A lot of empty storefronts on Newbury Street

Empty storefronts on Newbury Street

Jonathan Berk recently walked up Newbury Street and spotted a lot of empty storefronts. But is it as bad as it seems?

Counted +-50 vacant #retail spaces on Newbury Street, one of world's prime shopping streets. Too expensive? Not the destination it once was? Product of shrinking retail climate? Other?

UrbanMeritage, which owns a number of Newbury Street properties, replies that no, it's not as bad as it seems:

Actually many of those buildings are leased and will be opening in the spring. Newbury consists of over 360 retails stores...close to 90% occupied. Not too shabby...sorry to spoil the negative thoughts.

It is that way every winter...look at the historical data. January-March is always the highest vacancy rate on Newbury. It is also the best time to build out stores for a spring opening.

Berk, though, said a lot of the empty spaces were not in UrbanMeritage buildings.

Earlier:
Newbury Street landlords who want to put in restaurants have to find restaurant operators first, board decides.

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Comments

This is happening all over

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This is happening all over the boston metro area with property owners thinking commercial real estate can be priced similarly to residential real estate. The result, long-empty storefronts everywhere from Newbury to Harvard Square.

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They don't want to rent it at

They don't want to rent it at "below market" (i.e. realistic) values because it would depress the paper value of all the properties in the neighborhood. Better to leave it vacant and take the writeoff.

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Definitely some fuzzy math

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Or conversely, we could be focusing on either the 14% vacancy rate or the 86% occupancy rate (per they two numbers given.)

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nice snark

"sorry to spoil the negative thoughts."

Is that a PR flack writing that? Sounds like someone's touched a nerve.

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These company are scum suckers

They'd rather keep a spot vacant for years then risk signing a long term lease for below what they might have gotten.

The city should tax vacant commercial properties in high value districts x3 the occupied rate to make it less appealing let it stay dormant.

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I worked on Newbury for years.

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At a big name store but it was actually a locally owned franchise of sorts.

The store had been there for a decade.
Dutifully payed it's rent.
Had zero issues/complaints from the neighborhood.

Right after 9/11 (and the retail slump that followed) the landlord jacked the rent by an obscene amount and wouldn't negotiate.

We closed within 3 months and the space sat vacant for at least a year (I stopped bothering to check infrequently after that).

They don't GAF about Newbury, just balance sheets.
Easier to write off empty commercial space than working with a small business to make a neighborhood better.

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Interesting...

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Was it Jasmine Sola? ;)

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Rents too high

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Talk to a small local business owner on Newbury and you will hear that making the rent is a constant worry — esp. the stores that locals rely upon; I don't know about the big chains or luxury brands. Landlords claim that higher property taxes are driving up the rents.

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Landlords

The landlords try to figure out how much the retailer or restaurant is expected to earn from sales and then charge that exact amount. They assume if the business is beyond breaking even after the rent is paid, the rent must have been too low.

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Devil's advocate

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If you can get $100 now, or a 50 percent chance of getting $500 sometime in the next year, what do you do? You roll the dice and hope you get the bigger payday. It's just rational behavior.

(I get that empty storefronts are a negative externality and that taxing them would change this equation. But let's not demonize businesses for acting in their best interest.)

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Best Interests

Your equation is correct -- it's why they'd rather gamble to leave the place empty.

But that's why the city needs to step in and tip the scale back in favor of the public and not a private landlord. It's in the city's best interests to see occupied storefronts and taxation is one way to tip the scale away from speculation.

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Actually, when businesses

Actually, when businesses acting in their best interest hurt the common good, then yes tax the hell out of them. Not demonizing business for acting in their best interest condones A LOT of behavior I'm not sure you want to, from slavery to financing the Third Reich. Those are extreme examples, but the little less visible injustices also wreak havoc on the community.

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This really pissed me off too

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This really pissed me off too. Pointing out a problem can't be waved away by "negative thoughts" nonsense.

They're creating blight so they can fuck right off.

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It seems like most of these

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It seems like most of these are not businesses that were successful but pushed out due to high rents but were businesses that simply failed and closed. Now those spaces are turning over and new businesses will take their place.

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Yes, But Don't They Roll Up The Sidewalks After Dark?

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Only people from the 9-to-5 world live in the city, so no proper Bostonian would ever wish to patronize restaurants or entertainment venues late in the evening.

That's why the city enacts strict rules regulating which business can operate at any time of the day or night. Otherwise, those businesses would attempt to sell food, beverages, or even merchandise at unholy hours!

Obviously, we can't allow that to occur!

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THIS

Just spent the weekend in NYC and not only was I able to get a slice of pizza after 11pm, but also had a beer with my brunch–gasp–before noon!

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huh?

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You can (gasp) get a slice of pizza after 11, and get a beer w/brunch before noon.

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Is there necessarily a

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Is there necessarily a difference between the two?

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There really shouldn't be

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50+ vacant spaces on Newbury. I really do hope this is the result of a shrinking retail climate, because if (as you worded) "one of the world's prime shopping streets" has this many units tenant-less due to soaring rent prices, then I'm pretty damn disappointed. (Not to mention the Seaport & new West End high rises supposedly have a LOT of unoccupied units because not even the upper middle class can afford them). Boston developers/building owners are getting a tad bit ahead of themselves. C'mon guys!!

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Also, I wouldn't expect an

Also, I wouldn't expect an answer from UM other than the one they gave: they have an interest in keeping Newbury Street's image. Not saying that's automatically a bad thing, I love shopping there, but I don't expect them to keep it real and tell us about the state of retail/CRE in that area.

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My retort on Twitter to this idiot

"Right? Tell me, when are you going to share this type of concern regarding Blue Hill Avenue? Think they could use a few cafes and Burberry stores up there? Need help finding it on a map? #WhitePeople #FirstWorldProblems'

Berk seems to be another of those disgusting breed of people who have no clue about this city other than seeing it a place to plunder and make things perfect for the average Boston Magazine reader. Ask him about how hard he gets over the fantasy sky gondolas. And he's just as fundamentally ball less as he looks apparently.

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Response to Brian

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Thanks for your kind, civil comments Brian. I actually work in the neighborhood and hate the "sky gondolas." They're an opportunity for the developers of a large project on the end of the seaport to shuttle employees and businesses to and from South Station without worrying about anyone who needs to access local street level uses in between. It's a garbage idea that they're looking to infuse state and city funding into which should be put into street level transit options.

But keep commenting about things you know nothing about Brian, including people. Happy to engage you in a civil conversation sometime devoid of name calling and crass remarks about my private parts.

Have a wonderful day.

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Hey, Jonathan

Still waiting on an answer when your level of concern for this fair city will extend into the areas not glamorized by Boston Magazine. Also, still waiting to hear where exactly in this town you grew up and the origins of your concerns for this fair city and what appears to me to be concern for the denizens who keep your foolish ass employed? And unlike you, I do know people, especially the people in this town you call masters, having been in this town and around them when you were still jerking off to pictures of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And seems to me those crude remarks that have offended your tender sensibilities motivated you to respond here and not on Twitter. Wonder why? Maybe because I can't read my response into all those other people on your feed who clicked on my Twitter profile yesterday whose interests you serve?

Have a wonderful day.

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The one good thing about gentrification

Is that it might just reduce the amount of people in the city who's first and primary judgment criteria are if you grew up here.

But sure, please tell me about how great Boston used to be when people like Dapper O'Neil and Billy Bulger were elected into office for decades. The 'you didn't grow up here' crowd also seems to very quick to move on from any discussion of just how well earned Boston's reputation as a deeply racist city is.

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Funny thing

I just looked up Brian's twitter account to verify what he was saying. He actually not the type that would sidestep that type of discussion. He seems to be extremely political with recent tweets expressing hate towards both Sanders and Trump. So unlike some "expectations", he doesn't fall into that "type of townie" most would imagine when referred despite making that argument.

In short, Brian seems be the type of person that don't like people for caring for issues that he deem too "insignificant". That nobody is allowed care about empty Newbury Stores while Blue Hill Avenue stands worse off. And it seems to operate that being needlessly hostile is an effective way to engage combined that ignoring such vitriolic diatribes is a reflection of cowardice rather than an reasonable reaction to such "arguments".

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I get that about him actually

He's a hot take artiste.

But given the baggage behind the 'you're not from here' viewpoint which is a deep, deep undercurrent of many neighborhood discussions and community neighborhoods in the city, even more so than internet commentary, it should be avoided at all costs IMO. It's also so asinine in a melting pot city like Boston where most of us aren't from here and a lot of our grandkids won't grown up here.

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Interesting takes

on me. Wonderful to read that you assume I take the "You don't know shit if you ain't from here" with all the dwellers of our fair city. Of course,then you would be of the narrow mind that you accuse me of having.

I tend to use that criteria when dealing with young punks who try to get us to bemoan the empty storefronts of the wannabe Rodeo Drive in this town that a whole shitload of people outside of it see it as just a racist burg and idiots like this kid aren't doing much to allay that perception. His concerns are based not in concerns for the overall Boston area in my opinion, just the aesthetic value of the Back Bay, from his Twitter feed. He also seems to take so much pride in this multicultural city that his web page features a nice pic of a store in London with a bunch of chic white people in it and a collage of doorways on where else but Newbury Street.

So you can mock my hostility all day long, you obviously don't seem to have the same grasp of the city that I do and you'll indulge my occasional foray into that mindset you find so offensive or you can come out from behind your screen names and call me to tell me your thoughts on the radio show I do every Saturday. Other than that, if you don't like what I have to say, there are plenty of bike vs car threads you can obsess over.

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Dude, I don't know you.

This might come as a bit of shock but I don't actually listen to your radio show (I assume one of those pay for airtime deals?) so the only insight I have into the workings of your mind are what you write on this here internet website. So when you write 'Also, still waiting to hear where exactly in this town you grew up' as part of your rebuttal to this guy's opinion, yeah I assume that it your mindset. As you are someone with 'media aspirations' with your radio show, here's a free tip - communicate more clearly and people won't assume stuff about you.

Berk can speak for himself but for better or worse, he appears to be engaging with the city through the only actual levers of power that matter - access to Marty Walsh and city hall. That seems like a more productive tack than fighting people on the internet and hosting a call in show on a tin can radio station but bless your heart for trying.

Let me know the address for your geocities page and I'll be sure to check it out.

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OK,"Dude"

Thanks again for the armchair psychology.

As far as my "media aspirations", I'm 56 years old and have been retired since 2014, it's more out of boredom than any type of aspirations to be part of an industry I loathe, as made very clear by my Tweets, if you're cyber stalking.

Secondly, the show has hosted substantial discussions with Setti Warren, Bob Massie, Josh Zakim, Tito Jackson and Mike Capuano, so your "tip" can stay in your pocket. Add to that, Mr. Gaffin has generously promoted these appearances on Twitter and here. I also invited the many posters here to call in and ask questions of these people, but for some strange reason,none do, they just like to sit here and bitch instead anonymously.

As far as young Mr. Berk, yes he apparently has access to the Hall, but how does his being an obsequious little shit to a bagman and congenital idiot like Marty Walsh help anyone but him?

So,please, "Parkwayne" where do I send my nickel?

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Armchair psychology?

You said something I thought was dumb and commented on it. You can't seem to defend your opinion in any kind of coherent way. If you'd like me to do some armchair analysis I could give it a go but I'm afraid it might only make you more hostile.

I have to tell you that your charm offensive hasn't worked and I will not be calling in to your show to be, presumably, called a 'piece of shit' or 'disgusting breed of people' or 'ball less' for not immediately kowtowing to your deep insider knowledge of ... stuff? Those are all quotes just from your responses to this one article BTW but I'm pretty sure they are representative of the basic level of discourse.

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Sorry, dude.

I have to keep it clean on the radio. Good deflection,though, "Parkwayne".

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Deflection?

You can't and won't defend your posted opinion that people who didn't grow up here (at the height of the racist 60s and 70s) are less qualified to discuss what's best for the city in 2018.

The end.

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Hey, kid...

Now you're just boring. You want to grow a pair and call me, then we can continue this, other than that I have Jessica Jones to get back to.

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Your Twitter

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Holy Mackerel, that's one of the most frightening things I've ever seen. It's pretty obvious between U-Hub and the little I saw on Twitter that you're probably fit for a straight jacket.

There's some armchair psychology for you. Best of luck out there, sir. Keep fighting the good fight.

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<3

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Your #1 fan, I might add.

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psst

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If you voluntarily offer up your public facing twitter account for others to peruse, people who follow the link aren't "cyber stalking."

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I did not know you have a

I did not know you have a radio station until literally just now (which a Googling of it). I'm not
interested calling into your internet radio station. Not because of cowardice - that I have a sense you will condescendingly presume, but because I'll be essentially going into battle on your ground and by your terms.

I have tried that before, I called into Dan Rhea's radio station to express a disagreement naively thinking a conversation can be made. Instead a conversation. Instead of some discussion point and counterpoint. I got "nope, that not true" with nothing spoken on why it is incorrect, repeated that twice talking over me when I try to respond, then cut me off. I expect no better result on your radio station.

But I'll offer you this if you really care. If you want to converse in real life on some opinion about the urban fabric and the productivity of immediately going adversarial from the first sentence. I'll make the time. Hell, I'll even buy the first beer. And to speak ahead why, because IRL location means neutral and fair ground - or more a lot more even. Courage does not mean charging into a wall.

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Hah!

Please, by all means, lump me in with the cretins of talk radio (of which Rea is one) when you assume that I subscribe to the same type of ignorant behavior that has pissed me off for years about talk radio.

You call, we'll talk. That's it.I don't drink.

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bully much?

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Gawd forbid someone makes an assessment of CRE vacancy in the Back Bay.

He might not be "from here" - time to label him and break out the pitchforks.

Bully much?

I recommend a nice walk around the Arbs, and some deep breathing exercises to relax a bit.

geez

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Yes, I have been to his site.

And giving money to this state has never been a problem for me. I find his site ridiculous based on his seeming to think that we live in London and his ridiculous tagline of the intersection of tech, real estate and community on his Twitter feed.

All I wanted to know was the origins of this strong sense of community, because as far as tech, I've never heard of the kid and I know more than a few people in tech. I can't imagine he has the same sense of community when he can't even bother to tell me about his roots in the community of Newbury Street.

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It seems like you are picking

By on

It seems like you are picking a fight with someone who has built up some credibility in this town in fairly short order who had a concern about something he came across.

My point was he does care about the City beyond Newbury Street. I imagine if he posted the same post about vacancies on Blue Hill Ave you would attack him for making that area look bad.

You are looking for a fight and he chose to just clarify and walk away and this drives you insane.

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Define "credibility"

A cursory glance at young Jonathan's Twitter feed shows the enormous amount of privilege he enjoys and seems to take the attitude of so many of his ilk that Boston only consists of the Back Bay and Fenway.

If he had posted concerns about the lack of high end retail presence on BH Ave, I would have applauded him, but he's just another in a series of snot nosed little millennials of privilege who see this town as a nice place to live as long as you can afford to live in the Back Bay and get to bitch about the aesthetics of the "neighborhood" while ridiculously proclaiming himself as some kind of amalgam of tech, real estate and community, as long as that community is white and helping him suck more ass to get ahead. Another hypocrite who likes to perpetuate the notion that he's a just a young man who wants to make a difference, and so far that difference to me seems to be getting the cars of off Newbury Street. Good luck with that.

As far as insane, you severely overestimate the amount of control I let some kid have over my mental state.Judging by the numbers of thumbs up young Jonathan got from his response, my point about privilege in this town seems to ring even truer to me.

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"If you didn't grow up here,

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"If you didn't grow up here, you can't have an opinion!!"

Brian, are you also the grumpy local that opposes new housing in favor of parking spaces? Do you walk around your neighborhood grasping your large iced coffee screaming at 'yuppies'?

Go back under your rock. It is of absolutely no surprise that you proudly represent the loonies known as "the young turks"

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Hey, thanks!!!

No, I do not oppose new housing. I don't drink coffee. And it's the Young Jurks, not Turks. Do I look like Cenk?

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Who put kitty litter in your cornflakes?

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I don't understand the knee jerk hostility being displayed. People can care about multiple things at the same time, and you're extrapolating without any evidence or need. Whataboutism is not required here.

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Maybe if the kid had bothered to answer me

when I asked him where the privileged of Newbury Street will get their Ubers if his ridiculous notion that Newbury Street should be car free ever saw fruition.

Then I asked how he would deal with the congestion on the surrounding streets from all of the TNC's that are fucking up traffic in this town, to no avail.

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Dude, we've been over this before

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Folks don't want to respond to you because you're an absolute dickhead looking for a fight and not worth engaging. It's on you if you want people to actually talk to them, but you have zero respect for seemingly anyone. You calling anyone a punk is rich when you continually act like one. I'm sure more people would answer your questions if your first reaction wasn't to insult them.

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Orchid Size Matters!

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Someone is compensating for something

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It’s his responsibility to Tweet about Blue Hill Avenue?

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Blue Hill Avenue is nowhere close to having cafés or even one Burberry shop. Ashley Stewart, the closest shop that Blue Hill Avenue has seen that’s even remotely close to Burberry, was tried in Mattapan Square but it failed. Open your own café on Blue Hill Avenue if you’re so invested.

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Gee, Jon!

So happy to hear from yet another one of our local real estate vampires.Tell me, Jon, where is the majority of your business done?

And your keen perceptions on the viability of high end stores on Blue Hill Ave comes from where?

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Then why engage?

And Jon? I notice the pride you seem to take in your Mom's employment at Mr. Z's Restaurant in the Heights. Why not tell the kids here who owned that establishment, while we seem to be on the subject of opening cafes in poor neighborhoods? Or is that another Jon Bowen and forgive me if I made that error?

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A modest proposal

Let's just cut to the chase and incentivize Amazon to open their 2nd HQ spread across Newbury St.

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Right.

As far as Amazon is concerned,I may not know much in your opinion, but I know they're never coming here. Apple either.

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Don't worry

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Amazon is coming to Boston with thousands of new jobs and oodles of cash for people to spend.
Oh, wait, they'll all have Amazon Prime and won't be going shopping.
Never mind...

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Comment on Berk's Followup

The UM rep wasn't talking about *only* their properties, but "Newbury Street." I'm guessing that members of the business association know what the leased percentage is on Newbury Street as a whole, not just on their own properties.

In general, I think it's fair for people to complain about miserly landlords with no interest in the life of the city other than the money in their own pockets, but Newbury doesn't seems to be suffering. No indication that the UM flack is *lying*. My husband runs a gallery on Newbury and the flack is correct that this is "buildout" season.

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When exactly did it become

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When exactly did it become the responsibility of property owners to interest themselves in 'the life of the city?' They are landlords, not humanitarians. And they put up the money to buy the property. If they don't get a good return, the money lost is theirs, not 'the city's.'

I'll make this so simple that even this crowd will understand it. How many of you are in favor of guaranteeing a return on investment for Newbury st landlords? I'm thinking the city could increase property taxes to make sure landlords make money every year. And then, with that concern out of the way, said landlords can turn to altruism.

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Look at how long Wordsworth

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Look at how long Wordsworth Books stayed vacant in Harvard Square until it became a bank. Word on the street was the landlord refused to let a bank or national chain rent it out for a decade but also did not want to lower rents so they just sat on it until it became obvious nothing was going to change.

Some of these spots may be the same situation.

Keep in mind many of these locations are run by family trusts and are under control of management companies. The people in the trusts tend to be ok financially so don't care about continuous flow, they care about overall worth. The higher the rent, the more the property is worth overall. Unfortunately if you combine several factors and have multiple trusts playing the same game you could end up with 50 empty store fronts.

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Foreign owners

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Heard that at least several buildings were sold to buyers from at least one foreign country. Galleries were kicked out by these buyers.

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French Toast Alert PSA

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To all the haters: Deluca on Newbury still has milk and eggs. Was just there: small line and minimal wait. Meanwhile, line at Trader Joe's on Boylston was out the door and 1/2-way down the block and who knows what will be on the shelves by the time you get in the door.

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So many commenters bashing

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So many commenters bashing this post about a retail street in Boston. Adam posts about many different neighborhoods in Boston, so I'm not sure why all of the vitriol. Of course centrally located neighborhoods such as the Back Bay are going to get a lot of attention: Back Bay hosts the marathon finish line, dozens of charity walks and races, gay pride parade, international and U.S. tourists; Back Bay is home to the city's central library branch, Berklee College of Music, hotels, tons of college studens live in this neighborhood, you can walk / run along the Charles River, Mass. Ave. runs right through it and connects to Cambridge; Back Bay borders Kenmore Sq. with home of the Red Sox / Fenway Park.

Thanks for posting this, Adam! I thought it was an interesting read and the increased number of empty retail spots that have been vacant for years is glaringly evident.

A few years back I recall reading that there were a few New Yorkers who owned much of the retail space in the Back Bay. (I don't have a Globe subscription so I can't search for the article.) They are not invested in Boston, so of course they'd rather jack up the rent and kick out an indie book shop or a family-run restaurant and wait for a bank branch or a CVS type chain to rent the space and meanwhile leave the retail space empty for years while enjoy tax breaks that come along with that.

Some may leave snarky remarks, like hashtag rich white people first world problems, however did you ever stop to consider that these shops EMPLOY people. When these shops go out of business regular folks LOSE THEIR JOBS and have trouble paying rent and buying groceries. When I walk by the Taj Hotel or Burberry's or many of the higher-end places on Newbury, it's not mostly white people who are going in and out of these places. Furthermore, if you are commenting on this article then chances are you live in the Boston area and YOU are a FIRST WORLD person! Wake up to yourself and drop the holier-than-thou attitude.

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