It’s not quite the height of the Prudential or the Hancock towers, but from 62 stories up in the $40 million One Dalton penthouse apartment, the view of Boston and its suburbs is equally as spectacular. One Dalton is the city's newest skyscraper and also the city’s third-tallest building. And, along with changing the skyline, the developer hopes to set a new standard for something that’s become synonymous with Boston — luxury living.
“We took a gamble, and the gamble was, 'Is Boston ready for a building of this type?' There was no market data to support this,” said developer Richard Friedman. “You can’t find comparables.”
Boston’s real estate market, he said, can be compared to some of the most expensive in the world. The Four Seasons Hotel, which anchors his new building, has similar hotel-luxury condo developments in New York, London and Bangkok. Foreign investors, he pointed out, financed the project.
“The world loves to invest in Boston,” said Friedman.
But on the ground, not far from where the new tower rises next to the Christian Science Center, there’s another view of this milestone in luxury living.
“The folks who lived and worked here their whole lives are being displaced,” said Richard Giordano of the Fenway Community Development Corporation.
The soaring land values that make Boston so attractive to global investors also make it increasingly difficult for moderate and low-income people to keep up with the rising cost of rent. A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment in and around Boston, renters need to earn about $33 an hour, nearly three times the state’s $12 minimum wage.
So, is Boston becoming a city for the well-heeled only?
“It’s beginning to lean that way,” said Giordano. “The question is, how can we be a city for everybody?”
Increasingly, the answer is to rely on the deep pockets of developers. In exchange for the zoning approval needed to build One Dalton, Friedman agreed to also build 28 affordable housing units in Roxbury. This quid pro quo arrangement is the heart of Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy.
A 2018 report from the Boston Planning and Development Agency shows that since 2000, it has produced more than 2,500 units for middle income residents and another nearly $140 million for low-income housing.
Giordano would like to see developers kick in even more, something Mayor Walsh and the Boston City Council are exploring. But when considering the price of homes and the cost of rents across the region, he said it’s unrealistic to expect the private sector to meet a need that was once a federal priority.
“We can’t get away from the fact that we need a robust system of affordable housing production. We don’t have it, so that the state and the city are doing a tremendous job of cobbling things together to replace what should be there from the fed,” said Giordano.
There is an effort in Congress to increase the federal housing budget — a sign that Boston is not the only city where the market has driven the cost of housing sky-high.