Playing to their peers
Pappas brothers build high-end housing for a captivated audience: young professionals like themselves
By Emily Shartin, Globe Staff | June 22, 2005
By Emily Shartin, Globe Staff | June 22, 2005
Tim Pappas muses on the similarities between making films, a craft he studied at New York University, and building homes, a craft he has learned as part of his family's decades-old real estate business.
The idea, in both cases, is to keep the consumer in mind.
''Who are you telling the story to? Who's the audience?" he asks.
They are questions that have guided Pappas, 31, and his brothers in developing a handful of high-end, design-driven residential projects in South Boston. The Court Square Press Building, across from the Broadway T stop, has been converted into 130 sleek loft-style condominiums, nearly all of which have been sold. Next door, the Macallen Building will incorporate green design principles into 148 condos. And nearby, the First+First development will feature 22 town houses built vertically -- stacking bedrooms on top of living space on top of parking.
Tim Pappas and his brothers, Andrew and Jay, represent the next generation of Pappas Enterprises Inc., a company that traces its history to the early 20th century and is led by their father, James Pappas. The family business, which began with food and beverages, shifted to development in the late 1960s and includes an array of commercial properties.
Today, the young Pappases describe what they do as offering functional, flexible home design to an audience of young professionals a lot like themselves.
''We look at our peers and we look at our friends," says Andrew Pappas, 26, who is overseeing the First+First project. He and his brothers all live in the Court Square Press Building.
One thing they noticed was a tendency for young artists and entrepreneurs to take their work home with them. As such, they wanted to offer space that would accommodate flexible, individual schedules. ''Nine-to-five is a very 20th-century convention," Tim Pappas says.
Tim Love, of the architectural firm Utile Inc., has worked with the Pappases, and says their attention to marketing and consumer lifestyles helps guide the design of the housing, and differentiates it from developments driven solely by financial concerns. And that, he believes, is not lost on homebuyers who are paying attention to things like layout, use of natural light, and flexible spaces. ''By now we've been trained by Martha Stewart and Target and Ikea and J. Crew to be slightly more discerning consumers," Love says.
Jay Russo, deputy director for development review at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said the Pappas projects have played a role in the revitalization efforts around Broadway, the gateway to South Boston.
''Their investment in the South Boston area has sparked other investment," he said.
Pappas Enterprises, however, has had a rocky financial history, weathering bankruptcy, lawsuits, and foreclosure actions. Tim Pappas says the company has been able to reorganize, and describes the past problems as part of the ebb and flow of the real estate business.
James Pappas, as well as his son, Jay, declined to comment for this story. Tim Pappas says his father is involved in the company's developments in Florida, and says it makes sense that his father would let him and his brothers oversee the South Boston projects.
''We build housing that's not for his generation," he says. ''It's for our generation."
Michael Flaherty, president of Boston's City Council and a South Boston resident, describes the Court Square Press project as ''the definition of smart growth" because of its proximity to public transportation, shops, restaurants, the Massachusetts Turnpike, and Interstate 93.
''They've turned it into something positive," Flaherty says of the Pappases. His aim is to encourage residents of the new developments to become involved in Boston's civic life.
Neither Tim nor Andrew Pappas, who studied art history in Paris, initially planned to become involved in the family business, but both say they enjoy their work. Tim Pappas speaks of ''goals in real estate that I haven't even come close to reaching yet," but declines to elaborate.
In the short term, there's a former gas station across the street from the Court Square Press Building that has been converted into a parking lot, and will likely become a combined housing and retail project, Tim Pappas says. There's also a parcel on Morrissey Boulevard near the JFK/UMass MBTA stop that the company is making plans for.
And real estate is not Tim Pappas's only pursuit. He races sports cars, and recently sold a business called Trans Sport LLC that helps racing teams with logistics and shipping. ''A lot of developers play golf," he says. ''I race cars."
Emily Shartin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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