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Boston looks to hire firm to propose ways to convert vacant downtown offices into residential, life-sciences space

The BPDA board this afternoon could hire a consultant to figure out ways to encourage the conversion of pandemic-emptied downtown offices into a new uses as part of a plan to turn the area into what might actually become Boston's first 24/7 neighborhood.

In October, one consultant delivered a report on giving Boston the sort of vibrant live/work area the Seaport was once supposed to become, in a city where residents traditionally move into an area then promptly begin fighting against late-night activity.

That report found that some 30% of office space downtown remained vacant.

BPDA staff say they will recommend the agency board hire HR&A Advisors, Inc., headquartered in the City that Never Sleeps, to spend the next six months developing a strategy to turn empty downtown office space into residences, life-sciences labs and possibly other uses as a way to pep up downtown.

As part of its proposed $100,000 contract, the firm would work with Boston-based Utile and Hingham-based PM&C, which, in addition to grokking what the city is looking for, have direct experience with the intricacies of Boston zoning and design issues, BPDA says.

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Comments

We all know this is for the "life sciences lab" end of it. NOT for residential. Sorry I don't buy it.

Do residential only and you'll be speaking my language but not until then.

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... it's a terrible waste of money and time. Wu's new linkage proposal would require developers of lab space to pay $33 per sq. ft. over 50k sq. ft. of development to the city. How a residential to lab conversion project downtown pencils out after that exaction is levied in today's interest rate, labor and supply chain environment is a mystery. The administration knows this and is responding to a constituency that wants lab development seriously curtailed in Boston.

Lab space tends to need a higher ceiling space, which some older offices might not have...

I worked in a building that went life science space. They took TWO floors for each life science floor.

As housing for students, our neighborhoods would be much more sedate and they could avoid using hotels for overflow

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This seems like they're spending a decent chunk of money to research what we already know from architecture and engineering studies. Namely, office buildings from the ~50's forward with thick concrete floor platforms and centralized utilities are poor candidates for subdivision into housing. It's hard to break up a lot of these big floors into multiple units that meet code for egress, provide adequate plumbing, and get natural light. Many of us already lived in windowless death traps in Allston or Mission Hill during college and are less than thrilled at the concept of repeating that in today's housing market.

Older, shorter buildings are better candidates, but I don't know what the mix is in our specific scenario. I agree with Cybah that this does feel more like a push for lab space. Yes, you'd need to do major air handling, plumbing and electrical work still for labs, but there's deeper pockets on the lab space side of things than the relatively low payout on the housing side.

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Take a look at all the recent articles about the slowdown in lab space development due to lack of funding for start ups in the pharma industry. Also the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act that aims to reduce drug prices is making the industry more cautious to fund newer companies. 80% of projects in the works back in November 2022 were thought to be in jeopardy. I don't think residential rents will pay near enough for office to residential conversions to make sense until more buildings default on their loans and are sold at discounts. Smart manufacturing is still on the upswing but the floor to floor heights aren't tall enough for that to work unless alternating floors were removed. I look forward to the reading the study though.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/11/15/business/bostons-lab-boom-is-hitt...

Am I to understand that with all of the brain power already on the City of Boston payroll, BPDA has to hire an outside firm to figure out how to repurpose office space to residential? What about tapping the collective genius from the myriad colleges and universities that pay no taxes to the city? Take the money saved to put toward housing subsidies. Come on, people!

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Any rents over $1000 dollars a month will kill the residential part of this plan Sure their are plenty of people to whom $1000 dollars a month is 30% or less of their monthly income but those are hardly the people who would make up a vibrant 24/7 neighborhood.

Maybe I'm being harsh on the white collar trade but to make that money in an office you devote a lot of your time to that office. As for the minimum wage crowd in order to afford over $1000 dollars month for rent you'd have to work two jobs which again leaves little time to contribute to a 24/7 lifestyle.

My dream (and I know it's just a dream) is to find a Developer/Landlord who would rather have guaranteed income long term than make a killing short term. If Mayor Wu's consultants can find that person/group it just might work.

Your post makes zero sense. Where can you rent an apartment for less than $1000/month in the city? To make enough to pay $1000/month in rent you need to spend a lot of time (I assume you’re talking about OT here) in the office? Only people that can’t afford $1000/month will make the 24/7 neighborhood vibrant?

I’m having a really hard time following what you’re saying here.

What I'm saying here is if you want a 24/7 downtown you need people that work different hours. Have you ever heard of a job on the 3pm-11pm, or 11pm-7am time clock that pays enough so you could afford over $1000 dollars for rent?

If you have please share it. I may change professions. ;)

Like $150k a year good.

With life sciences and their buildings are perplexing