Alewife's New Housing
It’s taken three decades, but new housing—1,545 units in six projects--is finally being developed and occupied in the Alewife section of West Cambridge. (The fashion of the construction workers is the only thing that's changed drastically.) An early entrant, O’Connor Capital Partners’ 428-apartment complex illustrates the transformation of this former industrial area (aka the Wild West), says City planning director Stuart Dash.
Not since the late ‘80s in East Cambridge (now considered among the hottest real estate markets in the world) has Cambridge seen a neighborhood change so dramatically, Stuart says. That six multifamily projects are underway at the same time, within several blocks, is a “game changer,” he tells us. (If we had to guess we'd say it was changing from canasta to paddle tennis.) The area’s new persona is evident at O’Connor’s $117M, two-building complex opening in phases at 80 Fawcett St. Partner Brian Fallon (above) says that it’s leasing ahead of schedule and has a unique offering: condo amenities, rents about $1/SF less than new product in East Cambridge and Boston, and a location near shopping, Fresh Pond, the T-stop, and major highways.
The units are big, with high ceilings and expansive windows; a 1,050 SF two-bedroom, two bath rents for about $3,050. Common area amenities are extensive, well-appointed and unexpected, like the theater on the lobby floor. (Might we suggest an apartment-wide viewing of The Apartment?) O’Connor’s providing luxury features, in part, because of the project’s propitious timing. In ’10 when the economy was slow and Alewife was still more industrial than hip, the New York-based company was one of the first multifamily developers to put a site under agreement and the price was “relatively low,” Brain tells us. O’Connor provided the financing and in ’11 when little was getting built, it bought out its construction contract.
On the development team: development manager Cabot Cabot & Forbes’ Mike Boujoulian (above in lobby) with Leggat McCall; architect Cube 3; builder Plumb House and property manager Bozzutto. 80 Fawcett, the Atmark, also took advantage of the city’s new zoning (put in place in 2000 and ’06) that allows residential developers to build bigger projects and decreases the size of commercial projects, Stuart explained. In the past, Alewife residential “was never a good deal” because commercial rents were so much higher. Also, Cambridge has been creating lots of jobs, and with them, a strong demand for housing.
Seeing bright prospects for the neighborhood, O’Connor purchased 5.5 acres abutting Atmark and has invested in other sites nearby. They aren’t alone. Other recent Alewife investors: Clarion Partners, Hines, The Davis Cos, Hanover, Equity, and Griffith Properties. (It's nice to have company, as long as they don't drink all the good scotch.) With its new CEO Glen Rufrano (above), O’Connor is seeking to acquire more residential assets and development sites here and is active along the East Coast. Yesterday, it broke ground on a $60M, 422k SF power center in Orlando and plans to start another residential building in Manhattan soon.