State’s $1b initiative said to yield economic strength
By Robert Weisman | GLOBE STAFF MARCH 26, 2013
Halfway through a decade of investment promised by Governor Deval Patrick’s 10-year, $1 billion life-sciences initiative, launched in 2008, the state has spent only about a third of the money targeted to promote the biotechnology and medical device industries in Massachusetts.
But the authors of a report set to be released Tuesday by the Boston Foundation, a philanthropic group, say the effort has helped stimulate a key sector of the state’s economy, creating more than 8,000 jobs through capital grants, tax incentives, and business loans.
They urge state government leaders to continue funding the initiative in the face of stepped-up competition from other life-sciences hubs, such as California, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Northeastern University economists Barry Bluestone and Alan Clayton-Matthews, who wrote the report, noted the Massachusetts approach has focused on building an “ecosystem” of start-ups that can work with the state’s research universities and teaching hospitals.
They said the $300 million spent by the state so far has spurred more than $1 billion in spending by private companies. Those businesses include eight of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical companies that have set up shop in the state — and created thousands of additional jobs — to buy what Bluestone calls “a front row seat” in the arena of cutting-edge biomedical research.
“Here is a sector that grew right through the recession,” Bluestone, the director of Northeastern’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, said in an interview.
“If we’re competing with all the other life-sciences regions, the question is, ‘Has the life-sciences initiative succeeded in getting us to the top of our game?’ And the answer is yes.”
The report comes as the Patrick administration seeks the next annual round of funding from the Legislature to bankroll the initiative. It is likely to renew debate on the effectiveness of economic development incentives in encouraging businesses to expand or move into the state.
While the data are nine months old, the report shows the state distributed $301.5 million in grants, loans, and tax breaks through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center between 2008 and June 30, 2012. At that pace, the state would have to pick up the pace of investments in coming years to hit the $1 billion target — requiring lawmakers to authorize additional annual funding. The center has spent about $359 million as of this week, according to officials.
The 8,000 jobs created, as cited in the report, are fewer than the 8,750 estimated by the center last year, a figure that included temporary construction jobs. In 2008, when the initiative was launched just before the economic slowdown, the governor suggested it could generate 250,000 jobs over 10 years — a projection that was not mentioned in the Boston Foundation report.
Susan R. Windham-Bannister, president of the Waltham-based center, said the initiative’s job-creating performance should be assessed in the context of the economy.
“Given how quickly everything changed in the recession, we all had to recalibrate our expectations,” she said. “We have grown, and grown very aggressively, despite the bad economy. That’s something we should feel very good about. And we’re not done yet.”
Critics of government incentives say it’s hard to gauge how effective they are because some jobs created in a state thanks to such incentives move elsewhere later, and others may have been located there without grants or tax breaks.
“From a national perspective, this makes no sense,” said Arthur J. Rolnick, senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “You’re just taking jobs from one state and moving them to another. It’s diverting public money from roads and bridges.”
Rolnick acknowledged that “from a local perspective, if your governor is good at stealing jobs, it may be that the economic benefit outweighs the costs. But you don’t know if these jobs are coming anyway. If I’m a business and I know I’m coming to Boston, I’ll call up your state officials and say, ‘I’m thinking about coming to Boston’ and see if I can get some incentives.”
Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist for DataCore Partners, an economic research firm in New Haven, said state officials should recognize that life-sciences jobs are portable.
The drug giant Pfizer Inc., for instance, has moved research jobs to the Boston area from Groton, Conn., while the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC last week disclosed that it is moving research jobs from Cambridge to Philadelphia.
“The question is: Do these economic incentives have staying power?” Klepper-Smith said.
At the same time, he conceded, “In this economy, every job counts. When you look at biotech and pharmaceuticals, these are important jobs because of their direct and indirect economic impact.”
Bluestone has been a critic of government incentives to lure energy, video game, and film companies to Massachusetts.
But he said interviews with more than a dozen life-sciences executives and scientists convinced him that this initiative made sense for the state. While life-sciences employment has increased 12 percent nationally in the past 12 years, Massachusetts has seen a 27 percent growth in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors, he said.
“We’ve now eclipsed all other states — and that has happened in the past five years — in terms of employment growth,” Bluestone said. “This was making a bet not on an individual company but on an entire industry that has the potential for becoming a major supercluster. It was like betting on the auto industry in 1910.”
By Cole Chapman | Daily News Correspondent | GateHouse News Service
BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1 billion investment plan for life science industries has added 2,537 jobs in its first five years, offering new opportunities for job growth in MetroWest and other regions around the state, a report released Tuesday says.
“Our research suggests that the state will benefit from fully funding the remaining five years of the initiative in order to maintain the lead the life sciences established in the commonwealth,” said Barry Bluestone, director of Northeastern University’s Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center and author of the report.
Bluestone told a gathering of scientists, academics and industry officials at the Boston Foundation offices that the state is “the world leader in life sciences.”
“The life sciences are kind of like the auto industry in 1910. This is the place to invest,” he said.
Patrick, joking that this investment would be a good platform for another gubernatorial run, said Massachusetts had gained back all the jobs it lost during the Great Recession.
The Massachusetts Life Science Initiative was established in 2008 to give $1 billion in grants and tax incentives to the commonwealth’s universities and life science industries, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and bioinformatics. In five years, the Life Sciences Center has invested $301 million. The report indicates the state will generate $1.66 in added tax revenue for every dollar spent so far.
“It’s one thing for government to make tools available, the question is whether you’re going to make the most of them, and you have,” said Patrick. “We are leading the nation out of recession faster than most other states because we made decisions, because we made choices, and because we decided not to leave our future to chance.”
According to the report, the Massachusetts science industry has grown by 27.3 percent since 2001 versus the nation’s average growth rate of 11.9 percent. Massachusetts now ranks higher than every other state in the nation with 14,300 jobs per million residents.
Companies such as Genzyme, a subsidiary of the Sanofi biotechnology company with several manufacturing and research centers in Framingham, are feeling the effects of the investment and its impact on production. Sanofi even exceeded by one the 100-employee target set in 2010 by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
Stephen Meunier, associate director of public affairs at Genzyme, said after the meeting that investment brings a number of exciting opportunities for the “cluster” of biotech companies to expand outward from Boston and Cambridge.
“(The Life Science investments) help us build a more collaborative environment with all the things we do, so it’s not just the investment they make in Framingham, but it’s also the climate that they create in Massachusetts,” said Meunier. “It’s a good place to locate, expand and do business.”
“Hopefully we’ll see new innovations coming out of R&D, and new innovations means more manufacturing and more jobs and more growth,” Meunier added.
Areas such as Worcester are also benefitting from the Life Sciences investments. In January, the Massachusetts Life Science Center provided a $90 million grant for the Albert Sherman Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the biggest grant yet.
Susan Windham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center said the investment would draw more companies towards the central and western regions, noting that two thirds of the investments so far have been in areas outside of Boston and Cambridge.
“We are investing in the central part of the state with Worcester being the focal point,” said Bannister. “If you look at where a lot of the companies are located or looking now, they’re locating in the Metrowest, they’re locating along the 495 corridor, and they’re all pushing west because the talent is there, the infrastructure is there, and the cost of being there is less.”
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE | The New York Times
BOSTON — Later this spring, Bostonians eager to flee to Cape Cod for the weekend will have an option other than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 70 miles and fuming along with everyone else.
Starting May 24, they can hop a train to Hyannis, where regional buses, ferries and rental cars will await to whisk them out to the beaches, islands and wind-swept dunes.
The train, the first passenger service to the cape since 1995, is one small piece of a major $13 billion transportation overhaul envisioned by Gov. Deval Patrick. That overhaul is aimed chiefly at repairing and upgrading worn-out bridges, roads and commuter lines in Massachusetts, but about 20 percent of it would go toward reviving train service to the cape and elsewhere in the state.
Mr. Patrick said that upgrading these in-state routes would spur economic development. It would also provide important links for Amtrak’s long-range plans to establish high-speed train service throughout New England.
The package is the most sweeping and future-oriented of Mr. Patrick’s tenure. But it faces some high hurdles. It would require a major tax increase. And it faces a skeptical public still recovering from what people here call the Big Dig hangover — the multibillion-dollar debt from the nation’s most expensive highway project.
Mr. Patrick, a Democrat, had nothing to do with the Big Dig but the project deferred investments that he says should have been made in aging infrastructure and increased repair costs that are necessary now.
“The plan is ambitious,” said Stephanie Pollack, a transportation specialist at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. “And it’s depressing that this is considered ambitious when most of the money is going to fixing what we have now.”
But, she said, “this is probably the first time in decades that Massachusetts has stepped back and said, ‘Here’s what we need to do for the next quarter century.’ ”
In addition to service to the cape, Mr. Patrick has proposed reviving service from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford as well as from the Berkshires to the Connecticut border to enable future service to New York City. He has proposed extending service to Medford. He has also called for an $850 million expansion of the number of tracks at Boston’s South Station to accommodate more commuter lines and longer-distance Amtrak trains. The station now is a major bottleneck that causes serious delays.
Amtrak’s plans for high-speed rail include service from Portland, Me., to New York City along an inland route through Springfield, Mass., and one between Boston and New York that would cut travel time to 90 minutes from the current three hours and 40 minutes.
To pay for his transportation package, as well as some new education programs, Mr. Patrick has proposed $1.9 billion in new taxes, one of the biggest levies Massachusetts has seen in a generation. He would raise the state income tax to 6.25 percent from 5.25 percent and lower the state sales tax to 4.5 percent from 6.25 percent. Residents who make more than $102,000 a year would shoulder most of the burden.
Mr. Patrick, who is not seeking re-election in 2014, is spending much of his political capital trying to convince both citizens and legislators that “high-impact” transportation projects can pay for themselves.
For example, the governor’s administration says, the South Coast rail line to Fall River and New Bedford would cost $1.8 billion, but it would create 3,800 jobs and generate $500 million a year in economic growth.
“The public will pay more if they see their sacrifice is actually going to net them a specific good,” said Richard A. Davey, the state’s transportation secretary, who is conducting an aggressive campaign to help sell the governor’s package. It includes a Web site that allows residents to see exactly what the spending would mean in their localities.
But the tax proposal has drawn ridicule from Republicans and a cool reception from the legislature, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. The speaker of the House, Robert A. DeLeo, wants to downsize the governor’s wish list, which is leading to intense negotiations over which parts of the package might be cut. At the same time, Mayor Will Flanagan of Fall River, for example, says he will hold the governor to his promise to veto the entire package if South Coast rail is dropped.
The proposal comes as passenger trains, particularly on routes under 400 miles, are rebounding across much of the country and proving a boon to economic development.
“American passenger rail is in the midst of a renaissance,” said a new report from the Brookings Institution, which attributed the increase in part to partnerships between Amtrak and the federal and state governments.
One of the most successful of those partnerships is the Downeaster, which has been running the 100-plus miles between Boston and Portland since 2001 and was extended up the Maine coast to Brunswick in November. Massachusetts paid for track upgrades within its borders, but Maine pays for the train and Amtrak runs it.
Ridership on the Downeaster, which serves lobster rolls and clam chowder in its cafe car, has climbed steadily. Its success has allowed it to increase the number of round trips and speed up travel time while spurring economic development along the way.
“The value we get out of it is tremendous,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which manages the Downeaster. She said hundreds of new housing units had been built close to the train stations, and old mills had been transformed into office and retail space.
“There is $300 million in development ongoing,” she said.
Such regional trains are catching on in some unlikely places.
In Virginia, the legislature last month approved tax increases proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, to pay for a transportation package that would, among other things, help restore in-state passenger train service.
In New Hampshire, a black hole in New England’s passenger train network, gains by Democrats have resulted in support for study of a Capitol Corridor train between Boston and Concord.
Perhaps the most ambitious state rail project in the country is the planned 520-mile bullet train in California between Los Angeles and San Francisco, though projected cost estimates have run as high as $100 billion.
In Massachusetts, the train to the cape, called the CapeFlyer, will cost a modest $21 million over five years. It is able to start Memorial Day weekend — before legislative action on the governor’s package — because it is a pilot project that extends a commuter line, so the tracks and train cars already exist. The service will be limited to weekends, which is when car traffic piles up.
“We only need to carry 700 folks a weekend to break even,” said Thomas S. Cahir, administrator of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, which will operate the Flyer. “We anticipate we will exceed that.”
Considering that 250,000 people drive on and off the cape every weekend, the train might reduce traffic by less than one percent.
Nonetheless, said Julie Quintero-Schulz, the transit authority’s mobility manager, “we’re trying to provide an alternative service to lessen the traffic congestion.”
Though the Flyer’s impact might be minimal, any early success could help the governor build momentum for his proposal as he and the legislature settle in for some hard bargaining.
The century’s first decade has brought a historic surge of newcomers to the city, most settling downtown. They carry fresh expectations — and pose real challenges
By Casey Ross | The Boston Globe | March 3, 2013
Susan Mai’s Beacon Hill apartment is a postage stamp of a place. The kitchen isn’t much bigger than the bathroom, and entertaining friends is a bit like playing Frisbee in a phone booth.
But for all its drawbacks, Mai says she couldn’t be happier. She walks to work at a local publisher, eats out five times a week, and thinks of Boston Common as an ideal front yard.
“It hasn’t crossed my mind to ever want to leave the city,” said the 25-year-old Mai, who shares the 450-square-foot apartment with her boyfriend. “I’ve never thought of our place as too small. I really don’t need a big kitchen or a garden.”
Mai is among the thousands of young professionals whose devotion to urban living is causing Boston to grow at its fastest rate in decades. The influx has spawned a sweeping transformation of the city, with new residences and office buildings filling the skyline and reinventing commercial districts that once felt hopelessly time-worn.
Almost everywhere you look, it seems, is a new building site: A dozen towers are rising in the downtown area, and city-wide some 5,300 homes are currently under development. Boylston Street near Fenway Park is humming with construction during the day and crowds of diners at night. Downtown Crossing has lured fine restaurants and hundreds of luxury residences. And even once rough-hewn neighborhoods such as South Boston are increasingly drawing gourmet food stores, hip bars, and tony apartments.
The population surge has thoroughly reversed the suburban migration that began in the 1950s, when Boston peaked at about 800,000 people. Head counts in the South End and downtown have jumped by 20 percent since 2000.
In just one year alone — 2010 — Boston’s population grew by 7,500 people, and is now above 625,000, its highest level since the 1970s, according to city data.
Though largely driven by the generation between 20 and 34, the city is also swelling as empty-nesters trade suburban homes for urban pied-a-terres, and more young families opt for Boston over the traditional move to the suburbs in search of better schools. Regardless of background and interests, these people are drawn by the convenience and energy of busy urban neighborhoods.
“I like the feeling of being surrounded by people,” said Ece Gulsen, 27, who grew up on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast and now lives in the Charlestown Navy Yard to be near the water.
Companies are also moving into Boston to attract talented workers, developers are responding with even more housing, and restaurateurs, sensing a growing appetite for inventive food and entertainment, are opening eateries in places that defy conventional wisdom.
During the last two decades, Brad Fredericks, proprietor of Fajitas & ’Ritas, has watched the changes wash through the city’s downtown, where he recently opened a new eatery, the Back Deck grill on West Street. First, he said, Suffolk University and Emerson College expanded. Then the Boston Opera House was renovated, and the Paramount and Modern theatres reopened. Businesses then formed an association to help improve the area, and hundreds of apartments and condominiums are now under construction.
“I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been,” he said. “There have always been a lot of activity generators down here. But the crowds have become more consistent. You see more people strolling around.”
The Boston real estate market is one of the strongest in the country, according to the Urban Land Institute, in part because of its strong housing market and the medical and technology companies who want to be near its population of highly educated 20- to 34-year-olds.
Maureen McAvey, a ULI fellow who specializes in retail development, said young professionals have particular preferences for housing, shopping, and travel that dictate how a city grows. For one, they are more willing to live in small spaces. They don’t feel the need to own a car, and make more frequent shopping trips.
“From a consumer standpoint, we’ve seen a large increase in people buying food on a two- to three-day basis,” McAvey said. “This generation wants the access and convenience that the city provides. They are much less interested in having a big lawn.”
But it is not just young workers queuing up for the city. Dick Reynolds, 67, relocated with his wife to a two-bedroom condominium in the South End when their kids moved out of their old home in Needham.
“We’re delighted with it,” he said. “We’ve always loved the ambiance of the city. And we can go to a variety of things without getting into the car. We don’t have to worry about parking, cutting the grass, or shoveling snow.”
Though positive in many respects, the population growth creates many challenges for city officials and residents alike: crowded schools, roads, and transit lines, and harder-to-find housing at moderate prices.
“It’s virtually impossible for someone of my income level to own or rent in the city,” said Quinton Kerns, a 27-year-old urban designer who pays $600 a month to share a Harvard Square apartment with five roommates. And with $150,000 in student loan debt, Kerns doesn’t see himself moving up in the housing market anytime soon.
“It’s frustrating — I can’t just go to the community of my choosing,” he said. “I’m at the mercy of what’s affordable to me.”
Even though Boston added more units of housing in the last decade than in the three previous decades combined, the pace of new development is not keeping up with all the people who want to live here. The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University predicts that unless annual housing production in the Boston area doubles — from 6,000 units to 12,000 units a year — already sky-high prices will soar.
“The circumstances call for a very different approach to housing,” Dukakis center director Barry Bluestone said. “There’s much more demand for multifamily rentals and condos. We need to get communities to rezone to allow for that kind of housing.”
Average rents in Boston are about $1,700 a month. But much of the new housing built in the past few years are luxury residences that command monthly rent of $4,000 and more. Both the city and state have launched initiatives to build more moderate-priced housing; the Compact Neighborhoods program by the Patrick administration aims to spur construction of 10,000 multifamily housing units a year in Massachusetts, largely to retain young workers being priced out of the market.
Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration has begun encouraging developers in the South Boston Innovation District to build micro-housing units — tiny apartments with rents that people just starting out can afford.
Yet here too that goal is proving elusive. At Factory 63, a newly renovated building with units as small as 375-square-feet, so many people applied for its first group of apartments that a lottery was required to parcel them out. The prices ended up at $1,700 to $2,400 a month, a few hundred dollars higher than officials had initially hoped.
“Just because the units are smaller doesn’t mean you can build them cheaply,” said Kelly Saito, president of Portland, Ore.-based developer Gerding Edlen, which built Factory 63 on Melcher Street and is also constructing a 21-story housing tower on A Street.
Boston already has among the highest construction and land acquisition costs in the country, he said, while a building full of studio-sized apartments means many more expensive kitchen and bathroom fixtures than normal.
“I think the effort to produce lower cost housing can be achieved at least partially,” Saito said. “But it really depends on where the expectations lie.”
Meanwhile Boston is grappling with another by-product of its popularity: crowded classrooms. Enrollment in city schools next year is expected to be at its highest in a decade, with another 1,200 children entering the school system, mostly at the lower grades. The additional students will require a $61 million increase to the city’s school budget, according to a recent report to the school committee.
Boston officials are in the midst of changing the classroom assignment process to make it more predictable and to provide easier access to quality neighborhood schools.
One of the fastest changing neighborhoods is the Fenway area, where the population increased 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. For decades its main boulevard — Boylston Street — was a scrubby, traffic-choked row of gas stations and repair shops. But in just a few short years, several modern, sleek apartment and retail buildings have gone up, and the strip now boasts a sushi place, Southern barbecue restaurant, and popular nightspots that spill crowds well into the night.
Dave DuBois, chief executive of the Franklin Restaurant Group, said the neighborhood’s rapid growth has quickly produced a creative food scene that is entirely distinct from Fenway Park and nearby Lansdowne Street.
“Five years ago, if I opened a restaurant in the Fenway, people would say, ‘Oh, you doing beer and nachos? Wings?,’ ” said DuBois, whose company opened Citizen Public House, a fine whiskey bar on Boylston Street that serves a pork pate melt. “The neighborhood has the energy of people in motion. Top restaurateurs are taking a serious look at it.”
In February developer Samuels & Associates proposed construction of another 22-story residential and retail building called The Point — a sharply-angled glass building that would replace a row of run-down retail buildings at Boylston and Brookline Avenue.
Mai, the Beacon Hill renter, said she would love to move into one of the new buildings rising across the city, but the prices remain stratospheric. She said she and her boyfriend are able to afford the $1,600 a month rent in their Beacon Hill unit. But her landlord has already increased the rent once, and may try do so again.
Mai is beginning to consider other options, but like many in her age group, communities outside the city are not among them.
“I think the farthest I would go is the South End,” said Mai. “I know a lot of people want to live in the suburbs because they crave the extra space, but it’s never been something I’ve wanted. I’m happy staying around the city.”
By Jack Encarnacao | The Patriot Ledger | March 2, 2013
Demolition of Quincy Center’s timeworn buildings is set to begin next month, the first step in the first piece of the long-awaited $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment project. When it starts, eyes far from Quincy will be watching.
The project, which will see the creation of 3.5 million square feet of business, retail and residential space in Quincy Center during the next seven years, has been picked up on the radar of experts in development and urban planning circles – experts who until recently did not know Quincy from Milwaukee.
In presentations across the country, the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute is citing the Quincy project as one to watch. Northeastern University is planning a course for the fall semester called “The Quincy Model,” in which the public-private partnership behind the project will be used as a teaching tool. The New York Times and trade journals have published articles about the project.
So far, the project has attracted nearly $200 million in investment from outside Massachusetts, and the venerable Boston firm The Beal Companies has signed on as a venture partner.
“It has the potential, really, to begin to redefine the conversation nationally,” Thomas Murphy, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, said about the project. “This sort of puts Quincy on the map. It catches the eye of other people. People like creative deals like this.”
If the sprawling development unfurls as envisioned, the model behind it could become a new paradigm for how cities and developers can work together and divvy up risk in a post-recession world to revitalize staid urban areas, experts say.
“It really will be one of the earliest major city projects to come out of the recession and into the recovery,” said Gregory Bialecki, Massachusetts’ secretary of housing and economic development.
The state is putting tens of millions of dollars in grants and financing into the development and related projects, like the ongoing relocation of Town Brook.
The project’s master agreement calls for master developer Beal/Street-Works to make $289 million of improvements to city assets like sidewalks, utilities and parking. Quincy will buy those improvements back, but only once Beal/Street-Works’ new buildings are producing more than enough tax revenue to cover the borrowing costs.
Such commitments are rare and not easy to wrangle, experts say, and they tell the marketplace that the project will not be slowed by politics or bureaucracy.
“It is very hard for public officials and the private sector to come to terms in a creative process,” said Alan Trager, chairman of the public-private partnerships study group at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “The fluidity required for creativity is sometimes not possible at all legal and regulatory levels of government.”
Bialecki, the state’s economic development chief, said the city’s $289 million bond commitment, made during an economic recession, makes the project jump off the page among a slew of half-baked urban redevelopment plans.
“There’s no question in my mind the reason it was able to start so quickly, and catch the wave of an economic recovery so quickly, was because of the public commitment in infrastructure made during the downturn,” he said.
The commitment is an acceptable risk, for the city, Mayor Thomas Koch said. The city’s bond counsel approved the plan because the revenue to cover the debt needs to be demonstrably flowing before the city is on the hook.
“It never touches the general fund; that was number one on our end,” Koch said. “We want to control our own destiny. We put together a plan that says, ‘Look, the city’s putting it on the line.’ ”
Street-Works, an urban development company, came to Quincy in 2005 to help client Stop & Shop assess whether it should keep its headquarters in Quincy Center. Soon afterward, it pitched a large redevelopment for downtown, and it made a statement with its $8 million purchase of the Granite Trust building, where its Quincy offices are now located.
The downtown project will also be tracked as a test case of how to build on the post-recession trend of Americans, priced out of the housing market due to tighter lending standards, seeking rental housing with services within walking distance.
A 2011 Urban Land Institute report, which cites the Quincy Center project, estimates that 6 million new renter households will be formed in the U.S. from 2008 to 2015. This, the institute reports, will require 300,000 new rental units to be built each year, compared with 100,000 in 2010.
Experts say the trend toward rentals is particularly pronounced among baby boomers and “millenials” – those from 18 to 32. The Quincy Center project targets that demographic with plans for loft apartments.
“You can see that they’ve got a vision here based on very good research, very good accounting, and a very good understanding of coming demographics,” said Barry Bluestone, director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University. “There are a few places, if this is carefully done, where this could, in fact, be quite feasible, financially feasible. It’s exciting to see it happening.”