Samuels & Associates' chair Steve Samuels thanked his father for giving him a head start in real estate, but others at NAIOP's Annual Gala thanked Steve for pioneering the resurgence of two downtown neighborhoods.
Steve and his team were applauded by nearly 1,000 industry pros as they accepted NAIOP's Distinguished Real Estate Award Thursday at the BCEC for "neighborhood building." In the '90s, when many doubted the appeal of an urban core still troubled by crime, Steve's first Boston project was development of the South Bay retail center in Dorchester adjacent to the X-way. Despite skeptics, and aided by active community groups, at the behest of Mayor Menino,Samuels built the retail center, a business his family's been in for three generations. (This is why we're not totally sold on skepticism.)
Next, the company tackled the Fenway led by Leslie Cohen (above), Peter Sougarides and Joel Sklar when it was covered with parking lots, filled with student housing and its claim to fame was the Red Sox' Fenway Park (before all the titles). In an unprecedented step, Samuels worked with the city and neighbors to create a master plan for the neighborhood, often overlooked but in walking distance to the LMA, Back Bay and South End. In '97, the developer purchased his first Fenway parcel, 42k SF. Samuels now controls about 300k SF of land, has invested (often with JP Morgan) $1.4B in mixed-use projects--luxury rental housing, retail, offices and parking. Last month, it requested city approval for the $500M redevelopment of the Landmark Center.
Honored at the gala with the Edward H Linde Public Service Award were Bill and Joyce Cummings, philanthropists who have donated 90% of their $1.1B commercial real estate fortune to charity, and joined Bill and Melinda Gates' and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge of billionaires. Bill still helps run Cummings Properties, a vertically integrated suburban operation with 260 construction workers on staff and 85 buildings that are 92% leased. In August, it started construction on spec of a 60k SF lab/office building in Beverly, which like most of Bill's projects is self-financed. Mayor Menino, leaving office after being a driving force in development for 20 years, was awarded for Excellence in Public Leadership.