land is being wasted where shelter, one of our basic needs, has its costs jacked up owing to a lack of supply. One thing you do to maintain an equilibrium in the local housing market is increase supply.

    There are places in the South End where land is being wasted; community gardens, project parking, under used telephone company facilities, Tufts/NEMC parking garages, closed Catholic Churches, etc. which could be better utilized with housing. Low and mid-rise housing, both affordable and market to help increase the supply, and stabilize rents.

    I guess you didn't see that in my argument, you just saw Robert Moses. Good luck with your hysteria.

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    My hysteria?

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    Too bad you couldn't just make your point without resorting to name-calling but the fact is--the one point of your epic post that I addressed is still a foolish point. The gardens are part of the historic fabric of the neighborhood--maybe without value to you but important to a lot of people. The fact that you consider them wasted space (along with Tufts/NEMC parking garages and closed Catholic churches...er, OK) is just plain goofy and the notion that razing them for housing will somehow even things out in one of the priciest neighborhoods in the city is ridiculous. Plenty of affordable and moderate housing has been built in the South End and it doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in the demand. I certainly can't afford to live there but I don't assume that it's a "basic need" that I live in one of the priciest neighborhoods in Boston and the hell with a bunch of gardens. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

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    Liberal mentality at its finest

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    Invest in REITs and whine about affordable housing at shareholder meetings while pocketing the profits made through bleeding the renter/homebuyer dry. Invest in Raytheon and whine about war while pocketing the profits. Invest in S&W and whine about gun control (while you guessed it, pocketing the profits.) Invest in tax-free munis and demand higher taxes on everyone. Whine about the lack of housing for the poor while living in an extremely unaffordable suburb with no subsidized housing whatsoever. Whine about racism while cringing every time a METCO kid gets off the bus...

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    Yes, no one should have an

    By on

    Yes, no one should have an opinion about affordable housing unless they can personally afford to buy housing and rent it. That makes a lot of sense. They probably shouldn't be allowed to vote without owning property, either.

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    Affordable housing

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    I'm all for reasonably-priced housing (i.e. something an individual making around $50K a year can afford to buy or rent,) but I'm very much against highly subsidized/public housing being built in middle-class neighborhoods. Boston needs more taxpayers, it already has more than enough habitually poor draining its resources and ruining its schools. I know many suburb dwellers would disagree and call me the R word, among many other things, but if they're so pro-poor, why don't they advocate for more public housing in their own towns? If that's what you want then make it happen in your town instead of trying to ram it down someone else's throat.

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    Had to be land owner to vote, long ago

    It would have been a good thing in places like San Francisco where most voters are renters, thus voted in lots of renter protection laws. About 10-15% of housing is unavailable because resident owners of duplexes or units with small inlaw apartments don't rent them out because it takes forever and lots of money to evict destructive and/or non-paying tenants. The high risk isn't worth the lost rent.

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    Wow, people vote in their own

    Wow, people vote in their own self-interest? How dare they! We would definitely be better off if we let rich people decide what's best for all of us!

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    Everyone?

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    You mean, a minimum wage burger slinger should be able to afford a penthouse at the Ritz?

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    Do as I say

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    I have this funny feeling you'd be the first one to have a screaming fit if someone proposes a SRO building next to your house/condo, but it' perfectly fine to whine about it disappearing and getting replaced with yuppie condos as long as it's happening somewhere else. Be honest, would you want Pine Street Inn characters hanging out on your front porch?

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    It's mixed

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    It's a combined SRO/hostel. IIRC, the hostel occupies 2 floors and the rest is SRO.

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    $100 a night

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    When I worked near 40 Berkeley, I did not know what it was; I assumed it was low income housing. Well, you can go on their website now https://www.40berkeley.net and book a room with a twin bed and shared bathroom for just $75-100/night.

    I've stayed in a couple YMCAs; one just a couple years ago in San Diego for about $50/night. It can be a great option, especially for single travelers who are not on the company expense account or want to stay longer than what is being reimbursed. But I can't believe anyone would pay $100/night to get a room across the street from the Castle Square apartments.

    Last hotel I stayed in was a Holiday Inn Express on the NJ Turnpike for $39/night via priceline. And it had its own bathroom AND a breakfast!

    It is an awesome time to be a rental housing developer in the Boston area!

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    the YWCA was for many years a

    By on

    the YWCA was for many years a place where people could live cheaply, paying their rent on a weekly basis - when it was owned by the Y most people staying were not paying those expensive nightly rates

    $39 a night in the burbs sounds great until you realize that most of the folk who make up the vulnerable SRO population don't have cars

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    Across the street?

    Liberal use of the phrase "across the street." By across the street, do you mean across the street, behind the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, and across another street? In any event, is there something I should know about the conditions of Castle Square or its inhabitants? I've lived in the area for 3 years and have never had a problem or heard of a problem with Castle Square residents.

    I know it's comparing apples and oranges, but units in the Chevron "across the street" traded for $3,000,000+ in recent months, so some people are paying a lot to live in the area.

    I know you're being facetious in your comment about the price differential between the South End and the NJ Turnpike. I hope the new owners will still allow for reasonably affordable accommodations for travelers and students and will work with FOCUS to allow long-term residents to remain.

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    nothing wrong with Castle Square

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    If you are standing on Tremont Street in front of 40 Berkeley you can see...oh, sorry, my bad. The photo I saw must be of part of BFIT and this building is actually on the opposite side of the street. I worked down there until 2006 and it was "in transition," I guess. The big condos on Tremont were just being constructed.

    Castle Square was pretty run down in 2006. Sorry, I didn't realize it was 8 years ago already!

    I am just continually amazed at how much things have changed and how expensive it all is. "Affordable housing" just means rents are at 30% of 80% of area median income--which means, in the best case, you are talking $1000-1500/month for an apartment. It's not projects. I could not figure out of Castle Square is now that kind of affordable housing or if they have units for lower levels of income also. For a real laugh at what passes for affordable housing: http://westwoodblog.org/content/affordability-relative

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    The White Phosphorous Burn

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    ..of concentrated greed and sugerplum gouging dreams of something for nothing will roar for a while longer until some cycle correction causes speculation to poison some other well.

    I wonder what it'll be this time. Demographic implosion? ...some other city poaching our high rollers?

    Maybe it'll be another wave of white picket fence fever and the burbs will rise again.

    When it does swing, it'll be fun to watch the bag holders scramble as they find themselves on the wrong side of the trade.

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    Developers

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    can do whatever they want. I have no problem with that. But the flipside is that the South End has completely lost its middle class. There are either the poor in the projects, or the very, very wealthy in the condos.

    The problem is that along with the very, very wealthy, you get the very, very entitled. And all the stores start looking like we're in Wellesley Center. Note that almost all of the affordable and/or interesting places have shut down - the places that made this part of town so desirable. In the last year or so, we've lost Motley, Francesca's, Delux, Geoffrey's, etc., and these places are almost always replaced with pretentious expense-account type places.

    Try finding a chocolate bar in Foodie's for under $6.00 or a bottle of plain ol' vinegar that wasn't made by trappist monks living in seclusion on a mountain in Tuscany for $32 a bottle.

    What we have now is a bunch of people who don't hold doors open for anyone and who look they smell shit all the time. Sad.

    What cracks me up is that this property will surely be converted into multi-million dollar condos and the new residents will complain about the "element" across the street at the 7-11, even though it was there before they were.

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    I'm sure

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    I'll get flamed for this..

    But I agree. I remember the SoEnd before all the yuppies who moved in. And the poster above is 100% spot on about the side effects of gentrification.

    It sucks, but its the truth.

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    But what to do about it?

    By on

    I mean--it's nuts. All of the places mentioned above were part of the gentrification and in retrospect they seem positively modest. But it's happening everywhere. I mean--all joking about Wellesley aside, at least the stores on Main Street out there used to be a nice mix--I remember going out there to go to Decelle's. Now it's pretty much all luxury goods. It's like all balance has been lost.

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    Agreed also

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    Agreed also sally, there's not much we can do about it. I'm not a fan of hindering business so you can't 'cap' or 'stop' these businesses from opening. So what do you? Not much.

    We can try to force down all the pro small business laws we want to try to get smaller, locally owned businesses to open, but it doesn't MAKE them open. Especially, like Tremont Street, in the SoEnd have 1st floor retail spaces renting for big bucks. Its hard to get a SB to consider a space when their overhead will be so much because of the RENT.

    This is also why we're seeing an abundance of banks and chain stores opening up across town. Not because Capital One really wants our business, because its the banks and the chain stores that the the capital and investment to PAY the rent some of these places charge now. So its either a bank or an empty store front. *shrug*

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    Can do something about it

    Oppose the Green Line Extension. It will bring this exact type of gentrification to Somerville (over time). The project to narrow Broadway in east Somerville from 4 lanes to 2 lanes + bike lanes has the same goal - its a location close to Boston and Cambridge, shielded from I-93 noise by the hill, and close to the subway and I-93. Watch all the Brazilians and other immigrants get displaced by yuppies/hipsters in the next 10 years.

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    *eye roll*

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    Are you for real? Seriously, its clear you don't get out much. Let alone in Somerville. The yuppies and hipsters are already there. Somerville is already gentrified. Want to see what a town looks like before it has been gentrified, come to Chelsea. Then compare to Somerville and you'll see what I mean.

    Yeah I'll oppose progress, right after you have been successful at putting a piece of coal between your butt cheeks, squeeze real hard, and try to make a diamond. Which will be like never.

    And as far as B'way, uh yeah, once again I take it you've never been to Somerville in recent years. The two lanes DID NOTHING to ease traffic, so it won't be much different than what is there. The mayor is trying to make the city more walkable, bike-able, and livable. This is what the residents wanted and had little opposition to. Not everyone is car-centric like yourself.

    *eye roll*

    PS - Speakin of Gentrification, anyone remember the King Of The Hill episode where it talks gentrification? The story is 100% true.

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    I went to a Broadway project hearing

    No Brazilians attended and few if any non-whites. So much for being what residents wanted. Its what property owners wanted to make the neighborhood more desirable to increase their property values and how much rent they can get. The nicer that tax dollars make a place the less affordable it will become. Oh, and don't worry, Somerville will get still more gentrified and expensive, forcing more lower income people to seek refuge in Chelsea.

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    Spokesperson Tool

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    So now not only are you a buffoon, but you're also a spokesperson for the Brasilian and non-white community? You really have no clue *eye roll*

    Its what property owners wanted to make the neighborhood more desirable

    Wow what a tool comment, you do realize your entire argument just went out the window? Yes it IS about what the property owners want, since it is the property owners that pay taxes that fund road construction and what not in the city.

    And again you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and are lagging behind, Chelsea is slowing being gentrified. Unlike you, who stays in your mom's basement, I go to civic meetings (as many as time permits). I know what's going on in my town. You don't. *eye roll*

    Still waiting for that block feature..

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    Not to mention...

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    Somerville is like 70% white. I'm honestly not sure where most Brazilians classify themselves (they're not Hispanic, and most aren't black either). It's no shocker that it was a most white meeting.

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    Location