Thursday, June 20, 2024

So here we are again, giving away development rights to a big commercial landlord. Forest Cities is one of the largest commercial landlords in Cambridge. A citizen might ask what is it all worth. At 300 Massachusetts Ave. they are asking for 108,000 square feet over what the zoning they bought into allows. At today’s rents for that kind of space, that’s around $8 million per year. What are the residents of Cambridge getting in return in the way of mitigation? Nothing … We’re told that it’s already been taken care of when they did University Park.

Oh, but we might get a new residential building. Sounds great. Until you look at the details. Oh, they are going to build it on open space that was part of the original mitigation. That makes it what, anti-mitigation? De-mitigation? I’m not sure there’s a word for it. Google seems to have gotten over the whole “Don’t do evil” thing with the roof garden, and here we go again. Cambridge’s anti-open space policy as fostered by the Healy administration should end. At some point, the citizens should get the benefits of the great property tax boom, instead of just socking it away for legal settlements and the like.

But wait, we need housing for families and to bring the cost of housing down … Rents at comparable buildings in Cambridge are in the $3,000- to $4000-per-month range. Hardly “family friendly” to most Cambridge families.

In a real estate market like ours, supply and demand just don’t operate according to the simple rule that increased supply will always drive down prices.

The Boston Business Journal ran a story recently on residential rents that starts off with the following sentence: “The infusion of hundreds of new apartments in the shadow of Fenway Park is fueling demand and pushing prices up, according to the Rent Juice Rent Index, a division of Zillow, the online real estate data firm.”

Our region has always had a market that bucks the national trends. When prices go up, so do ours. When they go down, not so much. In our market, driven by the educational, medical and high tech/bio-tech environment that drives our economy, trends get pretty tricky.

I certainly don’t have a simple cure for our housing issues, but a 16-story, market-rate tower built on precious open space is certainly not it.

Mark Jaquith, Hurley Street