By Steve Adams | Banker & Tradesman Staff | Oct 18, 2020 |
Senior Project Manager and Associate Partner, Margulies Perruzzi
Industry experience: 22 years
Nate Turner recently marked his 22nd anniversary at Boston-based Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA). In recent years he’s specialized in repurposing brick-and-beam properties in neighborhoods including the Seaport District, updating historic structures for the 21st century economy. Turner’s recent projects include repositioning of three buildings on Farnsworth Street and Thomson Place with new ground-floor retail and windows, and updates to 10 and 20 Channel Center including new tenant amenities and branding materials.
Q: How did you address historic preservation guidelines when adding ground-floor retail to the Thomson Place property?
A: We saw an opportunity to connect the historic thoroughfare of Congress Street with Seaport Boulevard and have Thomson Place be a prime connector. Part of the success of what we’ve been able to do so far is we’ve worked well with the Landmarks Commission starting from the place of what’s important to them. Instead of creating an uphill struggle, let’s focus on the historic elements that are desirable and build off that rather than creating something new.
How do you take a building with small window openings while trying to maximize glass for shoppers? For Thomson Place, it was trying to accentuate the arches that had been modified over the years and restore it to its rightful condition. But also taking a look at the sidewalks, the widths of those and understanding where the curb cuts and ramps are, making them pedestrian-friendly. On the finishing touches, it’s bumping out the sidewalks. We don’t want cars zooming up and down the street.
Q: What are the sweet spots in building sizes, heights and unit count that lend themselves well to cross-laminated timber construction?
A: There are provisions in the building code that allow you to use it as a structural element, but there are forthcoming code changes that allow you to build up to 10 stories. In a recent project on A Street, we added a 2-story addition to a historical structure. It’s lighter in load than steel or concrete, and the same level of construction without impacting the building as much. Someone trying to do a 15-story building in Boston
might come up with some hurdles, because they would be on the leading edge of the code updates.
The 2021 code changes will allow uses in taller and bigger structures and more applications. You might see the introduction of CLT fire stairs. They might have to be clad with materials, but the more you can use heavy timber, the more they can be fastened in an interconnected way, which would lead to improved construction times. When you’re dealing with mechanical fasteners and just one trade, that’s different than having a steel fabricator and having to stop for the welding and cure the concrete and do it layer by layer.
Q: Have you received requests to do office retrofits during COVID-19?
A: It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. This is a great opportunity for deferred maintenance projects or overall master planning and capital improvements. When you have lower occupancy in a building, that means fewer hurdles and headaches. The biggest challenge is just financing and that’s going to vary from owner to owner. Everyone’s trying to look at the glass as half full and saying they can take advantage of the downturn, and the labor force may be more available to deal with these projects. There may be more competitive bidding or less downtime.
In tenant spaces, it’s a similar mindset, but implemented differently with a certain amount of uncertainty about what the next three months will bring. We’ve seen a lot of tenants say, “OK, we have to do something. What are the simpler things we can do right away that are low-cost and high-impact?” Signage, sanitizing stations, that’s the easy stuff. Anybody can do it at low cost. But when you think about furniture
panels, spacing of rooms, updating office floor plans, you start getting into operational questions. People have questions. Do I need to have the conversation with the landlord about the HVAC system and how late my air stays on at night? There’s a good-better-best solution.
Q: As Boston prepares a new coastal resiliency zoning overlay, what do developers need to know about best practices in floodproofing?
A: As a coastal city, we will not be the only ones dealing with this. Venice continues to be the bellwether for a lot of us. There are a lot of similarities. Boston has done a great job of creating a resiliency group that’s looking at measurable goals by 2030 and understands the risks, looking at vulnerable areas that are landmarks or neighborhoods. We’re trying to be proactive, but the solutions are not easy. It’s hard to
implement across the city in a budget-friendly manner. No matter what you do, there’s going to be a weak link.
Q: Is the above-ground podium the current preferred option for parking in multifamily projects?
A: Some of it depends on the soil conditions and where the water tables are, but I’ve seen some projects look at parking as a buffer between a ground-level use and the floors above. But you’re trading some real estate from an investment perspective. What I’ve been hearing over the last year or so is the city is trying to process what the right ratios are going forward. If it’s for a building where the demographic is predominantly college students, [some developers are] looking whether to repurpose the garage into additional living units. If they’re renovating, it’s a great time to reclaim some square-footage.
Five Favorite Classic Rock Songs
1. “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix
2. “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan
3. “Hotel California” by the Eagles
4. “Long Time” by Boston
5. “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent