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January 11, 2011 
Walsh Brothers:
110 Years Young

Thanks to the 575 of you who joined us this morning at our Multifamily Summit. Stay tuned for comprehensive coverage tomorrow.


When a recession slashes business by 40%, it helps to take the long view. Richard Walsh has four generations of family construction experience to rely on as he leads Walsh Brothers through the current downturn. While improving internal technology, his team’s building a new science center for UMass Boston, upgrading Fenway Park, and squeezing the Children’s Hospital addition into the LMA.

Richard Walsh and Denise Marien

We snapped Richard (president and CEO) in Walsh’s North End office with Denise Marien and a photo of his predecessors: James I, II and III (his father). Each Jim had to deal with a recession, and Jim I and II faced the Great Depression. Richard says this is a time to enhance technology and customer-service capabilities to be ready when the market bounces back. Luckily four years ago, Walsh started to do public sector work. UMass Boston’s $115M Integrated Science Center, where construction is set to start this spring, is the fifth public project the firm. The glass-clad 120k SF building designed by Goody Clancy brings a new look to the brick/concrete-laden campus and presents the challenge of construction at the water’s edge.    

Michelle Allare, Chris Sharkey, and Richard

Michelle Allare, Chris Sharkey, and Richard review drawings for Children’s $100M, 120k SF addition on Binney Street, “Skinny Binney,” where three years of construction began in October. Richard says it’s the toughest postage stamp site he’s ever worked and he’s been at this for 39 years (since he was 10). The Payette-designed building is ensconced in an intense neighborhood surrounded by a pediatric trauma unit, cancer treatment facilities, and the traffic of several other hospitals. In another project, continuing its 80-year relationship with BC, Walsh is bringing in stone masons to build the authentic Gothic architecture for Stokes Hall, an academic building. Richard says the self-supporting walls with arches have no relieving angles or soft joints.

Jim Lyons, Neil Mackenzie and Bill Parker

Red Sox fans may be dreaming of spring training, but the day after last season ended Walsh jack hammers started to rip up ratty concrete for a full-concourse renovation. Jim Lyons, Neil Mackenzie, and Bill Parker are as eager as anyone for the season opener but not before the project’s done. Their team's installing new drainage systems and concrete, building new executive offices, and state-of-the-art scoreboards and screens. It’s all part of a 10-year plan to spruce up Fenway for its 100th anniversary in ’12. If Walsh doesn’t complete this phase in time, Richards says it’s no problem, “We can all move to Alaska and sell pizza.”


What? You Want to Rent?

CBRE’s Peter Donovan

CBRE’s Peter Donovan can reel off several quantifiable reasons why multifamily is so hot: favorable demographics, few starts, improving occupancy, some firmer rents (especially markets like Boston and DC) and a recession-driven movement away from ownership to renting. But he says a tough-to-measure behavioral shift also comes into play. Some well-heeled young people have come to see home ownership, their parents’ stepping stone to financial security, as a millstone. Peter says it’s a generational attitude among folks who prize mobility and simplicity. He says twenty-somethings don’t necessarily want to worry about a mortgage and unexpected maintenance costs. Even as the economy improves, this trend may well continue.


HealthFirst is Next

Steffian Bradley’s Steven Van Ness, Skanska’s Mary Ann Williams, HealthFirst’s Julie Almond, Board Prez Gene Alves and Facilities Director Barry Pelland

At the recent groundbreaking for Fall River’s new $13M HealthFirst Family Care Center are reps from the project team Steffian Bradley Architects, HealthFirst Family Care, Columbia Construction, and Skanska USA (project manager). In the front: Steffian Bradley’s Steven Van Ness, Skanska’s Mary Ann Williams, HealthFirst’s Julie Almond, Board Prez Gene Alves and Facilities Director Barry Pelland. The renovation of a 78k SF industrial space will allow the nonprofit clinic to serve 6,000 more patients a year.


We were humbled to see 575 of you at this morning’s Bisnow Multifamily event, featuring top players in local and national markets with a clear message: This is the time to invest in rental apartment buildings. Words of wisdom came from panelists such as The Hamilton Co’s Harold Brown (who privately owns 5,500 units) and AvalonBay Community’s Bill McLaughlin EVP (in charge of a $2.5B pipeline in the Northeast of new construction and land to permit). The standing-room-only crowd spilled out of the conference room at the Hyatt Regency, through the doorways, and into the ante chamber. Stay tuned tomorrow for complete coverage.


Storm stories? Pics? Please send to Susan Diesenhouse, susan@bisnow.com.

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