Urban Pioneer: Trinity's Abby Goldenfarb
She's been leading transformative projects in North Station. And next spring, she hopes to do the same in East Boston. Trinity Financial’s Abby Goldenfarb isn't afraid to build in untested markets.
Abby, among the company’s senior management, takes projects from concept to completion. For the Avenir several years ago and for the $196M One Canal now, she leads design, permitting, financing, construction, and marketing. It comes naturally. As a kid, her family developed housing and retail outlet centers in Maine, and she traveled between construction sites with her dad. The fascinating challenge is to keep the myriad aspects of a big project moving forward simultaneously, she tells us. At home, Abby juggles life with her 3- and 5-year-olds.
How's this for complex? The 310-apartment One Canal (Abby on-site with project manager Larry Sparrow) is set for completion Q1 ’16 and is being built over MBTA facilities, a Central Artery tunnel, an electrical substation, and at the edge of the Greenway. Before the digging started, Abby negotiated site acquisition with state and regional agencies. Ten years ago, she ran the Avenir project around the corner when North Station was still a “fringe” submarket. The Big Dig had just ended; North Station was untested. Eventually, Equity acquired the now fully occupied building. Soon, Boston Properties will start construction of a $1B mixed-use complex across the street in this now hot neighborhood.
With colleagues like Kenan Bigby and Eva Erlich, Abby’s confident Trinity can turn an overgrown Eastie lot into an exciting place to live. With the capital markets bullish on Boston, rents rising and new apartments leasing up, “it’s time to move” on the $75M Boston East development the company initiated in ’06, Abby says. The complication: as an emerging market, Eastie rents are about 20% lower than those downtown but construction costs are similar—and rising.
To convert a lot filled with weeds and switch grass into a residential community requires knowing your target market, Abby says. For Boston East, it’s 25- to 40-year-olds who want a luxury apartment at a moderate price. That East Boston is still relatively undiscovered and grittier than downtown is an advantage, she tells us. People want a neighborhood that feels like a real place. (In Eastie, that means getting friendly with Santarpios.) Trinity will start to market the building before it even gets in the ground. Then, look for local events and pop-up shops.