The expert panel featuring Goulston & Storrs Real Estate Group Partner and Co-Chair Debbie Horwitz, Skanska USA Commercial Development CEO and President Shawn Hurley, WonderGroup Real Estate Development Developer Jacqueline Nunez, and JLL Head of New England Capital Markets Frank Petz explored a wide range of topics including environmental sustainability, foreign investment, real estate’s effect on company culture, city policy and more. Here are some key takeaways:
· The Greater Boston real estate market boom is due in part to the many projects that were stalled during the recession finally getting off the ground.
· The market first rebounded with multifamily, as there is always demand for renters; not necessarily office tenants; office development followed.
· The panel predicts that there will be a softening of the market, but not a long-term lull. Boston is highly attractive with strong branding as a city – Don’t underestimate the power of Greater Boston’s impressive universities and colleges such as MIT and Harvard to attract businesses.
· The development community is aware that environmentally sustainable building is smart and the right thing to do, from both a business and moral perspective.
· The way buildings meet the ground needs to be accounted for in development. Skanska USA Commercial Development’s Watermark Seaport has a double-sided lobby, for example. Residents can exit towards the Fort Point or Seaport neighborhoods.
· Long-term investment in sustainability is convincing to investors as it decreases energy costs.
· Environmental sustainability and layout effects the office culture and employee morale.
· Sustainability is also important to homeowners. WonderGroup is developing a net zero project – the homes will produce as much energy as they use.
· Worcester is the great next frontier for life science development in Greater Boston, as Cambridge rents skyrocket and the area becomes denser.
· The market may be proceeding with caution, but it is not nervous as Boston has lasting, long-term appeal with a huge talent base.
The panel was optimistic yet realistic about Greater Boston’s challenges and best attributes. Thanks to the Boston Business Journal for an insightful and engaging event.