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Boston CRE Predicts Highs And Lows For Marty Walsh's Second Term


Mayor Martin Walsh has overseen Boston’s booming economy for the last four years. With a more than 30 percentage point landslide victory over City Councilor Tito Jackson in this month’s mayoral election, Walsh heads into his second term with a mandate.  

Bisnow reached out to some of Boston’s top voices in commercial real estate to get their perspective on where they see the city heading in Walsh’s second term. Will we land Amazon HQ2, or will we find ourselves with another Olympics-level albatross? We’ll leave it to the experts to say.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is departing for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet.

The Abbey Group CEO and founding partner Robert Epstein 

“As a resident and as a business owner in Boston, I have seen great things happening during Mayor Walsh’s tenure, and I congratulate him on his victory. If the past three years are any indication of what lies ahead, I think we will continue to see that companies are confident in his administration and the city will keep on thriving economically under his leadership. With world-leading companies like GE moving their headquarters here and Amazon expressing interest in doing the same, I believe we can expect this exciting momentum to continue during his second term. I think we can also expect to see the mayor advocate for development in the growth zones outlined in Imagine Boston 2030, including areas like Widett Circle and Beacon Yards.”

Perkins+Will Managing Director Robert Brown 

"In Mayor Walsh's second term, I see four key areas that need our city's focus: affordable housing, reliable transit, improved public school education and sustainable resilient design. Each is focused on creating a city where people can work, play, live and learn as a community. We will be working to make this great city more available to our diverse population and be extraordinary stewards of our remarkable environment.”

Nickerson Cos. Founder and Principal Lisa Nickerson 

“It’s been great to see the Walsh administration place such an emphasis on supporting the arts throughout Boston, especially with the appointment of Julie Burros as Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture. I hope the administration’s efforts to encourage public art and foster collaboration between artists and developers continues to generate such terrific new energy throughout the city. With more opportunities for public art comes stronger placemaking for our neighborhoods, greater authentic engagement with our community and increased positive visibility for Boston as a leader in creativity and innovation.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, GE executive Ann Klee, ex-GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at the groundbreaking for GE's Boston campus

NAI Hunneman Director of Research Liz Berthelette 

"In my opinion, many of the major themes and challenges we’ve seen over the last four years will remain at the forefront of Mayor Walsh’s second term. 

Housing: Mayor Walsh has been a big proponent of building more housing in Boston, and multifamily developers have been quite active here this cycle. However, affordability remains an issue. While the city’s population base has continued to grow over the last several years, this lack of general affordability could potentially impact Boston’s ability to retain and attract talent. Moreover, recent proposed tax reform at the federal level will likely have a major impact on affordable housing developments, which could curtail the development of workforce and low-income housing.

Infrastructure: The mayor’s role in decision-making surrounding infrastructure will be key. Whether it’s the North-South Rail Link, connecting the Blue and Red Lines, gondolas in the Seaport or roadway improvements, we need to be able to move more people through the city in an efficient and timely manner.

Amazon HQ2: There’s not bigger story to discuss when it comes to thinking about the future. I think Boston has a solid chance of landing Amazon’s second headquarter operations. If we do, there are a number of questions that would need to be addressed. How large will the incentive package be? What site will the firm select? What infrastructure projects will come out of the deal? With that said, winning Amazon’s bid would bring more high-skilled labor and high-paying jobs to Boston.

GE’s Headquarters: Based on recent cost-cutting measures and other business decisions, GE may not be Boston’s golden goose. There is a good chance that the ground-up building proposed at its new headquarters site may not get out of the ground. Construction has already been postponed to begin in 2019 while the redevelopment of two existing buildings moves forward.”


Trinity Financial VP of Development Eva Erlich

“We’re looking forward to another very active four years of housing development in the City of Boston under Mayor Walsh’s leadership. During his first term, the mayor made significant progress towards accomplishing the goals set forth in the city’s housing plan, Housing a Changing City, and we’re expecting that in his second term there will be an even greater focus on mixed-income and affordable housing development, for which the city has high demand.

Perry Brokerage Director of Intelligence Brendan Carroll

"Marty Walsh has been an advocate of investment in and advancement of the city of Boston, and not just the center city, but all its 48 square miles. If you look at the investment in commercial and residential properties, it has been far more evenly distributed over the Walsh administration than those under previous mayors. We have also won some significant business under Walsh, not the least of which is General Electric.

Early in his term, Mayor Walsh made a pledge to dramatically increase the housing stock of Boston. On a per-year basis, he has become the most prolific mayoral overseer of new housing units completed, besting a mayor that served over 100 years ago.

I expect Mayor Walsh over his next term will see an acceleration of commercial interest in areas surrounding the traditional urban core; his proactive reorganization of what is now the Boston Planning and Development Agency has positioned him to more effectively deal with what is likely going to be an increase is this activity."

Boston's HQ2 bid cover sheet

Transom Real Estate Principal and co-founder Bryan Lee

“There is significant unmet demand for affordable and mixed-income housing.  Developers, alongside the strong leadership of Sheila Dillon and the DND, will continue to work together to create opportunities and craft solutions for our community. In terms of design, Mayor Walsh's vision for enhanced design in development will continue to drive developers and architects to produce better results. The real estate market is becoming increasingly more competitive and the best-designed buildings — both architecturally and those most efficiently engineered — will be the winners.”

Colliers International Director of Research Aaron Jodka 

In Mayor Walsh’s second term, new markets are likely to pop up along the South End/Roxbury line, Morrissey Boulevard corridor and Suffolk Downs. Transit-oriented development will remain key, with Hub on Causeway, Tremont Crossing, Bulfinch Crossing and Washington Village all making an impact. Smart technologies will aid in our transportation network, moving workers more efficiently throughout our city. We will remain a leading global city, and tenants from all industries, but especially to tech and life sciences, will continue to want to tap into our ever-growing intellectual capital.”