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Newton, Needham, Watertown, Wellesley

It was a gut punch -- and not surprising -- at the same time.

It was a gut punch -- and not surprising -- at the same time.

It was a gut punch -- and not surprising -- at the same time.
 
I’m talking about Alexandria Real Estate Equities' announcement that it is abandoning plans to convert Riverside Center in Auburndale into lab space.
 
The California-based life science development firm will instead sell the three-building complex at a loss.
 
That follows the December announcement that the two life sciences buildings Alexandria was developing with Mark Development just next door on Grove Street at the Riverside T station is on hold (along with the rest of the mixed-use project), due to soaring construction costs and interest rates.
 
What a difference a year can make
 
Last spring we were celebrating. Between the two Grove Street projects; the Bulfinch Co’s project at the former Muzi site; a pair of Beacon Properties projects in Wellesley; and Greatland’s Riverside Labs in Weston, it looked like our section of I-95 just south of the Mass Turnpike was well on its way towards developing into a substantial life science cluster.
 
It could still eventually happen. Some of those projects are still moving forward.
 
And it was encouraging this week to learn from the BBJ that Gov. Maura Healey plans to reauthorize the state's Life Sciences Initiative, paving the way for a third iteration of a multimillion-dollar spending bill to incentivize the biopharmaceutical industry.
 
But it’s going to take time (years, not months) before market demand and economic conditions improve.
 
As for the gut punch...
 
And here’s the part that stings: If not for the slow-turning wheels of municipal approvals, the Riverside T and Muzi projects could have broken ground and be operational, or close to it, by now.
 
  • Efforts to rezone the 10-acre former Muzi Motors goes back to 2019 when it was first rejected by Town Meeting. Then it seemed to take forever to get through the Planning Board.
 
  • The Riverside Station project dates back even further, to at least to 2011. An even better version from Mark Development surfaced in 2018. But due to the predictable neighborhood teeth-grinding, threatened lawsuits, and city-mandated vision sessions (such a waste of sticky notes!), the project kept getting pushed back. At Riverside, that's meant putting 550 desperately needed apartments on hold too.
 
Instead, we have two big, ugly heat islands.
 
Inaction has consequences folks.
 
Meanwhile at 275 Grove Street
 
Alexandria purchased Riverside Center for $235 million in 2020 and is now selling the property at a loss, taking a $139 million impairment charge to reflect the property’s lower value. (It's a trend that's not unique to our region.)
 
A new buyer has reportedly been lined up, or is close, with the sale expected to be finalized by the middle of this year.
 
Meanwhile Riverside Center is home to a healthy mix of Newton employers, including Atrius Health’s administrative offices, Siemens Healthineers, Parexel and Regus. 
 
And some good news along Kendrick Street
 
Meanwhile, there’s good news at Bulfinch Co’s property at 117 Kendrick Street in Needham.
 
The property has seen an increase in activity after repositioning the asset from office to life science. Recent leasing brings the building to 92% leased.
 
Bulfinch plans to repurpose an additional 18,000 SF of existing office space into lab. New leases include 15,000 SF of space with ABio-X Holdings, Inc., a 17,000 SF lease with Xenon Pharmaceuticals, and a new long-term lease with Evolved by Nature, Inc. for 43,000 SF.
 
Additionally, Workbar (home to your favorite chamber) is expanding in the building from approximately 16,000 SF to close to 27,000 SF to meet increased co-working demands.
 
Finally, long-time tenant Warner Bros. Entertainment had previously announced plans to leave Needham. Instead, fresh off the company's biggest launch ever, they've extended their lease (for a reduced space from 30,000 SF to 20,000 SF).
 
Restaurant grants available
 
The Greg Hill Foundation’s Restaurant Strong Fund & Grubhub offers grants from $5,000 to $25,000 to local area restaurants.
 
Opportunity areas include but are not limited to: updating technology/equipment necessary to enhance day-to-day operations, marketing & PR services, staff training programs, incentivized wages, or maintenance/updating of current infrastructure. Limited to restaurants that have only one location with 50 employees or less. Deadline is May 10. Details.
 
Holland on the Charles?
Boston-based company Vantage Travel may have just canceled its European “spring tulips” cruise but some 50,000 tulips are in full bloom this week at the Massachusetts Horticulture Society's The Gardens at Elm Bank, 900 Washington St., Wellesley
 
Swellesley Report has photos and details.
 
Needham to consider accessory apartment updates
 
Needham Town Meeting will consider an amendment next week to its Accessory Dwelling Unit bylaw which has been in place since 2019.
 
The 2019 ADU rules were overly restrictive, limiting occupancy to a caregiver or family member and not allowing for the opportunity to rent. As a result, only 12 ADU units were created over more than three years.
 
Warrant Article 18 would relax those restrictions. FAQs here and Green Needham’s view here.
 
Friday grab bag
 
 
  • Mélange has opened in Linden Square in Wellesley. The shopping collaborative is made up of three small businesses whose owners work together to create a unique, curated shopping experience. They also have a location in Osterville. (Swellesley Report)
 
 
  • Middlesex Savings Bank has tapped COO Dana Neshe as its new CEO and president as of April 2024, when the Natick-based bank will likely become the largest Mass.-based bank to have a woman at the helm. (BBJ)
 
  • The Watertown City Council voted to send a citizens’ petition requesting that the allowable size of new buildings in Watertown Square be reduced to the Planning Board for consideration, as required by statute. Given that the city is about to enter into a major vision plan for the square, seems to me this zoning amendment feels entirely premature. (Watertown News)
 
  • Perkins School for the Blind hosts its annual food and wine tasting next Thursday (May 4). Features unique food offerings, a signature cocktail, and an online auction. Details.
 
 
  • The early bird deadline for the chamber's Pickleball Tournament ends today. Scroll down to RSVP.
 
Needham nonprofit rocks national grant
 
Needham’s Plugged in Band Program was one of 15 institutions nationwide to receive a grant from the Stevens Initiative for virtual exchange programs engaging youth participants in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa.
 
The program invites young people to step out of their comfort zones, learn critical skills, and forge life-long friendships. Together, the initiative will reach nearly 75,000 young people globally.
 
One more Plugged In plug: Due to the forecast Sunday's Let’s Rock and Roll. has been moved to First Baptist Church in Newton. Tickets are still available.
 
Pay bumps and other perks are so 2022
 
Finally, this morning, while a hot job market last year forced many employers to engage in a bidding war for talent, that trend appears to be slowing with the economy, according to the Wall Street Journal.
 
"The typical job switcher earned an 8.4% raise in August 2022, compared with a 5.6% increase for remaining on the job, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
 
In March 2023, job switchers’ wage growth fell to 7.3%, while those who stayed with employers received a 5.9% increase."
 
Switching jobs might still earn workers a raise, just a smaller one, the Journal adds. But some workers worry they have missed the window to capitalize on the leverage employees once had over employers, while others are choosing to prioritize stability as employers gear up for an economic slowdown.
 
A number of the nation’s largest employers are also cutting back on workplace perks. Free coffee, free cab rides, free laundry service, and even the company ping pong tables are often being phased out.
?
 
That’s your need to knows for today -- Arbor Day -- unless you need to know how parking lots “eat” U.S. cities.
 
Shop, dine, and bank locally, okay? See you in May.
 
President
617.244.1688
 
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