2010 was box office year for Jamaica Plain real estate. There were certainly some ups and downs and working with the banks has been no cake walk – but Jamaica Plain homes have held in there for the long haul. JP has that certain je ne sais quoi that can be found no where else in Boston.

Although the commercial side of Jamaica Plain had some shake ups along Centre and South Streets, and there’s some controversy over the new Whole Foods market scheduled to fill the Hi-Lo space, the east side of the MBTA tracks is still decidedly lacking restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, etc. making those locations somewhat less desirable due to the distance to amenities. However, it look like Jamaica Plain might be inching closer to a balanced commercial and retail base as several large projects move forward.

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Colorful mural on the backside of Hi-Lo Market

Over the last 15 years the “hot spots” in Jamaica Plain real estate have migrated. Obviously there will always be strength in the Pondside, Mosshill and Sumner Hill markets, but there seems to be some real interesting growth in the Brookside neighborhood (more recently referred to as The Brewery District), Parkside, Stony Brook, Jackson and Hyde Squares and of course Woodbourne. It’s exciting. While one always hopes that development is fair and equitable, it’s nice to see what would otherwise be empty lots repurposed.

While I reserve my opinions on some of the proposed and partially completed projects for a later date, some of them I find downright exciting. I happen to live on Amory Street near The Brewery and the new project at Bartlett Square has my eye.

My humble abode

I attended one of the community meetings when the project was in the planning stage and I was immediately impressed with how well Maple Hurst Builders handled the design integration with the surrounding buildings not to mention the complicated traffic and parking issues in the area. I held my breath that the project would pull through and maintain the overall “spirit” that had been proposed at that meeting. It has surpassed all expectations thus far.

I’ve done a lot of traveling throughout the United States, paying special attention to the architecture and infrastructure of various places along the way. It’s something I find very interesting, and to be frank, after visiting some of these places, parts of Boston are underwhelming in terms of development. It seems that often in an attempt to maintain strict planning and zoning rules in an effort to maintain a rigid historic Boston vernacular – the overall city suffers. I yearn for more creativity and variance but it is so rare.

Enters Bartlett Square. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Frank Gehry fantasy (not a fan actually) but rather a very well designed addition to the neighborhood. The project fits nicely with the rows of old brick buildings between Amory and Washington Streets while tipping it’s hat to a more and more eco-conscious, modernist market.

 

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Dynamic, eco-conscious Barlett Square will be the cornerstone of the Brewery District.

I have been a fan of Maple Hurst Builders since I began my real estate career. The workmanship is noticeable, attention to detail is evident and the materials are high quality. The company ethos is apparent and sets them apart from much of the competition. Here’s an excerpt from the Maplehurst website – might as well let them ring their own bell:

Specializing in the redevelopment of under-utilized urban properties, Maple Hurst Builders has earned particular acclaim for the development, design and construction of in-fill projects that enhance their respective Boston neighborhoods by artfully blending classic architecture with contemporary details.

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"Willowbank" on Jamaica Pond built my Maple Hurst Builders

Each residence crafted by Maple Hurst Builders is distinctive, featuring amenities and workmanship typically reserved for custom-built homes.

Respect for the environment has always been an integral element of the design and construction of every project. Green building and sustainable construction are not merely marketing terms at Maple Hurst Builders. Resource and energy conservation, judicious use of materials and permanence of the structure are paramount. Maple Hurst Builders always will strive to deliver properties of unsurpassed value and enduring beauty.

The development at Bartlett Square is pursuing a rigorous eco-conscious design including solar panels that will support hot water and common electric needs, bike storage, a Kone “eco-efficient” elevator, Energy Star appliances, high efficiency heating and cooling and vegetative green roof, etc.

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EcoDisc motor revolutionized the elevator industry through its sustainable, energy-efficient design, and it has helped make KONE a world leader in Machine Room-Less (MRL) elevator technology.

In addition to the 13 condo units (two of which are affordable units per city of Boston guidelines) there will be three desperately needed retail spaces ranging from 775 SF to 1875 SF. I’m swooning at the mere idea of some healthy food options. Personally, I have my eye on a certain live foods restaurant. I suppose what stores go in will have a dramatic effect on the area and help determine the personality of that portion of the neighborhood.

I believe this section of Jamaica Plain has some amazing history and architecture, setting it apart from the more bucolic JP that is west of the MBTA line. The Brewery District and abutting neighborhoods seem to have the potential to be something like Williamsburg in Brooklyn or parts of Portland, OR. I like the grittier feel and the antique brick structures.

Locationally, the project is the bomb. Some of my favorite places in Jamaica Plain are all within walking distance. Just a few doors down from a little bodega and a block from Canto 6 with it’s steamed up windows and ridiculously mouth watering pastries and sandwiches. BMS Paper is Valhalla for party people. One of the best kept secrets in Boston IMO. You can get anything from industrial kitchen supplies to wine glasses for about $.50 each. I’m saving up for the “diner” plates they have. You know, those thick, heavy plain white plates and cups that are so strong they last for 50 years? Next on the list is Axiom Center for New and Experimental Media.

 

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Axiom Center for New and experimental Media

AXIOM is located at the corner of Green and Armory Streets. The gallery is on the ground floor level of the Green Street train stop on the Orange line at 141 Green St. A little about Axiom from their website:

Axiom was founded in 2004 by Heidi Kayser as an artist’s collective who originally exhibited work in a collaborative studio space. From 2005 to 2009, Axiom grew into a non-profit center whose mission is to support and nurture cutting-edge contemporary art practice through exhibitions, events, education and collaboration.

In 2010, Axiom merged with Boston Cyberarts, the organizers of the renowned biennial festival, the Boston Cyberarts Festival.

In 2011, Axiom returns to a collaborative management practice by forming the new Axiom Group, a collective of artists who curate exhibitions and events, provide educational programming, exhibit their own work, and participate in day-to-day operations. We are not currently accepting new members, but we love short term volunteers! If you are interested in volunteering or interning, (up to three college credits available) contact us: info@axiomart.org.

From the gallery at Green Street station, heading north up a gorgeous bike and pedestrian path takes you right by The Brewery complex which is home to some of Jamaica Plain’s favorite businesses. Bella Luna and the Milky Way pump out the best hand made galactic eats this side of the galaxy. You can’t go wrong with a Simple Simon and one of the Sam Adams brew made specially for this establishment. Next door is Ula Cafe, a treasure trove of delectable breakfast yummy treats and creatively combined sandwiches. Everything there seems to be fair trade, consciously sourced, etc. Stop in for an excellent cup a Joe and free Wi-Fi. When you’ve had your fill of some exotic strada or your favorite – the bacon, cheddar and chive scones, and you’re feeling a bit lumpy, you can jog upstairs to the massive Mike’s Fitness. Mike’s is a great gym and you’ll find, like the rest of Jamaica Plain, Mike’s is pretty diverse. Anyone will feel comfortable working out here. My favorite spot is on the recumbant bike or the Cybex elliptical in front of the huge windows overlooking the MBTA tracks and the Southwest Corridor.

As the project proceeds, I’ll keep you informed with more updates. If you have any questions in the meantime don’t hesitate to ask. If you’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth in person, you can speak to the developers at the 1st Annual Jamaica Plain Home Energy Fair, Saturday March 5th, 9:30-1 pm at Bella Luna.