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Developer proposes turning old Boston Medical Center office and lab building into residences

Rendering of renovated 615 Albany St.

Rendering by Studio47.

A developer has filed plans to convert and expand a former Boston Medical Center office building at 615 Albany St. into 24 residential units, through renovation of the existing floors and the addition of one new floor.

Developer Gregory McCarthy is hoping to gain a tax break intended for conversion of office space into residential units - but in downtown, rather than in the South End.

McCarthy bought the building for $3.4 million from the hospital last July, according to Suffolk County Registry of Deeds records. It was once home to the Naval Blood Research Laboratory, which focused on improving preservation and transportation of blood before

His $4-million renovation proposal does not state whether the units will be rented as apartments or sold as condos. Four of the units will be rented or sold as affordable. Overall, the units will range from studios to three-bedroom units.

McCarthy hopes to begin a year of renovation and construction this fall.

615 Albany St. filings.

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Comments

In the Globe yesterday, an article about taxes on office buildings, etc. there was a reference somewhere about converting office buildings into residences. In the commentariat someone expressed strong disagreement that this was possible, beyond a few exceptional situations. Reasons included buildings designed for offices were too much work to convert to residences, overall project too expensive, etc. Lot's of naysaying.

There is a pleasurable irony that when a member of the commentariat poo-poos the idea there is reported, 24 hours later, another proposal to convert an office building (can't be done right?) into residences.

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may be much easier to gut and replace mechanicals.

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I would think it would be based on assessing each building individually whether it's worth converting from industrial into residential.

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That makes sense. Why would such a thing be posted?

Aren't 6-story former mill type buildings converted to 1950's era lab space just the same as a 1970's built 26 story buildings with 18,000 square foot floor plates?

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He’d get hurt falling off his high horse.

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Thanks for the mention. It's a silly one. Cliched, unintelligent, juvenile and just darn utterly unoriginal. Nevertheless thanks for the attention.

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Old office buildings that don't rely on enormous amounts of HVAC and artificial lights to be habitable are much, MUCH easier to convert to residential. It's not one-size-fits-all.

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There's broadly two classes of commercial - there's buildings like the one above, built in 1899, gross area under 20k feet, under 10 floors, and then there's modern office buildings, generally anything built post-war, that are 10 times the size and have massive internal floor footprints.

The feasibility of converting one into housing is VERY different from the other. As usual, there's nuance to the idea of converting office space and online commenters on both sides have completely lost that.

The above project is great and exactly the kind of project this tax incentive should be encouraging - converting commercial space which probably wasn't particularly suited to modern commercial needs into housing. Space with ample windows and a human scale, where there's probably two bathrooms a floor already, where you only need one or two elevators, etc.

Trying to convert the monstrous office blocks of the 1970s-2000s is an entirely different story and is going to be really, really difficult to make work. You're talking about buildings with thousands of square feet PER FLOOR, most of which has no access to light, where all the plumbing and electrical and HVAC was built around a central column with no ability to bring it further out, where you need to put in hundreds of units just to break even on the cost but no way to get all those units laid out in a way that they can all have a window. Nobody wants to live in something like that.

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I also want more residential construction and I am all for converting older office buildings to residences where practical. But the cost of converting big box office buildings, especially ones constructed after about 1970, into residences really would be prohibitive because of their shape and lack of natural light to their interiors. I did see a proposal to tear out the middle third of one big box office building, to create more livable apartment space, but the millions of dollars in costs would be better spent on new affordable units elsewhere. Those details matter. This is not some media conspiracy by your so called "Commentariat".

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The term commentariat is one of satire. How do you come up with the idea of media conspiracy? That's silly.

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While Robo's rides his/her high horse and the commentariat goes into what can and cannot be done in office to residential conversions I came across this site that lists an awful lot of conversions in the US.

I also know that one of the tallest office buildings in Baltimore - never designed to be residences - was converted to residences. That is 10 Light Street. In addition other mid-height office buildings have been or will be converted into residences. But then Baltimore does not compare to Boston so how can Baltimoreans have an idea of how things are supposed to be done.

The site listing conversion by quantity and city: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/26/the-top-10-cities-turning-old-office-bui...

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I've lived four doors down from this building for 14 years, and have been coming over here for much longer (when some friends lived in what is now my apartment), and I have never seen any activity in that building, other than an occasional basement light on. Per a neighbor who has lived there for decades, the building's basically been used as storage since the 1990s...

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The Navy lab post I linked to says the Navy decommissioned it in 1979.

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