Wu’s agenda hits the rocks | Fan of Contrarian Boston? Get your paid subscription now! | Taking on Beacon Hill sleaze | Cannabis beat writer goes missing | Financial District blues | Quick hits |
Goodbye Financial District, hello new neighborhood? Major commercial property owner has big plans
The days may be numbered for some of downtown Boston’s oldest and most time-worn office buildings.
Real estate investment firm Synergy, which owns four million square feet of commercial buildings in Boston and the suburbs, is weighing whether to revamp some of its Class B office properties into apartment and condo buildings.
Synergy has hired Gensler, a consulting firm that specializes in residential conversions, to look at its portfolio, said Matthew Godoff, executive vice president of Synergy.
Synergy’s holdings include 10 Post Office Square and 2 Oliver and 100 Franklin streets in the Financial District, 294 Washington St. in Downtown Crossing, and One Center Plaza, just across the street from City Hall.
Candidate for residential conversion? 294 Washington St. in Boston
“We have been working with Gensler and working with some of our buildings that are better candidates,” Godoff said at a panel discussion Wednesday on the “Future of the Office,” hosted by NAIOP Massachusetts.
While not citing specific addresses, Godoff said the buildings are at the “lower end” of the market that “probably won’t be office buildings in the next five years.”
ATTENTION Contrarians! Sign up for a subscription now before March 15th and keep access to all our content
Sustainable news organizations like Contrarian Boston need support to deliver the kind of insider news you value. While some content will remain free, starting March 15th the majority of CB’s content will be available by paid subscription only. It’s a big step for us, and we can’t take it without you. We hope you will continue to be a Contrarian. . . . just like us.
For a more detailed view of what we’re up to, see the piece at the end of today’s newsletter.
Up in smoke: Readers lament apparent departure of Globe’s longtime cannabis beat writer
For more than a decade, Dan Adams chronicled the rise of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts for The Boston Globe.
Now Adams appears to have left the paper under uncertain circumstances, according to a pair of tweets by cannabis activist Grant Smith Ellis and Jane Allen, a policy wonk who lists cannabis as one of her areas of expertise.
Allen wrote the she is upset with the Globe, calling Adams an “excellent reporter” who “cares about science & gets the science right” and “cares about dismantling systemic racism & respect for individuals.”
Ellis wrote that he has cancelled his subscription to the paper, calling Adams the “best cannabis journalist in the United States.” Ellis recounted how Adams was the first person to reach out to him after he was taken to the ER following a contentious public hearing in Boston on cannabis licensing.
“And you, Boston Globe, have lost one of your beating hearts and souls last week,” Ellis writes.
We reached out to Adams as well as a spokesperson to the Globe and will let you know when we hear more.
Going nowhere fast? Wu’s big demolition of City Hall’s development agency faces uncertain future
Making waves, Mayor Michelle Wu vowed in her State of the City address to dismantle her long-time nemesis, the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
Wu accused the BPDA, which she has spent years painting as a rogue, neighborhood- demolishing behemoth, as “building buildings rather than communities” while also having “deepened the disparities in our city,”
Well, that was then and this is now. Barely five weeks later, Wu’s plans for completely revamping how development is done in Boston are bogged down and facing a potentially long slog ahead.
In the latest blow to Wu’s embattled plan, the Boston City Council peppered city officials with questions about the BPDA plan at a hearing Tuesday and pushed back against a request for a vote.
Among other things, Wu administration officials were unable to adequately explain how much the plan would cost Boston taxpayers or exactly how it would advance the mayor’s goals.
Ted Landsmark: Local civil rights icon, academic leader, and skeptic of Wu’s plans to dismantle the BPDA
The setback comes after the BPDA board, led by academic leader and local civil rights icon Ted Landsmark, as reported by CB here, effectively rejected Wu’s proposed revamp last month, citing a similar lack of specifics.
The lack of detail and preparation on part of Wu and her administration has puzzled some insiders.
Wu has been in office now for more than a year, while having pushed plans to break apart City Hall’s long-time development agency since her days as a city councilor, they note.
For Wu’s rent control plan, the big hurdle is definitely not the City Council
Buttressed by the strong powers of the office, Boston mayors have long ruled the city like mini dictators.
The battle over her half-baked BPDA plan aside, we’d be shocked if Wu can’t ram rent control, a key part of her agenda, through the City Council. Further, as expected, there are signs that her former colleagues will fall into line, as the Globe reports here.
Instead, Wu’s team should be worrying about the reception that her plan to cap rent hikes at 10 percent will get on Beacon Hill.
The more liberal state Senate offers the best chance for a favorable hearing and vote, but, that said, it doesn’t appear to be a slam dunk.
If we were on Wu’s team, we’d be a bit worried after state Sen. Lydia Edwards’ recent op-ed piece in the Globe.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu
Edwards, chair of the Senate’s powerful housing committee, offers an array of ideas for helping beleaguered renters, from giving tenants first crack at buying their units to new regs on evictions.
But she fails to explicitly endorse the mayor’s rent control plan, other than to argue it has been the subject of “fearmongering” by “some real estate interests.”
We reached out to the East Boston senator’s office, but didn’t get anything back by press time.
Is time finally up for one of Beacon Hill’s sleazier practices? New state watchdog pledges probe
As a young State House staffer, Diana DiZoglio got a firsthand look at the seamier side of life on Beacon Hill after she lodged a sexual harassment complaint.
DiZoglio soon found herself out of a job and forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to get a severance package.
The Methuen Democrat went on to become a state senator before winning the state auditor’s election last fall.
And after spending years on Beacon Hill pushing to end to the practice of forcing NDAs on young staffers, DiZoglio said she has no plans to drop the issue now.
Rather, DiZoglio told Contrarian Boston she plans to launch an audit of the use of NDAs in state government, and plans to include the Legislature in that review as well.
Suzanne Bump, the state’s former auditor, argued during the election campaign that the authority of the state watchdog does not extend to the Legislature.
But DiZoglio contends that the auditor’s office does have that power, and plans to seek more information on the use of NDAs in the Legislature, including more than 30 agreements involving now former House staffers.
If there’s pushback from legislative leaders, she’s ready to “have that conversation in court.”
“This audit will begin very soon,” DiZoglio said. “Taxpayers should know if their money is being spent to force silence on victims and protect the politically powerful from accountability.”
Why Contrarian Boston will require paid subscriptions to access all content starting March 15th
We launched Contrarian Boston in November 2021 with the hope of shaking things up a bit.
Tired of what we saw as conformist local journalism, we were intent on filling a void in our local media ecosystem by offering critical, consistent, common-sense, and fair coverage of our local corporate, governmental, and media institutions.
At Contrarian Boston, we have focused our coverage on the issues that demand more thoughtful reporting. Reflecting our journalistic background, Contrarian Boston has indeed focused on regional development, real estate and housing issues.
But we’ve also tackled other stories, such as our crumbling transportation infrastructure, our changing energy needs, our underperforming educational system, and the rise of ideological extremists in our state political parties.
What we have found has been heartening: An appetite for a new source of news, analysis and opinion that does its best to call things as they are, regardless of whether it annoys the players in our state’s insider-dominated political culture.
Our list of potential stories is overflowing with tips from readers, more than a few of whom we have gotten to know over the past 15 months. Our stories and reporting have been cited by The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CommonWealth Magazine, and State House News Service.
To date, Contrarian Boston has been a labor of love, but like you, we need to pay the bills as well.
The reporting, writing and editing needed to produce Contrarian Boston two to three times a week has essentially become a full-time job.
We could use your help.
A subscription of $8 a month, or a discounted $80 per year, will keep CB going.
Some content will remain free, while paid subscribers will have full access to everything we produce, including a forthcoming online chat thread.
Committed Contrarians can also pledge $150 or more to become a member of the Founders’ Lounge, where we will gather via quarterly Zoom calls so you can tell us what issues, and people, you want us to pay attention to, and for us to provide you with updates on developing stories.
Contrarian Boston needs your support to keep delivering a point of view that is sorely missing from the news these days. If you have other questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to email us.
Sincerely, Scott Van Voorhis
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