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The Assembly Square section of Somerville has a lot going for it these days.
It’s home to one of the region’s busiest shopping centers, Assembly Row, along with one-bedroom apartments that go for $3,000 a month. Partners HealthCare moved more than 4,000 workers to a building there on top of a new Orange Line stop. Plans for nearly 5 million more square feet of office space are approved or are under review by the city.
And, soon, investors in Assembly Square could enjoy a federal tax break aimed at helping low-income neighborhoods. Despite the frenzied pace of development in this hot section of Somerville, it is one of 138 areas the federal government on Friday designated as “opportunity zones,” under a new program designed to spark jobs and development in places left behind by the economic recovery.
The program could bring much-needed investment to struggling corners of Massachusetts. But in booming markets like Greater Boston, some worry it will simply subsidize development that’s already happening, and could accelerate gentrification in some neighborhoods, increasing the chances that residents are pushed out.
“Some of these places already have a strong economy,” said Brett Theodos, a researcher at the Urban Institute who is tracking opportunity zones. “We could wind up subsidizing things that would have happened anyway.”
The program allows many real estate investors to avoid paying capital gains taxes on new projects in opportunity zones — enough to add a few percentage points to an investor’s bottom line and perhaps make a project profitable enough to build.
Because the program can be used for all kinds of real estate, from luxury condos to low-income housing, and is open to many kinds of investors, picking the right zones, experts say, is key to making the most of it.
On Friday, that process wrapped up, when the Treasury Department certified 138 zones that state officials proposed last month. That’s out of 584 tracts statewide that were eligible, based on income levels and poverty rates.
Nearly half of Massachusetts’ proposed zones are in poorer cities. There are three in Fall River, four each in Lawrence and New Bedford, and seven in Springfield. Another 20 percent are in rural areas.
Some, though, are sprinkled across Greater Boston, many in places that are already surging, thanks to the region’s long-running real estate boom — from the Alewife section of Cambridge to Bayside in Dorchester, Quincy Center, and downtown Malden.
That worries some people.
“This could be a very dangerous policy in high-growth, high-cost, areas,” said John Barros, Boston’s director of economic development. “It could just fuel gentrification.”
Boston was so concerned about supercharging the city’s already pricey real estate market that city officials considered not applying to the program. Ultimately, they proposed 14 census tracts — out of more than 100 that were eligible — to the state, mostly in places where the Boston Housing Authority or the city owns large pieces of land. They include the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, several tracts in and around Dudley Square, and public housing complexes in Charlestown and South Boston that the BHA is trying to redevelop.
“We can make sure the investments are being used for public benefits,” Barros said.
The tax breaks also could help finance some otherwise difficult projects, said Gilbert Winn, chief executive of WinnCompanies, which is partnering with the BHA to redevelop the Mary Ellen McCormack complex in South Boston. The $1.6 billion project is in an opportunity zone, and Winn’s firm is exploring how to make the most of it.
“We think it’s a perfect fit for Mary Ellen McCormack,” he said. “It will make things easier.”
Cambridge, too, hopes to use the opportunity zone program to boost affordable housing and has designated a census tract on the city’s western edge that includes several large low-income housing developments.
“That was our biggest focus,” said Iram Farooq, Cambridge’s assistant city manager for community development. “Preserving this affordable housing long-term has been a top priority.”
But the census tract in Cambridge straddles Fresh Pond Parkway, stretching across Alewife, where new housing and office and lab developments have fetched big rents in recent years.
Next door in Somerville, city officials picked tracts that encompass Assembly Row and Union Square, where billions of dollars in new development are planned over the next decade.
Despite the investments, said Tom Galligani, Somerville’s director of economic development, those areas still have major needs. The city’s master plan aims to funnel 85 percent of new development into these neighborhoods and old industrial areas nearby, a concentration of building that would require straightening tangled roads, rails, and other infrastructure.
“There are a ton of challenges in the areas we did choose,” Galligani said. “It’s not a fait accompli that development is going to spring up in all these places.”
And it’s not clear who might tap the program. The program’s rules are still being hashed out in Washington, and several major land owners in Somerville — including the primary developers of both Assembly Row and Union Square — and in other local opportunity zone tracts said they’re waiting for that process to wrap up before determining whether it makes sense to use, or if they’re eligible.
Ash, whose office set the guidelines for, and then blessed, all of the state’s opportunity zones, acknowledged the incongruity of giving tax breaks to draw investment to already-thriving real estate markets. But, he said, municipalities are free to layer their own needs on top of the zones — such as requiring more affordable housing in new projects. He also hopes it will boost projects in parts of the state where development has lagged.
“I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” Ash said. “This is an opportunity to bring greater investment to places that need it.”
He was especially hopeful the program might spark more market-rate housing in Massachusetts’ so-called Gateway Cities — older and smaller former industrial cities — many of which have struggled to draw that kind of investment. That could revive their downtowns, he said, and perhaps take some pressure off of Boston’s pricey housing market.
That makes sense to Kyle Warwick. He’s a principal at Redgate, a Boston developer that specializes in housing in “outer urban” neighborhoods. It has built market-rate buildings in Quincy and Chelsea but knows it can be tricky to sell investors on unproven markets. Tax breaks, he said, could help open more doors.
“It will expand the geography a little bit,” he said. “Institutional investors that may not have looked at a community outside of Boston will now look twice.”
That’s the hope, Theodos said — that the program drives investment to places that have long been passed over and sparks projects that help the people who live there.
But once the zones are set, there are few rules governing what they might help pay for. And that makes the early stages of this new program very important.
“A lot of this will depend on what’s selected,” Theodos said. “The kind of places that have a $1 billion project already underway, close to expensive urban markets, I’m skeptical that this will be worth our money.”
Cambridge-based nonprofit Furnishing Hope of Massachusetts Inc. will allow members of community to purchase starter sets in honor of their mother to help a mother in need.
The sets will be provided to mothers and their families as they transition from a homeless or domestic violence shelter into housing. Sets will be for the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom and include goods and/or furniture.
Furnishing Hope of Massachusetts collects gently used furniture and home goods with the help of volunteers and provides them free of charge to families identified by their social service agency partners, which include Cambridge Family & Children�s Service and Transition House, a Cambridge domestic violence shelter.
To purchase a Mother�s Day gift starter set, visit facebook.com/furnishinghopema.
Alexandria Real Estate Equities recently announced the expansion if its Alexandria LaunchLabs into a new space, opening fin fall 2018 at One Kendall Square in Cambridge.
The expansion will provide member companies with more than 20,000 square feet of coworking space, including flexible shared or private office/laboratories, shared equipment and services, conferencing amenities, mentorship and highly curated programming. It will also feature an on-site management team with backgrounds in life science, laboratory operations, entrepreneurship, venture capital and investor relations to provide member companies with resources to enhance their growth trajectories.
Alexandria is currently accepting applications from life science startups at apply.alexandrialaunchlabs.com.
Boston’s housing market, fueled by strong economic growth, has been blisteringly hot the past few years — and nearby towns and cities are basking in the warmth and glow. With few exceptions, communities in or near Boston have seen Massachusetts’ biggest gains in median home prices between 2012 and 2017, even in already expensive markets like Brookline and Cambridge. The Boston real estate bonfire has now spread to once-affordable pockets of the city like Southie and Roslindale, and gateway cities like Lynn, Lawrence, and Brockton.
“Real estate is about jobs,” says Timothy Warren, CEO of the real estate market tracking firm The Warren Group in Boston, which also publishes Banker & Tradesman. “Just being close to the Seaport and Kendall Square and these centers of good-paying jobs, that makes a big difference.” No surprise, then, that all 12 of this year’s hot communities offer subway or commuter rail service to the city and its jobs.
Our desirable dozen have seen the largest leaps in single-family home values across four different price categories (more than $1 million, $750,000-$1 million, $500,000-$750,000, and under $500,000). Results are based on median single-family home price increases from 2012 to 2017, using sales data from The Warren Group. (We’ve excluded cities or towns with fewer than 75 single-family sales last year or in 2012.)
While we highlight the very hottest of local markets, nearly all of Greater Boston has experienced a dramatic surge in home values. It’s hard to find a community inside Route 128 where median, or midpoint, home prices didn’t climb at least 30 percent since 2012.
That’s great news for folks who bought their home in the post-recession slump. But if you’re on the other side of the homeownership divide, these steep increases are nothing to celebrate. “Affordability is a big issue, and creating new housing is difficult, so we’ve got real problems there,” Warren says. “We can’t sustain this kind of growth if we don’t have [affordable housing].”
Boston’s increasingly out-of-reach home prices are squashing the dreams of hopeful buyers, but they worry longtime residents, too. “How many people living here, if they had to buy their house now, could afford to live here?” asks Michael O’Dea, a realtor at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Jamaica Plain. “I think very few.”
Meanwhile, a stark contrast exists outside of the Boston market. Median home values in more than 130 other Massachusetts communities, almost all outside I-495, have yet to regain their peak levels from 2005. Warren wagers these areas are struggling to create jobs and inconvenient for commuting to Boston.
At some point, Warren expects higher interest rates to start tempering price increases. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really translate to relief for those home buyers who rely on a mortgage — in other words, most of us. Instead, a house of the same price will cost even more per month.
TOP SPOTS TO LIVE: $1 MILLION-PLUS PRICE POINT
Median Single-Family Price $1,310,000
Change Since 2012 +59%
Median Condo Price $725,000
Change Since 2012 +66%
From quaint side streets to buzzy restaurants and nightlife, from top universities to high-tech startups, Cambridge has it all — including the renewable energy of a passionate, ever-changing citizenry. “This is a walkable, human-sized city,” says Marc Levy, founder and editor of Cambridge Day, a website that reports on the city. “I also love being in the midst of people who are quietly changing the world,” he adds. Absurd housing prices have taken a toll, though, forcing many residents to leave or make severe sacrifices to stay. The city’s “less weird and less fun” than it used to be, Levy laments.
Median Single-Family Price $1,085,000
Change Since 2012 +55%
Median Condo Price $571,000
Change Since 2012 +26%
A photogenic suburb northwest of Boston, “Winchester is a quintessential New England small town . . . like a community that might be pictured inside a snowglobe,” says local middle-school teacher Alison Matthews. With high-performing schools, good access to the city, and an active assortment of community and cultural organizations, Winchester is a desirable place to call home — if you can afford it. The median home price crested above $1 million for the first time last year. A small commercial tax base limits the extent of town services — there’s no municipal curbside trash pickup, for example. Likewise, Matthews says, spending increases for facility improvements, like the newly renovated high school, typically require overrides.
Median Single-Family Price $1,850,000
Change Since 2012 +54%
Median Condo Price $791,000
Change Since 2012 +63%
A town surrounded by cities, Brookline balances the bustle of Boston life and suburban serenity, combining leafy streets, good schools, and city-caliber dining and shopping. “You’re still on a major subway line, but with a small town feel,” says Tom Farnan, a restaurant manager who, with his wife, purchased a condo here in 2011. They love how safe it feels, the ease of commuting or walking around town, and the variety of community activities, from art shows to music in the park. What they dislike? “The parking situation is brutal,” he says, noting that with no on-street parking overnight, they have to pay for a spot in a lot about a 10-minute walk from their place. Still, he says, “it’s a small price to pay for a great neighborhood.”
> More hot spots for single-family homes in this price range
TOP SPOTS TO LIVE: $750,000 to $1 MILLION PRICE POINT
> JAMAICA PLAIN
Median Single-Family Price $850,000
Change Since 2012 +80%
Median Condo Price $512,500
Change Since 2012 +52%
Known for its strong sense of community, arts festivals, and bustling Centre Street businesses, Jamaica Plain also lays claim to some of the biggest jewels on Boston’s Emerald Necklace. “We have the Arboretum, Jamaica Pond, and Franklin Park — an incredible trifecta of natural beauty unrivaled not only in Boston but the envy of most cities,” says Jason Waddleton, owner of The Haven Scottish pub. Waddleton is wary of rising house prices and gentrification, but sees both as citywide issues not confined to JP. Parking can be tough, too, but the Orange Line offers a straight shot into downtown.
> SOUTH BOSTON
Median Single-Family Price $790,000
Change Since 2012 +78%
Median Condo Price $665,000
Change Since 2012 +62%
Owing partly to the high-end development in the Seaport District, home prices in this once-gritty enclave are closer to what you might expect from the South End. “I like the convenience,” says Gina Smyth, an administrator at Boston College High School who’s lived in Southie her whole life and bought her home in 2007. “I’m in walking distance to the beach and to downtown proper.” Smyth says while there are more newcomers now who aren’t as invested in the community, Southie remains the kind of place where a neighbor will knock on your door to remind you to move your car for street cleaning.
Median Single-Family Price $962,500
Change Since 2012 +43%
Median Condo Price $767,000
Change Since 2012 +72%
Needham’s convenient location, good schools, and charming family feel make it a coveted suburb. Like other high-stakes housing markets west of Boston, that means smaller, older homes often get torn down in favor of big, new Colonials. But realtor Bill Paulson says the town has nonetheless maintained its down-to-earth community flavor, which is on full display during the Fourth of July parade. On the other side of Route 128 from Newton, Needham offers “the flexibility to commute in any direction . . . including into Boston on the commuter rail,” Paulson says. But it’s also home to some major employers in its own right, including TripAdvisor.
> More hot spots for single-family homes in this price range
TOP SPOTS TO LIVE: $500,000 to $750,000 PRICE POINT
Median Single-Family Price $535,000
Change Since 2012 +63%
Median Condo Price $359,000
Change Since 2012 +86%
This historic coastal town north of Cape Ann delights tourists and residents alike — and not just because of its famous fried clams. “Ipswich seems to have more than our fair share of artists, musicians, dancers, painters, poets . . . creatives of all stripes,” says Kerrie Bates, director of Ipswich ReCreation & Culture. Ipswich is home to more First Period houses (built before 1725) than anywhere else in the nation, Bates says. These rough-hewn, timber-framed Colonials, like the town’s many Victorians and farmhouses, are made of wood for “a warm and honest building, not unlike the residents who live within.” It’s a 30-mile trek to Boston, but with nearly half the town’s land protected, including beautiful Crane Beach, who’d want to leave?
Median Single-Family Price $549,000
Change Since 2012 +73%
Median Condo Price $430,000
Change Since 2012 +76%
Residential Roslindale’s single- and multi-family homes — many blessed with yards and parking — are anchored by a cluster of thriving small businesses in Roslindale Square. “The local shops, they’re well supported — and not just because they’re local, but because they’re really good small stores,” says realtor and resident Michael O’Dea. He concedes the commuter rail service is infrequent and pricey compared with the Orange Line in Jamaica Plain, and hopes the rising prices won’t erode Rozzie’s comfortable, lived-in authenticity. “What I love, believe it or not, is that it’s so full of regular people,” O’Dea says. “There’s such a lack of pretension in Roslindale.”
Median Single-Family Sales Price $581,000
Change Since 2012 +63%
Median Condo Sales Price $460,000
Change Since 2012 +62%
“The best thing about Medford is its proximity to Boston,” says lifelong resident Rosalie Giudice. That’s one reason Medford draws home buyers priced out of neighboring Somerville or Arlington — but hardly the only one. “I just love living here, and the people,” says Giudice, whose parents owned the DePasquale Brothers Italian restaurant on Main Street for 68 years (now Bocelli’s Ristorante). Tufts University has gotten more involved with the community in recent years, Giudice says. “It’s great to live in a town where there’s a college,” she says, noting that Tufts brings plenty of perks to the community, including a laboratory preschool to second-grade program both she and her daughter used. Giudice plans to sell her house soon and downsize to a condo, but she hopes to stay in Medford.
> More hot spots for single-family homes in this price range
> More hot spots for condos in this price range
TOP SPOTS TO LIVE: UNDER $500,000 PRICE POINT
Median Single-Family Price $320,750
Change Since 2012 +73%
Median Condo Price $215,450
Change Since 2012 +64%
Ten miles north of Boston, between the Lynn Woods and a pretty stretch of Atlantic shoreline, Lynn’s once-industrial downtown is in the midst of a renewal. “I’ve been in Lynn only about six years now, but I’ve really grown to love quite a few aspects of it,” says Nathaniel Chio, a history professor at North Shore Community College. Unlike the “typical Colonial grandeur stuff you get in Boston,” he says, Lynn’s “industrial past, connection to Frederick Douglass, and more recent immigrant history make it a fascinating place to live.” Chio enjoys the new restaurants that have put Lynn on the map for foodies, but worries about gentrification and how it’ll change the makeup of the city.
Median Single-Family Price $252,000
Change Since 2012 +80%
Median Condo Price $144,000
Change Since 2012 +162%
This former mill city straddling the Merrimack River is “a resurgent city,” says Juan Bonilla, deputy director of the nonprofit Lawrence CommunityWorks. “It is not the Lawrence of the late ‘80s and ‘90s.” He points to a renewed spirit of civic engagement and investment in the community. Prices have leapt upward despite a school district that’s been in state receivership since 2011, and ongoing issues with drug-related crime. But it’s one of the very few places in the Boston area where you can find a house for around $250,000, along with easy access to I-495, I-93, and the commuter rail.
Median Single-Family Sales Price $265,000
Change Since 2012 +77%
Median Condo Sales Price $136,000
Change Since 2012 +94%
Brockton has a reputation for toughness, and not just for its famous boxing champions. But residents here take immense pride in their diverse city, says realtor Deb Aufiero. “The proximity to both Boston and Providence makes it an attractive place to purchase a home, as well as the affordability,” says Aufiero. Commuter rail and Route 24 offer access to Boston, but there’s plenty to do right here, from fairs and arts festivals to Brockton Rox baseball to the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed D.W. Field Park. Brockton’s schools have performed surprisingly well since a heralded turnaround a decade ago, though painful budget cuts in recent years could threaten what had been a success story.
> More hot spots for single-family homes in this price range
> More hot spots for condos in this price range
GET ’EM WHILE YOU CAN
Houses and condos in these communities spent the fewest average days on the market in 2017. (Figures based on communities with minimum 75 single-family house sales or 50 condominium sales.)
Single-Family — 23
Condo — 19
Single-Family — 25
Condo — 25
Single-Family — 26
Condo — 29
Single-Family — 27
Condo — 36
Single-Family — 27
Condo — 23
Single-Family — 41
Condo — 23
Single-Family — N/A
Condo — 23
Sources: Massachusetts Association of Realtors and MLS Property Information Network Inc.
PICKING UP STEAM
These are the Greater Boston locales that saw the biggest appreciation in median single-family home prices in 2017. (Figures based on communities with a minimum of 75 single-family homes sold in 2016 and 2017.)
1. Rockport 21.46%
2. Kingston 19.19%
3. Malden 16.73%
4. South Boston 16.18%
5. Rockland 15.16%
6. Dorchester 14.73%
7. Brookline 14.20%
8. Medford 14.15%
9. Georgetown 14.10%
10. Everett 14.08%
Source: The Warren Group
The issue of climate change and its effects on the Alewife neighborhood are not new concerns, but city officials stressed at Monday’s City Council meeting that if funds and planning aren’t put into place, flooding could get much more serious in the area.
John Bolduc, the city’s environmental planner, presented a draft of Cambridge’s Alewife Preparedness Plan, outlining the city’s short, medium and long-term plans to address the impacts of climate change in Alewife in the coming years. The plan is the result of a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment the city previously conducted, which sought to identify Cambridge’s key physical and social vulnerabilities, according to the city’s website.
According to the plan, the number of days in which the temperature is 90 degrees or higher could triple by 2030, and the intensity of storms will increase dramatically in the coming decades causing parts of Alewife to be more susceptible to flooding.
“Cambridge already experiences precipitation-driven flooding in places along Alewife Brook, and in the Port neighborhood,” Bolduc said. “So if no action is taken, this kind of flooding will become more extensive, deep and more frequent.”
He also noted that if nothing is done, the Amelia Earhart Dam, located behind Cambridge in the Mystic River, could be compromised around 2045 and Charles River Dam would also be at risk.
“The dams act as barriers to storm surges,” Bolduc said. “They stop water from coming up the rivers from the harbor, but as the oceans rise, the dams will eventually be compromised.”
The plan outlines strategies to mitigate the impact including creating a neighborhood resilience hub at the Russell Apartments on Massachusetts Avenue, a cooling center at the DCR McCrehan Memorial Swimming Pool on Rindge Avenue, an enhanced resiliency social network at the Peabody School also on Rindge Avenue and improved stormwater management.
‘Trying to plan for a moving target’
The plan suggests people protect their homes by using flood-resistant materials, building exterior flood walls, installing backwater valves, and elevating and relocating utilities.
“The basic challenge that we have for planning is that the Cambridge we have today is built for conditions of the past,” Bolduc said.
Another challenge, Bolduc said, is that it can be tough to plan for future weather conditions.
“The science is very firm that climate change is occurring and will continue for a long time,” Bolduc said. “However, there is a lot of uncertainty about how much change we will experience and the timing of those changes.”
“So that makes planning complicated,” Bolduc said. “We’re basically trying to plan for a moving target.”
Of course, building infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change will cost money, which Councilor Craig Kelley said the city will have to plan for.
“At some point, I hate to say it, Louie, but I think it’s going to be a really big budget item just to do the procedural planning, much less any of the actual stuff on the ground,” Kelley said to City Manager Louis DePasquale.
Cambridge ‘ahead of most cities’
Despite the uncertain future, DePasquale said he is proud of how seriously the city has already taken climate change, and that he believes Cambridge is better prepared than most local communities.
“We are ahead of most cities and towns,” DePasquale said. “I think it’s safe to say we take this climate change [threat] very seriously.”
He added that Cambridge has an advantage over other communities because the city has “the funds to move ahead of this.”
He also stressed that the preparedness plan was laying out the worst-case scenarios the city may face.
“This is what happens if you take no actions,” DePasquale said. “A city like us, fortunately, with the team we have around John [Bolduc], we can take actions and we are taking actions.”
155 Harvey St, Cambridge, MA 02140
155 Harvey St, Cambridge, MA 02140
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image via lucro
In real estate, every deal is a creature of its own.
The value of two seemingly similar buildings can fluctuate based on occupancy, maintenance upkeep and financial history, as well as the cost of funding the deal. To protect themselves against making less-than-savvy investments, real estate companies hire consultants to crunch the numbers for each deal by hand.
Lucro, a Chicago real estate technology company founded by one of those consultants, wants them to rely on artificial intelligence instead.
“I helped my clients deploy over $2 billion in debt and equity across 10 different countries, all working in Excel,” said founder and CEO Brian Axline. “The technologist in me felt like that was a crazy system. I spent half my time fixing errors caused by others while collaborating. The other half, I spent defending the models we had built. It slowed down every single deal.”
After researching more efficient tools to use for his job and realizing there were none, Axline, who has a background in mathematics and finance, decided to teach himself to code and build a prototype on his own.
Lucro uses machine learning to process and analyze a building’s financials and operating history, in turn using that information to generate financial models. Its algorithms also double check financials for inconsistencies, miscategorizations and anything else out of the ordinary — for instance, if an accounting error or major one-time expense might have skewed the numbers.
From there, users can share models with potential partners, who can make tweaks based on factors like financing, deal structure and improvements that can make a building more attractive to renters.
This analysis, said Axline, is usually done by hand, line by line, placing a limit on the number of deals a company can consider in any given time period.
The upshot is that Lucro lets real estate developers close deals faster without skimping on due diligence. As the platform is exposed to more data about past and prospective deals, it can also become more sophisticated in its predictions.
One of Lucro’s biggest differentiators, said Axline, is its ability to adjust financial models based on nuances in deal structures. Doing so without overwhelming less sophisticated users, he said, has been one of his team’s biggest challenges.
“There’s a wide variety of financial sophistication in the real estate world,” said Axline. “Some people just want to do back-of-the envelope calculations, and you have to get the complexity out of their way. But some users have Wall Street experience and want every single option available.”
Founded in 2015, Lucro currently has a team of eight full-time employees, primarily engineers. The startup is headquartered in Chicago, where its engineering team sits, with a small data team in Cambridge, MA.
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“The Willoughby Chronicles” book reading and signing: March 8 on the Lesley University Porter Campus, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. For information: http://willoughbychronicles.com. Written by Ted Page. The book is a collection of true family stories that chronicle my sometimes bizarre family life during the 1960s and ’70s, complete with the digging of a real-life Hobbit Hole, being left at the circus and a finale involving Page’s father and the first civilian air travel disaster in U.S. history. Two of the stories were originally published in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and Boston magazine.
Chamber in the A.M.: 8 to 9:30 a.m. March 8 at the AC Hotel by Marriott Boston Cambridge, 10 Acorn Park Drive, Cambridge. The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce will host “Chamber in the A.M.” a networking event series designed to help attendees make connections before the work day begins. Participants are encouraged to bring their business cards. Light breakfast and coffee will be served.
Move It or Lose It — Eating to Keep Your Body Strong: 11 a.m. to noon March 8 at Cambridge Public Library Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway. To register: 617-864-1715; http://cambridgeneighbors.org. Roger Fielding, a researcher on the condition of muscle loss known as sarcopenia, will discuss tips to build muscle strength through exercise and the right mix of protein and other food sources. This lecture is part of the nutrition and healthy aging series hosted by Cambridge Neighbors and Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. Free.
authors@mit: Daniel Jackson discusses Portraits of Resilience: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 8, The MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Daniel Jackson, photographer and professor of computer science at MIT, will discuss and sign copies of “Portraits of Resilience.” This event is free to attend, and copies of the book will be available at a 20 percent discount.
Friday, March 9
Seasonal Walkabout at Lusitania Wet meadow: 11 a.m. to noon March 9 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. To register: 508-562-7605; jrogers@cambridgeMA.gov. Ranger Jean will lead a seasonal walkabout where guests will monitor wildlife by sign, track or presence and make note of weather, state of plants, condition of water and other abiotic resources. Guests are encouraged to dress to be outdoors for the hour. All knowledge levels welcome. Heavy rain postpones to the following Friday.
Music of Reality “Tears and Floods” concert: 7 p.m. March 9 at Killian Hall at MIT, 474-160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge. For information: http://musicofreality.com. The Music of Reality concert series brings musicians and scientists/researchers together. The concert will explore the “Venice problem” of rising seas and crumbling infrastructure and how it connects to global concerns. An informal Q&A will be held after the event at the Muddy Charles Pub. Tickets start at $10 online and $15 at the door.
Saturday, March 10
Cambridge Winter Farmers Market: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 10, at the Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, 5 Callender St. The Cambridge Winter Farmers Market will include over two dozen vendors each week across the full range of foods, including produce, meat, fish, dairy products, bakery goods, hot and cold drinks and prepared foods including ready-to-eat breakfast and lunch options. Customers can sit and eat, take in the live music performances on the market stage and participate in family-oriented events each week. The farmers market welcomes those paying with SNAP credit and will double their buying power up to $15 per customer per market day as well as participate in the newly launched HIP program.
MIT Professional Education — Women in Machine Learning: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 10 at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, 32 Vassar St., Cambridge. For information: http://bit.ly/2BoBOOp. This is a one-day course with professor Regina Barzilay, produced in concert with the MIT Women’s unConference. Payment of the $500 course fee grants registrants a promotional code for 50 percent off the Women’s unConference. The conference includes opening and closing keynotes, receptions and Saturday morning lightning talks.
Tree ID — Bark, Buds and Shape: 1 to 3 p.m. March 10 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. To register: 508-562-7605; email jrogers@cambridgeMA.gov. Guests can fine-tune their tree identification skills. Attendees are encouraged to dress to be outdoors and bring a own hand-lens. All knowledge levels welcome.
Ladylike! The Female Dominated Comedy Show: 11 to 11:55 p.m. March 10 at ImprovBoston Main Theater, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge. For information: http://facebook.com/ladylikecomedy.
Hosted by Caitlin Arcand, the program will feature Katie Arroyo, Kathryn Gironimi, Caitlin Reese, Christa Weiss, Denise Morin and Sami Anderson.
Sunday, March 11
Animal Detectives — Raccoons: 11 a.m. to noon March 11 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. To register: tpuopolo@cambridgeMA.gov. Guests can see what it takes to be a raccoon and explore what they do and how they act. This family program is best suited for kids between 4-12. Accompanying adult must be present. Service dogs only. Attendees should appropriately as this is an outdoor program.
Shortfish — Iceland’s Premier Short Film Festival: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 11 at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge. For information: http://bit.ly/toiBOS18. The screening will feature six short films from the 2017 Shortfish competition, the short film division of Iceland’s film festival, Stockfish. The program will run approximately 90 minutes. There are no age restrictions on these films, however, they are not recommended for children. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. and the program starts at 1 p.m. Admission is free and will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Coro Allegro — We Will Rise: 3 p.m. March 11 in Sever Hall 102 at Harvard University, Cambridge. For information: http://coroallegro.org/season/we-will-rise. Coro Allegro and artistic director David Hodgkins will present “We Will Rise,” featuring the world premiere of “Rage Against the tyrant(s)” by Syrian American composer and Sharon resident, Kareem Roustom. Tickets cost $65-$15.
Irasel Folkdance Festival: 3 p.m. March 11 at Kresge Auditorium, MIT, 48 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. For tickets: http://bostonfestival.org. The event will feature hundreds of Israeli folk dancers. Alla Shimron is the 2018 Festival Honoree of the Year. Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. Rush tickets are $5 for college students with identification on the day of the festival. Group discounts are available in advance.
A Conversation with Engaging Minds: 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 13 at Cambridge Friends School, 5 Cadbury Road. Suggested donation is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. To register: http://cfsmass.org/seminarseries. Join Dan Levine and Melissa Wilson, of Engaging Minds, will lead an exploration of strategies for reducing academic stress and strengthening executive functioning skills at home.
Wednesday, March 14
Affordable Housing Information Sessions: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 14 at the O’Connell Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, 48 Sixth St., Cambridge. Attendees will learn about the city of Cambridge’s affordable rental and homeownership programs. No advance registration required.
Free Fit + Fabulous Fitness Series: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 14 at CambridgeSide, 100 Cambridgeside Place. To register: http://cambridgeside.com. For the series, fitness experts will hold free classes for yoga, Zumba, pound, boot camps and more. The March 14 class will feature Fierce Fitness by Jess.
Thursday, March 15
Evacuation Day Lecture: 6:30 p.m. March 15 in the Longfellow House at Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, 105 Brattle St., Cambridge. To register: 617-876-4491; email@example.com. For the annual celebration of Boston’s Evacuation Day, historian J. L. Bell will present “Myths and Realities of Henry Knox’s Mission.” J. L. Bell is the author of “The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War.” Attendance is free. Space is limited.
Assistance: 7:30 p.m. March 15-16 at in the Loeb Drama Center at American Repertory Theater, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge. For tickets: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/assistance. The program is written by Leslye Headland, directed by Scott Zigler and features graduate acting students from the A.R.T. Institute Class of 2018. Cost is $20.
Saturday, March 17
Welcome Spring Bird Walk: 9 to 11 a.m. March 17 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. To register: firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants will see a variety of migrating waterfowl on the ponds, as well as songbirds in trees. Beginners are welcome. Binoculars will be available to borrow.
Bay State Skating School Learn-To-Skate Lessons: 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. March 17, Simoni Ice Rink, 155 Gore St., Cambridge. For information or registration: http://baystateskatingschool.org ; 781-890-8480. Professional instructors will teach recreational, figure and hockey skating skills to the beginner, intermediate and advanced skaters. Students can wear either figure, recreational or hockey skates.
authors@mit: Stephanie Burt and Lynn Melnick Poetry Reading: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 17, The MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Poets Stephanie Burt and Lynn Melnick will lead a reading and discussion of their recently published poetry, “Advice From the Lights” and “Landscape With Sex and Violence.”.
Sunday, March 18
Got to be Real — dance fundraiser to support disadvantaged LGBTQ youth: 10 a.m. to noon March 18 at the Dance Complex, 536 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. For information: https://danceforlgbtq.ezevent.com. Proceeds will go to the Waltham House at the Home for Little Wanderers. Tickets are limited. This class is designed for dancers of all levels as a way to raise money for struggling and disadvantaged LGBTQ youth. No previous dance experience is required. Guests are encouraged to bring dancing shoes. Cost is $40.
World Water Day — World Water Treatment: 1 to 3 p.m. March 18 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. To register: tpuopolo@cambridgeMA.gov. In honor of World Water Day, guests will look at how water is stored, treated and used in five of the sister cities across the planet. In this indoor program, participants will perform a water test kit activity provided by the World Water Day organizers, learn about sister cities and finish with a brief tour of thr water purification facility.
Monday, March 19
Weekly Walk for Health: 10 to 11 a.m. March 19 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. For information: email@example.com. The group will walk the 2.25-mile perimeter of the pond. Participants will meet other park goers, get some exercise and notice what’s happening on the Reservation. All ages and abilities are welcome.
Ancient Egypt in Africa — New Excavations at the Island Fortress of Uronarti: 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 19 at Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge. For information: https://semiticmuseum.fas.harvard.edu/Ancient-Egypt-in-Africa. In this free and public lecture presented by the Harvard Semitic Museum with support from the Marcella Tilles Memorial Fund, Laurel Bestock, associate professor of archaeology and the ancient world, Egyptology and Assyriology, and the history of art and architecture at Brown University, will highlight recent archaeological finds at the site and discuss the intercultural encounters and lifestyles in this Egyptian colonial outpost. Free.
Tuesday, March 20
Persian New Year Celebration: 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 20 in Biolabs at Harvard University, Cambridge. For information: https://semiticmuseum.fas.harvard.edu/event/persian-new-year-celebration. Guests will celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year and the beginning of spring, with poetry, music, traditional sweets and an exploration of the traditional haft seen table. Free.
Media Girls: 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 20 at Cambridge Friends School, 5 Cadbury Road, Cambridge. For information or to register: http://cfsmass.org/seminarseries. In MEDIAGIRL’s 60-90-minute workshop, founder and executive director Michelle Cove will share a new road map with strategies to help parents and educators understand kids’ use of social media and guide girls in making social media fun, healthy and empowering. Suggested donation is $20 in advance; $25 at the door.
Wednesday, March 21
Fresh Air Walk — The Signs of Spring: noon to 1 p.m. March 21 at Fresh Pond Reservation, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. For information: tpuopolo@cambridgeMA.gov. Ranger Tim will lead a walk that encompasses Fresh Pond and takes an informal look at each month in nature. In honor of the vernal equinox, the program will address how to observe the signs of spring with all five senses on the way around the pond. Rain or shine.
Free Fit + Fabulous Fitness Series: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 21 at CambridgeSide, 100 Cambridgeside Place. To register: http://cambridgeside.com. For the series, fitness experts will hold free classes for yoga, Zumba, pound, boot camps and more. The March 21 class will feature Fierce Fitness by Jess.
authors@mit — Christopher J. Preston discusses The Synthetic Age: 6 to 7 p.m. March 21 at the MIT Press Bookstore, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Christopher J. Preston will discuss and sign copies of “The Synthetic Age.” Books will be on sale at the event for 20 percent off, and event tickets will be available that include discounted books.
Thursday, March 22
Chamber After Hours at Summer Shack: 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 22 at Summer Shack, 149 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge. Guests can grow their networking circle and develop new business relationships. Attendees should bring business cards.
Cambridge Winter Farmers Market: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at Cambridge Winter Farmers Market, 5 Callender St., Cambridge. The Cambridge Winter Farmers Market will include over two dozen vendors each week across the full range of foods including produce, meat, fish, dairy products, bakery goods, hot and cold drinks and prepared foods including ready-to-eat breakfast and lunch options. Customers can sit and eat, take in the live music performances on the market stage and participate in family-oriented events each week. The farmer’s market welcome those paying with SNAP credit and will double their buying power up to $15 per customer per market day as well as participate in the newly launched HIP program.
Bay State Skating School Learn-To-Skate Lessons: 2 to 2:50 p.m. Saturdays at Simoni Ice Rink, 155 Gore St., Cambridge. For information or registration: http://baystateskatingschool.org; 781-890-8480. Professional instructors will teach recreational, figure and hockey skating skills to the beginner, intermediate and advanced skaters. Students can wear either figure, recreational or hockey skates.
Microbial Life — A Universe at the Edge of Sight: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge. For information: http://hmnh.harvard.edu/news/microbial-life-universe-edge-sight. Taking museum visitors through a multi-sensory journey into this realm, the Microbial Life odyssey provides an opportunity to experience the wonders of microbial activity and bacterial forms. From a full-scale model kitchen to captivating models from the Harvard Medical School, visitors can delve into the realm of microbes: Earth’s first inhabitants. Cost is $8-$12. Exhibit of Haitian Art by Renold Laurent: daily at the Cambridge Homes, 360 Mount Auburn St. As part of the January “Grab Your Passport! Destination: Haiti” program, The Cambridge Homes will host the works of Haitian artist Renold Laurent. Free. For information: http://thecambridgehomes.org.
“From Stone to Silicone: Recasting Mesopotamian Monuments”: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays-Fridays at the William James Hall Coffeehouse, 33 Kirkland St., Cambridge. Free. For information: http://semiticmuseum.fas.harvard.edu/stone-silicone. The Harvard Semitic Museum is reimagining its grand third-floor atrium gallery, featuring the arts of ancient Mesopotamia. This first installment showcases newly fabricated casts from the ancient scenes that once adorned Mesopotamian palace walls.
Mental health social club meeting: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays at the Mount Auburn Hospital Walk-in Center, 45 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge. For information: 617-417-8736. The meetings offer coffee and conversation, a chance to socialize, meet new friends, peer counseling and support.
Overeaters Anonymous: 9:30 to 10 a.m. each Saturday at Spaulding Hospital, conference room No. 2, 1575 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 10 to 11 a.m. each Saturday at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St.; and 1 to 2 p.m. each Tuesday at Christ Church, Zero Garden St., Cambridge. For information: 781-641-2303. Meetings for those who struggle with overeating.
Figure drawing: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at the Kathryn Schultz Gallery, 25 Lowell St., Cambridge. This is a nude figure drawing session, with both short and long poses. There is no instructor present. Drop-in fees are $20 per session.
Passim School of Music lessons: various times and dates at the Passim School of Music, 26 Church St., Suite 300, Cambridge. Free. For information and registration: 617-492-5300; http://passim.org. The Passim School of Music is offering a variety of singing and instrument lessons. Programs include private voice lessons, banjo lessons, guitar lessons, harmonica lessons, fiddle lessons, music writing lessons and more. Each class varies in length, but is generally five to six sessions with varying costs.
Intro to Improv: 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays, ImprovBoston Main Theater, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge. One of ImprovBoston’s top instructors takes participants of every stripe through the basics of improv in a hands-on workshop. Food Truck Lunch on Erie: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on the Corner of Erie and Sidney streets, Cambridge. Food truck lunches. Gourmet sandwiches and fried sides from Compliments Food Truck and family-style Italian from The Pasta Pot.
Free Fencing Class: 10 to 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday at Olympia Fencing Center, 127 Smith Place, Cambridge. Olympic fencing class. Free. Co-ed and open to all ages.
Cambridge African-American Heritage Alliance: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at YWCA Cambridge, 7 Temple St. For information: 617-491-5529; 617-669-6263. Volunteer graphic artists, actors, costume designers, website builders, script writers, videographers, historians and many more volunteers are sought. Learn about the Cambridge African-American Heritage Trail and other interesting Cambridge history.
MassHousing recently provided $13.9 million in financing to an affiliate of the Cambridge Housing Authority to launch an extensive renovation of the Russell Apartments, a 52-unit affordable housing community serving low-income senior citizens and disabled residents.
The transaction will also enable the Cambridge Housing Authority to extend affordability at the property for at least 30 years.
MassHousing is supporting the rehabilitation of the Russell Apartments through the Agency’s Conduit Loan Program. MassHousing will issue tax-exempt housing revenue bonds for public purchase and the proceeds will be used for construction purposes, in partnership with Wells Fargo Bank. The MassHousing conduit loan generated $8.2 million in equity financing for the project, through federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Project financing also includes a $6.4 million sponsor loan and a $6.3 million seller note.
“MassHousing is pleased to partner with the Cambridge Housing Authority, to help finance the significant improvements at the Russell Apartments through our Conduit Loan Program,” said MassHousing Acting Executive Director Tom Lyons. “This important modernization and preservation project will ensure the property remains affordable for its residents long into the future.”
The Russell Apartments are contained in a four-to-six story, midrise building at 2050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. As part of the transaction, the Cambridge Housing Authority will convert 51 existing one-bedroom, public housing units, to a project-based federal Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Contract. The Russell Apartments modernization project will also add a new apartment, bringing the unit total to 52 under the HAP contract.
“Cambridge Housing Authority welcomes the opportunity to partner with MassHousing on the renovation of Russell Apartments,” said Michael Johnston, CHA’s executive director. “The ability to make the type of reinvestment in the property afforded by the tax-exempt bond financing and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits is critical to our efforts to protect and preserve affordable housing units in Cambridge. We look forward to working again with MassHousing as we procced with plans to renovate 1,250 additional affordable units.”
Of the 52 units at Russell Apartments, five are for households earning at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income, 42 units are for households earning at or below 60 percent AMI and five units are for households earning at or below 80 percent AMI. The area median income for Cambridge is $103,400. As a result of the transaction, the 52 units will remain affordable for at least 30 years.
The Cambridge Housing Authority plans to construct new kitchens and bathrooms in all units, while upgrading common areas, HVAC and fire protection systems, undertaking elevator replacement and making siding and structural repairs.
MassHousing has financed or administers the rental subsidy for 14 rental housing communities in Cambridge involving 2,051 housing units and an original total loan amount of $137.1 million. MassHousing has additionally provided $68.5 million in financing to 550 Cambridge homebuyers or homeowners who refinanced their property.