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Does Allston have what it takes to be hip?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis August 10, 2012 10:01 AM

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Allston's living proof that jam packing a neighborhood with rowdy college kids doesn't necessarily make you hip, at least in an upscale, Davis Square kind of way. A bit of a student zoo, sure, but hipsters, at least those with a few bucks in their pocket, have been renting and buying on the Cambridge side of the river.

Not convinced? Here's an enlightening discussion about some of the current rental conditions in the neighborhood that appeared a couple months ago on Universal Hub, with decrepit, student-packed rentals a primary complaint.

But where others might be skeptical, developer Bruce Percelay apparently sees some true hipness potential in Allston, the kind that will prompt young professionals to part with significant money each month.

He's sunk $20 million into the first major new apartment project in the neighborhood in decades, The Element, with more to come. It includes a 2,000-square-foot roof deck built with recycled synthetic grass - where yoga classes are taught - along with a movie theater, a club room and 100 parking spaces with a car wash station.

It's what Percelay, with the blessing of Boston officials, is calling the Allston Green District, seven buildings owned by Percelay's Mount Vernon Company within a two-block area along Commonwealth Avenue, Griggs Street and Brainerd Road.

And he's basing the appeal of his stylish new apartment project on its eco-friendly lifestyle - what could be more hipster than that?

"Every tenant in the district will sign a "Green Tenant Declaration," a pledge to minimize their carbon footprints by reducing energy and water use, increasing recycling, and using bicycles and public transit," according to a press release sent out earlier this summer by Mount Vernon.

So far, it appears to be working - Percelay leased out all 100 apartments in his first building in The Element before it opened in July.

As downtown Boston apartment developers seek $4,000 a month and up rents, Percelay is sticking to a more middle market price range, $1,750 to $2,900 for units ranging from 600 square foot studios to 1,200 square foot two bedrooms.

"A lot of these developers are building $4,000-plus a month two bedrooms - my belief is that some of them are going to get into trouble. We want a two in front of our highest (units) and one in front of the rest."

He's already building a second building across the street, The Edge - and claims another private developer is now scoping out property nearby.

OK, I am definitely no greenster - I've been known to sneak in a few plastic containers and cans into the regular trash to spare myself the arduous trip to the recycling bin. But even I can see the appeal here.

Here's a list of features Percelay's new Green District, ripped straight from the press release.

  • Solar power panels on at least one of the buildings
  • Super-insulated floor-to-ceiling windows designed to maximize natural light
  • A Hubway bicycle rental station and on-site Zipcars
  • Hydration stations in new residential buildings to reduce plastic consumption 
  • Separate HVAC systems and water meters for each unit
  • EnergyStar appliances
  • Public art promoting the environmental theme
  • Rooftop yoga classes
  • Plantings along Brainerd Road.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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