I Am Downtown Boston: Tom Acitelli, founding editor of Curbed Boston
Whether it’s an old school turned into new million-dollar condos or an upscale clothing line taking over an abandoned building, Curbed Boston founding editor Tom Acitelli hits the pavement in Downtown Boston to get the scoop on all these and more.
A sister site to Eater.com and Racked.com, Curbed offers insight into more than 15 cities (there’s a national site too) around the U.S. and Canada, providing a meaty and fun read for neighborhood real estate, transit and economic development news.
We met up with Acitelli and got his take on the up-and-coming downtown Boston area as he sees it from in the trenches.
The Voice of Downtown Boston: Have you seen a definite upswing in newsworthy activity in the downtown Boston area recently?
Tom Acitelli: Most definitely. It’s all due to development or lack thereof.
VoD: What’s your own experience in seeing the area’s revitalization coming along?
TA: I wouldn’t say downtown Boston, particularly Downtown Crossing, is quite revitalized yet. It’s definitely getting there. I think it’s a work in progress. But the amount of rental and for-sale housing going up is simply not enough to satiate demand, in downtown or throughout Boston generally. Any significant revitalization, the sort that creates a 24-7 neighborhood, will only come when there’s more housing and suitable retail. That increase in housing will bring prices down a bit, which will bring more people in and a wider array of people at that. Plus, the new housing will, quite simply, foment a bigger population than is currently calling the neighborhood home.
For now, downtown is getting there, slowly. Others and I still think of it as one giant playground for empty-nesters, underwritten recent college grads and people smart enough to have bought in before the 2000s.
VoD: Since covering the Downtown Boston beat, are there exciting projects in particular you were happy to learn about?
TA: It was very interesting to see the new Millennium Tower Boston backstory unfold, what with the Menino administration’s no-holds-barred fight with the old site owner, Vornado Realty out of New Jersey. [It was] a good clinic on old-fashioned, big-city political wrangling. The fact that the site was vacant so long and for all the wrong reasons was really an embarrassment to the city. It’s been interesting to see the turnaround. We will see what sort of demand the finished product has.
VoD: It’s such an exciting project. How do you and Curbed Boston plan on following its progress?
TA: We’ve already started Millennium Tower Boston Watch–every sale, as it happens, when they start happening, until they happen no more.
VoD: In your words, how does the vibe in Downtown Crossing differ than in years past?
TA: Due to the escalating prices because of the steady demand and the dearth of supply, more older people have settled in the neighborhood from the suburbs or from outlying Boston neighborhoods. So I would say the vibe circa 2014, especially at night, is older, quieter. That could change on a dime before the decade’s end as more development comes online. That’s the game-changer; and the game is afoot.