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January 3, 2011 
Change at the Top

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Today, Lisa Brothers takes the reins of Boston’s largest woman-owned engineering firm, Nitsch Engineering. As president and CEO, she’ll stay the course that’s landed her firm some of the area’s largest jobs (Liberty Mutual’s new $300M Back Bay HQ and the $3.5B Seaport Square), and made 2010 its best year.

Lisa Brothers and Judy Nitsch

We snapped Lisa (left) and founder Judy Nitsch (who’ll remain as founding principal and chairman) packing files for the long-planned transition. Lisa has led the public sector jobs and Judy the private and institutional projects for 20 years. While so many in the industry struggled through last year, Nitsch grew its staff by 10%, generated $9M in revenues, and won a big (meaning price undisclosed) new NSTAR contract to kick off the new year. Lisa and Judy started working together at another firm in ’88. Then, when Judy announced she was going out on her own, Lisa said, “Not without me.”

Lisa with Paul LeBaron and John Schmid

Lisa may have new surroundings but plans to continue cultivating the civil engineering, land surveying, and permitting expertise that won them contracts for Equity Residential’s new West End Apartments project and the 10-year redevelopment of Jackson Square. Here’s Lisa with Paul LeBaron and John Schmid, who are working on several jobs, including the Liberty Mutual HQ where they’re doing site design for everything outside the building walls: parking, grading, drainage, sewers, etc. For the eight-building Jackson Square project, they’re surveying the 11-acre site and doing the engineering for the streets. Construction started last summer.

her with the firm’s new director of planning Scott Turner and head of the civil engineering department Gary Pease

Lisa hopes to take the firm in some new directions, however, including a greater focus on planning. Thus, we snapped her with the firm’s new director of planning, Scott Turner, and head of the civil engineering department Gary Pease. Scott is one of nine new staffers, bringing the head count to 69. Lisa’s also working on some targeted acquisitions to add complementary services (details pending deal closings). She'll expand laser scanning capabilities to do more work on historic preservation projects and grow the firm’s sustainable site-consulting practice. She predicts 2011 will bump the staff nearer to 100.


JTH Sale Closes

John Hancock Tower

As if you didn’t know … Boston Properties closed Wednesday on the $930M purchase of the John Hancock Tower and garage, making the REIT the landlord for nearly half Back Bay’s CRE. The seller, a JV of Normandy Real Estate Partners and Five Mile Capital, started buying debt on New England’s tallest tower in ’08 and then purchased it in ’09 for $650M. For the Boston Properties sale, Cushman & Wakefield’s Capital Markets Group led by Rob Griffin and Ed Maher —with downtown specialists William Anderson, Gilbert Dailey and Dave Martel—repped the seller and found the buyer. The sale was the largest pure investment deal to close in the US last year. (The only larger deal—Google’s $1.8B acquisition of 111 8th Ave in NYC—is a user purchase.

Rob Griffin and Ed Maher
With this trade, Ed (right) says, Boston has come out of New York’s shadow, at long last (not talking football). RCA’s Dan Fasulo agrees that more investors will now view Boston as a “runner up” to Manhattan, rather than a market that trails behind in second or third place. Most likely, tenants can count on Boston Properties to be their landlord for many years to come since the REIT strategizes for the long haul. That leads us to an observation: Boston Properties’ CEO Mort Zuckerman has said that the REIT had long sought to own the JHT. What made the sale viable was taking the tower from 20% vacant to nearly full with the Bain lease. Bain left a Boston Properties building (111 Huntington Ave) to go into what has become yet another BP property. Are the moves related?


Shout Out to Mike Brown

Mike Brown

FHO Partners’ Mike Brown won the Kennis Nix Inspiration Award from Christopher’s Haven, a non-profit that provides housing for families with children receiving cancer treatment at MGH. Mike has helped raise $115K for the residence by co-founding the Cape Cod Bay Challenge, a 30-mile open ocean stand-up paddle from Plymouth to Provincetown across Cape Cod Bay. The award is named for Kennis Nix, the first child to reside at Christopher’s Haven, who lost her battle with cancer in ’07.


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