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      Blog :: 08-2012

      What to expect this Labor Day weekend

      It's that time of the year again when movers, as well as new tenants, flood the streets of Boston in the hopes of smoothly settling in into their new-found homes. Rental listing site RentJuice.com reports that 88.5% of apartments have been leased out in the Metro Boston area, with move in dates scheduled between September 1st until the 3rd. That surely surpasses any one-weekend move in schedule of any city in the United States. What does that mean for us, Bostonians? Congestion. Lots of it.

      That's why regardless of whether you're moving in, or just hanging around for Labor Day weekend, we've come up with a forecast of what to expect this long weekend, so as not to dampen your cool.

      Unlike last year's move-in weekend, there should be no delays in the arrivals of rentals trucks. To refresh your memory, August 31 and September 1st were preceeded by Tropical Storm Irene, which caused many delays in the move-in process. This year however, skies will be clear all weekend long, so there's no reason to be honking those horns in hurry.

      For those moving to- and residing in the Fenway/Kenmore area, rejoice; the Red Sox will be playing out of town, so there should be ample parking spaces and less-crowded streets, unlike last year's, as the Sox played the Yankees the same days leading up to move-in weekend.

      With these two events (although they seem to be small ones) being out of the way, move-in weekend should be a bit smoother. However, for those of you who are still wary of this weekend, here are guides to the city's traffic flow, as well as the T's Labor Day schedule.

      Boston's Neighborhoods at a Glance

      Whether you're the type to go out for a late dinner and dancing or head to a low key bar for some live music and a local beer, one if not many of Boston's numerous neighborhoods will surely make make you feel at home and welcome you with open arms. For those of you new to Boston, here's a helpful guide we've come up with that outlines the vibes of some of Boston's different neighborhoods. Check out boston.com's neighborhood quiz to see which part of Boston you might find most appealing.

      Allston

      If you enjoy dive bars, college house parties and cheap eats, then the tight-knit collective of Allston is the place for you. A melting pot of students trying to find themselves, you'll encounter musicians, artists and a bit of "preppy" Boston College students.

      Back Bay

       

      Back Bay

      Back Bay is home to some of the most gorgeous Victorian brownstone homes in the city as well as and hundreds of popular cafes, restaurants and boutiques. The area also contains two of Boston's tallest and most iconic buildings: the Prudential Center and the John Hancock Tower. Home of such Boston landmarks as the Public Garden, the Copley Plaza and Park Plaza hotels, the Public Library and Boston's Public Garden, it is the best area to spend a day off of work strolling through.

      Beacon Hill

      Across the Common and Gardens from Boston's Theater District lies one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city, Beacon Hill. Over 10,000 people call its narrow streets and brick row-houses home. The Beacon Hill Civic Association represents the residents while working to protect the historic residential character of the hill and gas lights and all.

      Brookline

      Lying just outside of Boston, the town of Brookline has a much more quaint and suburban feel to it. Don't let its timeless Victorian

      Back Bay

      architecture, playgrounds and public parks fool you though, the area offers a whole slew of great restaurants, bars shops and even a few clubs.

      Davis Square

      This bustling neighborhood is located just minutes away from Tufts University in the town of Somerville. With many bars and restaurants scattered throughout the square, this is a favorite hangout for Tufts students and locals alike. While still having much to do, Davis Square still has the suburban low-key feel of outer Boston.

      Downtown (Theater District, Leather District, Chinatown)

      This cluster of neighborhoods is home many of Boston's hot restaurants, retail spots, nightclubs and theaters. Bordering the Boston Common, the area boasts many options in regards to entertainment during the day as well as at night.

      Fenway

      Fenway is most famous for the historic home of the Boston's baseball team the Red Sox. The area is full of restaurants, bars and concert venues such as The House of Blues as well as residents.

      Back Bay

      Fort Point

      Located on Boston's waterfront, Fort Point is perhaps one of the trendiest up-and-coming neighborhoods of the city. Full of industrial buildings and abandoned warehouses with gorgeous views of the city, these spaces are being transformed into condos, lofts, offices, museums, galleries and restaurants.

      North End

      One of Boston's most iconic neighborhoods, the North End is home to many Boston landmarks such as Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church. Comparable to New York City's Little Italy, the North End is the place to go for delicious Italian food and seafood.

      South End

      Located in the south of the Back Bay, the South End's mix of commercial and residential properties provide different looks and vibes street by street. The neighborhood is home to more more public playgrounds per square foot than any other neighborhood in Boston. Some of the most tastiest and fashionable restaurants in Boston at the moment line Tremont street in the South End.

       

      Revamping Downtown Crossing

      If you have taken a stroll through Boston's Downtown Crossing neighborhood recently, you've surely seen all the on going

      Times Square Amphitheater

      constructions. Prime developer Millennium Partners, have even more plans for the heart of downtown Boston. They are the firm behind the soon-to-be $620 million Millennium Tower at the corner of Washington and Avery. Currently, Millennium Partners own the property where the Ritz Carlton hotel and Residences sit, as well as the neighboring site behind it. Owning various landmark properties around the Boston area, Millennium Partners has a deep and substantial relationship with the Downtown Crossing neighborhood.

      While Downtown Crossing is known to be an area that during daylight may quite possibly be the busiest neighborhood of the city, it is far by comparison come nightfall.  Numerous projects are in the works to

      Times Square Amphitheater

      address that problem, and hopefully revamp Downtown Crossing over the next decade or so, permanently transforming the neighborhood's bustle post-sunset.

      Alongside the Millennium Tower, another Downtown Crossing innovation also in its inception stage is a planned amphitheater. This addition will transform the wedge-shaped plaza at the corner of Washington and Franklin streets currently known as Shopper's Park. Shopper's Park will soon offer Bostonians and tourists alike a small amphitheater where passerby can relax or enjoy street performance similar to the one popular in Manhattan's Times

      Square. The amphitheater will compliment Millennium Partners monumental project of renovating the Burnham Building, Filene's historic home for retail and office use as well

      Times Square Amphitheater

      as the 54-story skyscraper containing 600 residential units.

      The makeover of the entranceway on top of the Orange Line's Downtown Crossing

      station, is part of Millennium Partners' vision to revive the decrepit Filene's block downtown. The plans have sparked enthusiastic buzz among city officials and neighboring business owners alike, as T spokesman Joe Pesaturo was quoted as saying, "the MBTA welcomes any ideas that are designed to promote and encourage the use of public transportation". Responsible for designing the upgraded Shopper's Park is Boston Architect and Harvard School of Design Assistant Professor, Eric Howeler. While architectural plans of the structure have yet to be released, we're sure the amphitheater will prove to bring new life to Boston's Downtown Crossing area, transforming and restoring it to its former glory.

      Plans for potential expansions of Patriot Place

      If you've ever ridden down Route 1 to Gillette Stadium, you've surely spotted Patriot Place. Already home to a Showcase Cinema, retail stores and various restaurants, The Kraft Group is pitching to expand the shopping complex, only months after their plans to build a billion-dollar Foxboro gambling resort in conjunction with casino king Steve Wynn fell through.

      The location is more suited to host an entertainment center for 21- to 50-year-olds opened in 2007. While the $350 million Patriot Place already offers patrons 1.3-million square feet of dining, shopping, and entertainment, the Kraft Group plans to further expand Patriot Place as a premier entertainment destination.

      Piggybacking off the center's current success with regard to the food and beverage and entertainment venues, the Kraft group and owner of the New England Patriots has asked for eight additional liquor licenses; the expansion is rumored to bring a bowling alley, a high-end Mexican restaurant, a Japanese hibachi steakhouse and a hotel along by Gillette Stadium along Route 1. "The new businesses would mostly be housed within the existing footprint of Patriot Place, or in a minor expansion of it," said Ted Fire, Kraft Group's vice president of construction and development.

      If approved, the new construction will not only serve to foster even more urbanization of the area, but will also create a multitude of new job opportunities for the surrounding community.

      A few ideas on how to make the most out of a small kitchen

      While a lot of people are gearing up for what is considered Boston's biggest move in day, September 1st, many tenants prefer to not deal with the hustle and bustle of moving again and have opted to resign their lease. For these people who've already invested a lot into making last year's apartment homey,we have some tips to liven up your living spaces - particularly, your kitchen since experts say the kitchen is the heart of the home. That being said, most city apartments are not exactly spacious and welcoming; here are a few ideas that if implemented can help you can make the most out of a small kitchen.

      Repaint. Light-colored cabinets will help your small kitchen appear larger. Placing mirrors above or in between cabinets and counters will not only help visibility whilst chopping those onions, but also give the room a more spacious feel.

      Lighten it up.If you're not one of the lucky few whose kitchen walls are made up of windows, make sure you keep your kitchen well lit. Installing a cool overhang light fixture on the ceiling or wall will enhance your kitchens décor and ambiance making it more inviting, and conducive to cooking.

      Install frameless cabinets. Chances are your cabinets have a trim that fits around the cabinet's frame and door. Not only does this take away from the functionality of your cabinetry, it also makes walls seem more crammed and cluttered.

      Optimize existing cabinetry. Make sure you are making the most of your existing cabinetry. There are many inserts, as well as pull-outs available to help organize drawers and cabinets whether the space is under the sink or over the countertop or in a hanging cabinet. You can also think about mounting cooking knives on your wall using something like these colorful magnetic knife pods available at www.solutions.com - this not only conserves space, but also can give your kitchen a more homey and clutter-free feel.

      Our favorite restaurants participating in Boston's 21012 summer Restaurant Week

      This Sunday, August 19th, marks the start of Boston's 2012 summer Restaurant Week. Over 200 of Boston's best restaurants will offer 3 Course Dinners for $33.12, 3 Course Lunch for $20.12 and 2 Course Lunch for $15.12 prix fixe menu. While Boston offers an innumerable amount of delicious restaurants, we decided to share some of our favorites that are participating that you definitely do not want to miss out on.

      Sportello

      Toro: Chef-owner Ken Oringer and chef Jamie Bissonnette are responsible for perhaps the best Tapas restaurant in Boston at the moment. Serving modern and traditional tapas ranging from simple grilled corn (their most famous dish) to Ostras En Escabeche, marinated oysters with a truly unique taste, you're sure to return to this South End hotspot. We suggest their Coliflor A La Plancha - you've surely never tasted a cauliflower dish such as this before.

      Sportello: Owned by local celebrity chef Barbara Lynch, Sportello (Italian for "counter") offers a menu full of sophisticated yet comforting pastas, salads soups, and more. Located in up-and-coming Boston's Fort Point district, you could say the restaurant is responsible in part for the area's trendy transformation. For more information on the revamping of South Boston check out our blog.

      No. 9 Park:Neighboring the Boston State House is Barbara Lynch's flagship restaurant, No. 9 Park. Offering a blend of French,

      Sportello

      Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, this hotspot is a must try during restaurant week since normally, its prices are just as high as the caliber and quality of food served. We suggest you try the prune-filled gnocchi, the standout dish No. 9 Park is most famous for.

      Oishii: Serving up quite possibly the best sushi in Boston, Oishii's Chef Ting San combines his creativity and the freshest ingredients to serve up dishes which double as works of art. If you're not too hungry though, you can always taste one of the many wines and sakes offered in their "contemporary Tokyo style lounge".

      Mistral: Since opening its doors in 1997, Mistral has continued to wow the palates of Boston residents and visitors alike. With a menu sporting numerous French classics, and perfectly paired with their spectacular wine selections,  connoisseurs and commoners alike will surely be just as impressed with Mistral.

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        Boston's rental rates spike again in 2012

        Almost anyone looking for a new apartment in Boston this year realized a jump in their rent. The same goes for tenants choosing to stay in their current apartments; most landlords raised their rental rates a significant amount. When taking into account the ever-growing rate of new inhabitants in Boston in comparison to the virtual gridlock of available property to rent around town, this should come as no surprise.

        Boston's Back Bay

        According to Rental Beast, a brokerage that follows the rental market in Boston neighborhoods, the vacancy rate of apartments in Boston has dropped from 3.8 percent to 3.1 percent. In Boston's high-end neighborhoods such as the South End and Back Bay, barely 1 percent of apartments are vacant.

        This past year, anyone renting property in Boston has noticed the exorbitant increase in rent taking place in Boston. Rental prices have skyrocketed, not only for new tenants, but for existing tenants as well. According to Rental Beast, the average monthly rent jumped more than 7 percent to $1,881 in the past year. Currently, the average rental for a two-bedroom apartment in Back Bay is pegged at $2,857 a month, and $1,536 for Jamaica Plain.

        A New York data firm, Reis Inc. ranked the Boston area as the fifth-most-expensive rental market in the country, after San Francisco and New York. Since there is little to no room to house the continuous boom of individuals in the innovation and education industry, the monstrous increase in rental prices is inevitable.

        In response to the plight of the rental market, Boston officials have approved construction of 3,256 apartments so far this year.

        Boston's Back Bay

        These developments are located in the city's central neighborhoods, where rent pressures are at their most extreme (i.e. Fenway, the Seaport District and the Back Bay). City officials have also approved the construction of 1,077 affordable units throughout the city, specifically for low-income tenants, one being the "micro" apartments under construction in The Boston Wharf Tower, as mentioned in last week's blog about the gentrification of South Boston. These "micro" apartments are part of Mayor Thomas M. Menino's initiative to develop more affordable, "worker" housing-units throughout the city providing middle-income tenants searching for a place to live more options.

        Hopefully over the next few years Boston sees a decrease in rental prices, if not, it may begin to see a decrease in perhaps the most distinguishing attribute of the city to date, its intellectual creativity.

        Are you familiar with the differences between condos and co-ops?

        If you're planning on buying an apartment in the near future you may encounter a few run-ins with the terms co-op and condo. Understanding the distinction between the two terms prior to your apartment hunt will help you determine the type of property you are interested in purchasing and in turn, narrow down your search.

        Both types of ownership are associated ownership, something that as a single-family home owner you may be unfamiliar with preceding your upcoming venture. The fundamental difference is the type of ownership. Condominium (or condos for short) are units of real estate owned independently but are part of an association that cares for common area and amenities (i.e. the lobby, courtyard, fitness center, etc.). While each association is allowed to come up with some of its own rules, the majority of condo operation as well as the foundational establishment of the property are governed by state law. Although condos are generally residential properties, the term merely refers to the associational ownership of a property, meaning condos can be commercial as well.

        A co-op is governed similarly to a condo in the sense that an association takes shared responsibility for the piece of real estate. However, unlike a condo, each individual unit is not owned by a sole proprietor but rather the association collectively owns the entire property. Each individual  is granted the right to a "proprietary lease" of a specific unit but owns a share in the association not the property itself.

        Boston's best public pools

        City-living during the summer is hot to say the least. While the summer is slowly coming to a close, the sun in all of its heat is not going anywhere just yet. No summer is complete without at least one relaxing day of poolside laying out. We put together a list of a few pools open to the public, that way you can tick-off "dip in the pool" from your summer checklist.

         

        The Clubs at Charles River Park

        10 Whittier Place

        Boston, MA 02114

        (617) 726-2900

        www.clubsatcrp.com

        The Clubs at Charles River Park

         

        The Clubs at Charles River Park is a full-service health and fitness center that has been around for nearly 50 years. Boasting both heated indoor and outdoor pools, a wading pool, a huge sun deck and 80 newly renovated cabanas; if you're looking for a place to cool of or just lie out and soak up the sun this is the place to go. Open to the public all summer long, their "drop-in" rate is $40 per adult and $20 per child. Just want to take a quick afterwork swim? Stop by after 4p.m and they lower the fee to $10.

         

         

        The Colonnade Hotel

        120 Huntington Avenue

        Boston, MA 02116

        617-424-7000

        http://www.colonnadehotel.com/roof_top_pool/

        The Clubs at Charles River Park

         

        Open to the public Monday through Friday starting the day after Memorial Day until October, The Colonnade Hotel is home to the only rooftop pool open to the public in Boston. A full day at the 11th-story Miamiesque hangout will cost you $50 but come after 3 pm and the fee is cut in half. If you get hungry don't worry about having to change out of your bathing suit as food is available to order from the hotel's on-site snack bar.

         

        Mirabella Pool

        475R Commercial Street

        Boston (North End), MA

        Mirabella Pool 617-635-5235

        http://www.bostoncentral.com/activities/spray/p1944.php

        The Clubs at Charles River Park

         

         

        Located on the edge of the Boston Harbor in the North End, the newly renovated Mirabella Pool, run by the Boston Community Center, is the best deal around town for pool memberships. For just $15 a year, guests can soak up the sun while overlooking the Harbor.

        Things to keep in mind when touring potential new apartments

        Looking for an apartment is definitely something to get excited about. The first important step is to find a real estate consultant that knows the different neighborhoods around town and who has your needs in mind. We at B.I.R.E. are devoted to making your experience exciting and stress free! We offer a personalized and professional service that you can trust. We make sure that your apartment hunting experience and moving process go smoothly. That is why even before you start touring a potential new place, we offer you a list of some helpful tips of things you should look out for.

        - Make sure that all safety features (i.e. smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors) are in place and working in the apartment as well as in hallways and in other common areas.

        - Check out toilets, faucets and pipes under the kitchen cabinets for potential leaks in plumbing.

        - Check the water pressure and water temperature in the unit. Here's an easy test to make sure you won't be surprised by ice cold water mid-shower thanks to your neighbor using up all the hot water. Turn the shower on and leave it running at your ideal temperature for the remainder of the unit tour, when you leave, check if it is still hot- just be sure to shut it off again!

        - Check that the furnace and water heater are rust free. Look for stones or rocks or other debris on the outside of the furnace or heater as the debris or chipping could indicate leaks. If you find a leak tell your real estate agent straight away as the leaks could indicate possible carbon monoxide problems.

        - Make sure that all appliances in the unit are in good working condition. If there is no washer or dryer in the unit see if there is a common laundry area and go ahead and check it out.

        - Look for any evidence of rodents or insects on the floor in visible areas as well as inside cabinets, closets and drawers.

        - Look up at the ceiling for any water damage or discoloration. Also check the walls for peeling paint or wallpaper as well as for walls showing signs of cracking or recent repairs.

        - Make sure all the doors open and close easily and fit well within the doorframe. Also check that they have sturdy hinges. All locks should be sturdy not flimsy. All outside doors should have a deadbolt.

        - To check for electrical shortages make sure you turn on and off all the lighting inside the apartment. You may also want to bring something to test out the electrical outlets to make sure they all function like they are supposed to.

        Be sure to tell your real estate consultant if anything in the apartment is not up to par, that way they can pass the message along to the landlord or management company. If anything in the apartment needs to be replaced or repaired make sure the landlord does this before you move in that way you are not liable for the damages come the end of your lease.