Exclusive Interview: Steve Samuels, Mr. Fenway
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|Starting with one 42K SF parcel in the Fenway in ?97, Samuels & Associates? Steve Samuels now controls 13 parcels there totaling 290k SF of land. With the sites assembled, this year he plans to be among the few who break ground. His baby is Boylston West, a $250M multifamily, office, and retail development.|
|We snapped Steve in his Newbury St office Thursday showing us his Fenway properties, including the future home of the 650k SF mixed-use Boylston West project. In the last seven years, Steve?s soldmany of his holdings in the suburbs and other US metro areas to focus on this one slice, located between Fenway Parkand the Longwood Medical Area. Once he became a property owner there, he started seeing the value in what was then an oft-overlooked downtown submarket. The neighborhoods all around were being re-populated, and few realized the appeal of Fenway. It's walking distance to the famous Frederick Law Olmstedparklands, the museums and hospitals that line it, the baseball stadium, and Back Bay. Now, Steve tells us, he has enough interest from retailers ?to get into the ground? during Q4.|
|Steve, with general counsel Tom Bloch, is shepherding Boylston West through permitting for its two Manfredi Elkus-designed buildings. One is 1325 Boylston with 140 rental apartments, 225k SF of offices, 160k SF of retail, and parking for 575 vehicles. The other is 132 Brookline Ave with 150 apartments, 5k SF of retail, and 14k SF of offices. He expects about 35% of his office tenants to come from the LMA, paying gross rents up to $50/SF. Apartments rents are likely to be similar to those for the 776 apartments he's already built in the neighborhood: $3,200 to $4,000 for a two bedroom, two bath. BTW … they're 95% occupied.|
|Steve, huddles with his VP of development Peter Sougarides and financial analyst Damien Chaviano. He tells us twoyears ago, no one was talking about new construction. The tools developers used like valuation metrics just disappeared. He and his team were stuck, unable to get a foothold to make anything happen. As a guy with deep retail roots—his family has been in retail real estate since the 1930s—he can fall back on his father?s advice: Rely on common sense (if something doesn?t seem right, don't do it) and do your homework before taking on risk. Now, Steve?s building his vision for the Fenway: a live/work district that is thecentral link in a continuous retail experience from LMA to Newbury Street.|