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      Blog :: 11-2014

      Your "Everything Holiday" Event Guide In The City

      PIC3Believe it or not, folks, it's that time of year. Before you know it, bells will be ringing, people will be singing, and you will be behind on holiday shopping.

      One important thing to know as the holiday season approaches is that paying full price is for chumps. Each year, the Mayor's Office and ArtsBoston team up for the Mayor's Holiday Spectacular, so before dishing out the dough, check MayorsHoliday.com first to get half-price tickets to shows, dining discounts, and more.

      As we've always done in the past, here's your "everything holiday" event guide in the city this jolly season! We'll keep updating as more events are scheduled; feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below.


      Commonwealth Avenue Mall Lights Sure, the trees at the Common, Faneuil Hall, and Copley will be completely decked out, but for a quieter, more elegant display of holiday lights, take a stroll through the Comm. Ave. Mall, which is illuminated each year with thousands of sparkling white lights.

      Free, December 1-31, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston.

      Copley Square Tree Lighting Santa and Rudolph will be among the special guests at the Copley Square tree lighting, which also typically features other highlights like music and kids' activities.

      Free, December 2, 5-6 p.m., Copley Square, Boston.

      31 Nights of Light at Prudential Center Each year, the Pru dedicates each day of December to a different organization, lighting up the tower in colors representing that local group. Each night is accompanied with special event with music and speakers, but for casual passersby, just know that the changing beacon represents a different cause each night.

      Free, December 1-31, Prudential Center, Boston.

      Boston Common Tree Lighting This is understandably one of the biggest tree lighting events in town. The mayor, Santa, and other notables will be in attendance. Last year boasted live performances by Joey McIntyre, Blue Man Group, and Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. Plus, don't miss the annual Frog Pond Skating Spectacular, when pros and students from the Skating Club of Boston put on one of their two free shows of the season.

      Free, December 4, 4-8 p.m., Boston Common.

      Old South Church Christmas Craft Fair and Music Day Right in the heart of Boylston, the fair at Old South Church will bring 30 artists from all over New England to display their offerings in all kinds of photography, fine art, jewelry, pottery, and more. The Boston Conservatory's Boylston Brass Concert will take place at 10 a.m., the Christmas Organ concert at noon, then a final tree lighting and caroling will take place at 2 p.m.

      Free, December 6, 9:30 a.m.-3:30p.m., Old South Church, Boston.


      15th Annual Santa Speedo Run No explanation necessary. See photos from last year.

      Free to be there, register online, December 6, 1-1:30 p.m. on Newbury and Boylston Streets between Berkeley and Gloucester.


      While Boston Ballet's production remains the glitziest show of them all, you can experience the classic tale just about anywhere during the holidays.

      $35+, The Nutcracker by Boston BalletNovember 28-December 31, Boston Opera House. $25+, The Nutcracker by Boston Dance CompanyDecember 6 in Andover and December 11 and 12 at the Strand in Dorchester. $15+, The Nutcracker by José Mateo Ballet TheatreNovember 28-December 21, shows in Duxbury, Cambridge, and Dorchester. $25, The Urban Nutcracker by Tony Williams Dance CenterDecember 12-28, Back Bay Events Center, Boston. $27+, The SlutcrackerDecember 5-31, Somerville Theatre.

      Holiday Pops A long-running tradition continues in December when Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops take the Symphony Hall stage to perform all your favorite holiday classics. This year, in additional to the regular show, the Pops will also perform three shows of Home Alone. Or you can ring in the New Year on December 31 with Bo Winiker and the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra.

      $37+, December 3-31, Symphony Hall, Boston.

      Holiday Sing H+H's chorus and children's ensembles--along with a brass quintet--will lead a cheerful sing-a-long featuring all the classics. Yes, you will know all the words.

      $20+, December 13, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Great Hall at Faneuil Hall, Boston.

      Back Bay Ringers' Christmas Memories If the aforementioned tuba concert doesn't sound like your thing, then consider experiencing your favorite Christmas classics performed by on hand bells by the talented Back Bay Ringers.

      $15, five shows December 5-13 in Boston, Danvers, Worcester, Framingham, and Waltham.

      A Christmas Celtic Sojourn at Hanover Theatre Brian O'Donovan will host this evening of world-class Celtic music and dancing presented by WGBH.

      $46+, December 17, 7:30 p.m., Hanover Theatre, Worcester.

      A Bach Christmas at Jordan Hall, December 18-21 Corelli's Christmas Concerto and Bach's Cantata IV from Christmas Oratorio as among the pieces classical music lovers can expect from the Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Back Bay Chorale Music Director Scott Allen Jarrett.

      $22+, December 18 at 7:30 p.m. and December 21 at 3 p.m., Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, Boston.

      Aimee Mann's Christmas Show Mann's holiday variety show returns after going on hiatus for a few years. This year she's back with her partner from The Both Ted Leo, Susanna Hoffs, Jonathan Coulton, and more.

      $35+, December 9, 8 p.m., Wilbur Theatre, Boston.

      Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical Even if you aren't singing out loud, we dare you to resist not mouthing the lyrics by the end. Even as you read this, the words are coming to you. Then one foggy Christmas Eve... Stuck in your head now? Yeah, you're welcome.

      $28+, December 9-14, Citi Shubert Theatre, Boston.

      Irving Berlin's White Christmas: The Musical Based on the 1954 film, White Christmas has all the trimmings--red ball gowns with white fur trim, cheesy Christmas sweaters, and dancing on a tiny piano.

      $35+, December 16-28, Citi Wang Theatre, Boston.


      Cultural Survival Bazaar This one-of-a-kind shopping experience helps guarantee that your gifts won't be the same as everyone's else's. Plus, you'll feel better knowing that you're buying quality accessories, decor, and other items directly from artisans and free-trade vendors. The Bazaar will set up shop in five different venues throughout this season in Cambridge, Watertown, and Boston.

      Free to attend, November 21-December 21, various locations.

      CraftBoston Holiday Expedite your holiday shopping with a trip to CraftBoston Holiday, where some 175 exhibitors will be more than happy to show you their fashion-forward, gift-worthy goods.

      $15, December 5-7, Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

      MassArt Made Holiday This annual holiday sale features unique, handmade artwork made by the talented MassArt students and alumni. You'll find everything from paintings, ceramics, jewelry, hand-blown glass, photography, and more. Proceeds from the sale will go toward MassArt artists and scholarships.

      Free to attend, December 7-13, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Lobby of the Tower Building, Boston.

      Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll Beacon Hill's annual Holiday Stroll is the epitome of charm. The area is decked out in all the bells and whistles to get visitors in the holiday spirit. And of course, the boutiques and galleries will be open for your shopping needs.

      Free to attend, December 11, 6-9 p.m., Beacon Hill, Boston.

      SoWa Holiday Market, December 13 and 14 As soon as their Halloween market ends--their last outdoor market of the season--people start looking forward to SoWa's annual Holiday Market in mid-December. The vendors here are the cream of the crop, and the lines to get in wrap around the building. Once inside though, the challenge is not to find something; rather, it's to resist the temptation to not buy everything...for yourself. This year's market is two days, and you can also take advantage of free gift wrapping at the Yelp table.

      $5, December 13 and 14, Benjamin Franklin Institute, 41 Berkeley St., Boston.


      Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights at the MFA The MFA's Hanukkah celebration includes a menorah lighting, olive oil tasting, and art-making activities--including dreidels, of course--as well as music and a film screening. The coolest part of the celebration, however, is the 8 Nights, 8 Windows installation, where visitors don Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets to preview a forthcoming art project by local digital artists Jeff Hesser, Mike Mandel, and musician Guy Mendilow.

      Free, December 17, 6-9:45 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

      Moo Shu Jew Show at Hei La Moon This fourth annual event was designed to be a place for Jews to go on Christmas Eve. A five-course dinner--with no shellfish or pork--comes with four standup comedy acts. Dim sum, win some, amiright?

      $45+, December 24, 6 p.m., Hei La Moon, Chinatown.

      NEW YEAR'S (to be updated with more)

      First Night The annual city-wide arts fest that almost wasn't last year will return with all sorts of free and discounted programming, ice sculptures, ice skating, and other fun activities as we herald in a new year.

      Plus, here are some other shows happening around New Year's:

      Lake Street Dive$35+, The Sinclair, December 29, 30, and 31. Bad Rabbits$38+, Paradise Rock Club, December 31. John Oliver$52+, Wilbur Theatre, December 30 and 31.


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      October Market Data Shows Positive Signs Amid Slow Month Nationally

      Boston AutumnThe latest numbers are in for the City of Boston's October Market Performance, and it seems they're agreeing with the week's theme, as there are a lot of things to be thankful for! Median Sales Price of homes across all properties are up 7.1 percent, and closed sales of single-family properties gathered steam compared from the same period last year, increasing by 4.1 percent despite the drop in available homes with the inventory dropping 19.2 percent.

      Condominium Sales, on the other hand saw a better-than-expected decline in total closed sales, down by 2.7 percent. That figure is better than the -4 percent market watchers were anticipating, given the continuous drop in inventory, which was 20.4 percent lower compared to a year ago.

      Here's a closer look at how Boston is faring compared to the nation's numbers:


      Looking at the region, Boston is also looking sharp compared to the Northeast as a whole:


      Overall, though the nation has some strides in terms of total closed sales, keep in mind that you will need to scale Boston's real estate market to terms. Nationally, and throughout the Top 20 Property Markets, Boston still places No 2 in terms of October's figures. Regionally, New York - of course - trumps Boston in terms of available properties, and such has an increased probability for closed sales. Looking at the Median Sales Price however, you can see that Boston places ahead of the rest in the whole region.


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      Bargain Buy Property Deals This Weekend

      FeatureIf you thought holiday shopping is just for gifts, then think again. An assortment of properties have gone to market in the last week, with some of them greatly reducing their original price tag in the hopes of closing before the brutal winter months. Some of the deals don't even compare to what you might have gotten a year ago since sellers held off from flooding the market during the peak summer sales month.

      Take for example this studio in the heart of the Back Bay with a cozy view of Commonwealth Mall that's only going for $360,000. You could say that that deal was near impossible last spring or summer, but that's definitely not the case now. In fact, it's the lowest-priced unit in the Back Bay currently. The studio, located on the fourth floor of posh The Vendome Residences, features quite an open layout (you'll have to see for yourself to believe) that looks out to the Commonwealth Mall. To top it all of, the building is a deal in itself, with 24-hour concierge and doorman service. More details

      Aside from this ultimate bargain buy, there are also some deals to be had across Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the South End, all within the $500K breaking point. Here's a map to help you in your open house travels this weekend:


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      Boston Is Country's Toughest Winter Rental Market


      Courtesy of HotPads

      The official start of winter may still be a full month away, but the recent cold spell that has been plaguing most of the country is making this year especially more challenging for renters. There's an analysis out there that has taken a look at how good or bad cities are when it comes to its rental market. Not surprisingly, Boston has come in 1st place for being the toughest city to find rentals in during the winter season, coming in before New York!

      This is perhaps because unlike other cities in the country, most of Boston's rental inventory dwindles by the time September rolls on by - a sure sign of the how most of the neighborhoods mostly cater to students who come back for Fall semester.  At one point, rental inventory in the city fell to as little as 28 days - way, way below that the healthy and normal 4-month mark.  Despite this fact, Boston is still a city of many residents, and for those who held off moving in on the onset of fall, there's still hope - even if you're on a budget. Don't be deterred with looking at buildings you thought you couldn't afford.

      In fact, and despite this recent cold winter rental home hunting crowning, Boston still has inventory to offer that are not necessarily out of your price range. That's because post-recession developments started their turnover this year, hence increasing the inventory in the city.  In fact, most developments now have incentives and promos in place to help prospective tenants find their way to their doorways. Take for example these guys:

      THE KENSINGTON 665 Washington Street, Chinatown / Greenway This newly-opened luxury 381-unit development in the heart of Downtown Boston is currently offering a minimum of two months free on its leases. Caveat? They only have the penthouses open for rental, most of its units rented out as soon as it opened its doors last July.

      RADIAN 120 Kingston Street, Financial / Innovation District Just opened this year, this partially-funirshed financial district development is offering three months free for many of its select units.

      315 ON A 315 A Street, Seaport / South Boston Also opened at the beginning of the year, this hip and hot apartment complex on the verge of the Innovation District and South Boston's D Street is offering a month free (two, if you rented before Fall) to most of its applicants. Just make sure to remind us about it though, as it's not exactly being overly advertised.

      Contact us now if you're looking for a rental - we'll be sure to give you a rundown of all the buildings and their offerings.


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      Cambridge the 'King of Condo Over-ask Offers', Other Neighborhoods Trailing

      Condo OverlookIf you're a condo owner on the cusp of making that big decision to sell, then this article is definitely for you. Real estate numbers guy David Bates analyzed about 5,000 condos that sold in the first ten months of the year in the Boston market, and he has some pretty convincing details on why you should or should not list your condo at this time.

      From his analysis, it seemed that roughly 60 percent of condos that were listed between January 1 and October 31 sold for at least asking price. That means a lot to sellers, especially since the initial wave of the recovery that occurred between 2012 and 2013 slightly tapered off this year, dampened by concerns that the housing market was back down again. Moreover, buyers paid at least 1 percent more than the listing  price on 43 percent of these sales. Beyond that, the number just goes higher with 22 percent (one in five buyers) paying 5 percent more, and one in ten buyers forking over 10 percent over the listing price.

      Bates' analysis show that within this subset of over asking offers, 50 became the year's highest over-the-listing-price offers in terms of the gap between the actual listing price and the amount paid during closing. These properties had offers that spectacularly ranged from crazy to insane, starting at 19 percent above the original asking price, and even went as high as 34 percent! And if there was a competition over which neighborhood had the most of these incredible over-ask deals, Cambridge would definitely be the hands down winner, taking in 24 of the city's 50 most extreme over-ask offers.

      And though it's true that the list price of properties in Boston are much higher than Cambridge's - with its brownstone mansions and multi-million multifamily homes, three of Cambridge's condos listed between $399K and $459K accepted offers that were $100K past their asking! That's definitely a feat if you compare it with listings in Boston that need to be over a million to reach that over-ask mark.

      The rest of the Boston-area neighborhoods that placed in Bates' roundup of over-ask condos belong to the neighborhoods of Brookline (5/50), Jamaica Plain (3/50), Somerville, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, the West End, Dorchester, Hyde Park - all having 2/50, and Allston, Brighton, Midtown, and West Roxbury all having a piece of the 50 most extreme over-ask offers in town.

      Notably, one red-hot Hub condo community that was a little bit more sober with its condo market offers was South Boston, whose highest over-ask was only 14 percent above the listing price - but perhaps that's because it's already well-priced to begin with.


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      Where Are Boston's Most Buyer-Friendly Neighborhoods?

      pretty CharlestownIn Boston, you can make $80,000 or even $100,000 and still wind up clueless as to how you can afford to invest. But before you go on ranting and freaking out over the crazy prices of all those Back Bay brownstones and lush Seaport District condos, it might be worth taking a look at what neighborhoods have listings that are affordable to middle class buyers and which don't.

      The bad news is that nearly half of Boston's 15 neighborhoods are out of reach now for middle class buyers, with the number of listings affordable listings hovering in the low single or double digits.  BUT the good news is that Boston is a big city, with the priciest zip codes clustered in a geographically small area downtown, with a number of the city's larger neighborhoods still open for business.

      The truth is that buyers making $80,000 or $100,000 a year with good credit standing should still be able to find an affordable home. But because Boston is such a highly competitive real estate market with a lot of strong investors flooding in with capital, "middle income buyers" are still left hanging when it comes to good buys.

      Boston-neighborhoods-framedTo illustrate how tough it is to buy in downtown Boston, take this example: If you are making $80,000 a year, the number of listings in your price range is virtually zero in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill. In other neighborhoods, your odds are a little better, rising to a tiny 2.3 percent in the Fenway and Kenmore neighborhood and then to 2.9 percent in the South End, according to the Boston 2030 report. The North End and Downtown Crossing/Leather District/Midtown are even worse, with just 1.7 percent of all homes and condos within reach. More so damning news is that properties in once blue-collar areas such as Charlestown and South Boston are hardly affordable anymore, with just 3.3 and 4.7 percent of all listings affordable to someone making $80,000.

      BUT don't despair - it gets easier from there onwards. Increasingly hot and hip Jamaica Plain isn't easy either to crack for middle class buyers, but with 15 percent of listings within the right price range, you've got more of a shot, the report adds. That number further rises to 27 percent in vibrant Allston-Brighton and 30 percent in solidly middle class West Roxbury, while Roslindale does even better, at 45 percent.

      And even more opportunities await in Dorchester, the city's largest neighborhood, and home of Mayor Marty Walsh, where 62 percent of listings are within reach. Hyde Park, where former Mayor Thomas M. Menino resided, is none at all too out of reach at 64 percent, and is tied with Roxbury with the same number of available listings. Up and coming East Boston and Mattapan round out the picture, with 67 and 72 percent of all listings within reach of a middle class buyer making $80,000, according to the study.

      Conveniently, we've made a map HERE for you to see what we found in those areas that might just make your burgeoning budget of below $500,000!


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      Where To Rent Now? Insights Into Boston's Fall & Winter Rental Market

      post pic 1Coming off the news that Boston is now seeing its highest percentage of individuals aged 23-65 living with roommates, we thought it best to provide you with an update on rental prices by neighborhood now that the peak months of move-in are over. However, before we get down to the details, let's first take a look at what's causing this upsurge in "rooming".

      According to Boston.com, rents are growing faster than household income in the Boston metro area, causing 33 percent (that right, a third!) of city dwellers aged 23-65 to find roomies than take on an apartment solo. The national average is only a percentage point below, and what's more bothersome is that a decade ago, only a quarter - 25 percent - of the same sample population lived with housemates. The primary is reason for this, the study found, is that incomes aren't climbing as fast as rental rates. Specifically, within a ten-year period, Bostonian city-dwellers spend 32 percent of their monthly income on rent, a figure that goes up as high as 40 percent in more recent time. That puts Boston as the fourth most expensive cities in the US to rent in. Currently, the median rent is $2,250 per month across all types of properties and neighborhoods.

      20141105_roommates_forbes_2This is perhaps also a reason why demand for new homes have waned in the past couple of months, spurring growth for condominium and multi-family housing snapped up by smart and real estate savvy investors. Take note though, if you are "investor in waiting", you might want to consider snapping up something or partnering with builders now -- you'll almost sure to reap all the benefits down the road when all of those roommates decide its time to part ways and buy for their own. Keep in mind though, the 33 percent that reside with roommates include fresh grads who may still be in the "sharing mode".

      And now for the good stuff. If you're one of those 23-65 year olds looking to move and share apartments, then this bit is for you: the neighborhoods of Brookline (Coolidge Corner, Brookline Village), Fenway/Kenmore, and Davis Square will yield you the best bang for your buck. As you can see from the graph below, these 1 bedroom apartments in these neighborhoods hover between $2,080-$2,200. Still a hefty amount compared elsewhere nationally, but given Boston's place in the list of most expensive cities, that isn't at all surprising.

      As with time and again, the Top 10 Most Expensive Neighborhoods include Downtown Boston, Chinatown / Leather District, Kendall Square, D Street and West Broadway, Bunker Hill, West End, Back Bay, South End, Cambridgeport, and finally East Cambridge where 1 bedroom rents range from a low of $2,610 to a high of $3,200.  LOOK FOR RENTALS NOW


      Data courtesy of Zumper and Boston Curbed


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      The Boston Skyline As Retooled By Its 'Urban Mechanic'

      Boston expanse AAs Bostonians today say their final farewell to its beloved 'Urban Mechanic', Mayor Thomas Menino, we thought it only right to look back at his impact in the community, most tangible in his efforts to revitalize the city's skyline through various projects and neighborhood developments. Throughout his 5-term, 20-year mandate, Mayor Menino not only reinvigorated Boston's real estate industry by means of transforming the project approval process, but also transformed the city's skyline and streetscapes into bustling pockets of Boston full of life.

      Let's take a look now at how Mayor Menino helped make Boston the first-class city it is today:

      THE INNOVATION DISTRICT If there was a single project that would best concretize Mayor Menino's vision for Boston, it would be the Seaport's Innovation District. Virtually non-existent before his term, the district was transformed from a mere shipping yard of the city, into one of its busiest not only in terms of night life and destination restaurants, but also of all the many residential and commercial projects that have and are continuing to sprout out of the former-harbor site. Properties continue to enjoy floaty median prices as the neighborhood aka "the district" is seen as one of the city's premier places to live in, especially to the youth.

      Major offices have also moved there, John Hancock - being one of them - as well as a good number of incubator and bootstrap startups that have flocked to the area. And even developments are soon to come up, with Seaport Square's groundbreaking slated for this month. The whole district teems of vibrant yuppies who have been fueled and encouraged by Menino to pursue their dreams in leading the way in the bio and tech industries, providing the Seaport as their experimental grounds.

      EAST BOSTON WATERFRONT It was in late 2011 when Mayor Menino announced an ambitious plan to jumpstart nearly $600 million in development along the East Boston waterfront, development that could create up to 1,800 housing units and that would be partly dependent on beefed-up water transit. Part of it, the 176-unit Portside at Pier One, is under construction. There are numerous projects on the pipeline as well, transforming once dead harbor spaces into lush green spaces with housing units that lookout to the Boston skyline.

      DOWNTOWN CROSSING AND MILLENNIUM PROPERTIES Of the dozens of proposals that the Downtown Crossing neighborhood has seen - none of them seem to be what fit the Bostonian persona. That's not until Mayor Menino and the honchos over at Millennium Properties hatched up the idea to reinvigorate the neighborhood by making it livable instead of focusing on retail alone. The result? The recently turned over Millennium Place Residences and the mega development that is Millennium Tower alongside improvements to the mid-section of the neighborhood that will re-establish the dominance of Downtown Crossing as the "center" of  the city. Complete subway station renovation and restoration of the old Filene's Basement building are but only a few of the enhancements Bostonians should look forward to.

      DUDLEY SQUARE Being from Hyde Park himself, Mayor Menino knew his roots. He surmised that this neighborhood - far from what Beacon Hill or the Back Bay is - should resonate the real Boston. His do-over of neighborhood-friendly projects from street improvements to moderinzation of schools to more affordable community-based housing developments, truly sends what he had wanted the Square to be - the home of all Bostonians.

      THE BACK BAY BOOM Most of the cranes you see atop the Back Bay are from projects approved during Mayor Menino's administration, and most likely those that will come up in the next two to three years will still be from his time. Because of his strong will to build Back Bay up (as there was no other way to expand), led to expansion high-rises projects being approved. For instance, the tower that will rise on Christian Science Plaza will be 699 feet, making it not only by far the tallest residential tower in Boston but the third-tallest overall, behind office giants the Pru and the John Hancock. It is slated to include 211 hotel rooms on the first 20 floors and 180 condos over the rest of the 60 stories.

      TD GARDEN TOWERS Aside from regulating real estate developments heavily, Mayor Menino also incentivized and encouraged developers to flock to Boston for their latest project. His office provided millions in tax breaks to spur job creation and housing. One of these developments is the TD Garden Tower, a large-scale, transformative $950 million project will include three towers, the tallest reaching 600 feet. The buildings will contain a 306-room hotel; 668,000 square feet of offices; almost 500 residences; and retail, including a Star Market.

      THE 'UPPER' SOUTH END Let's not forget the South End. Several large-scale residential projects are going up a in what was formerly empty lots and abandoned industrial complexes in the neighborhood's northeastern corner, near where I-90 meets I-93. The expansive Ink Block Development, which includes five residential buildings as well as retail and grocery,  is set to transform the area once again - a "modern South End on the tip", if you will.

      FENWAY Last but not the least, the Fenway/Kenmore area is also enjoying tons of developments thanks to Mayor Menino's focus on providing more for Bostonians that do not necessarily want to be in the very middle of it all. Landmark Center, for instance, is just one of the monstrous projects that will give the ballpark district its highly-anticiapted makeover. Mayor Menino also oversaw the reopening of the Yawkey commuter rail station in the area, giving suburbans easy access not only to the ballpark, but also to connect the up and coming retail centers in the neighborhood to the rest of the city.


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