Successful Boston Developer Focuses on Enhancing Neighborhoods
David Bates / January 24, 2011-6:42 pm
When you talk to Kamran Zahedi, a Boston developer with an impressive track record, you notice he uses the word “neighborhood” a lot. Unlike other developers who may come from a legal or accounting background and whose goals may be strictly number-oriented, Kamran comes from a design background — and when he talks about a neighborhood, his development goal is not merely to have his development fit in, but have the development actually improve, enhance and be in harmony with the neighborhood.
Kamran has thirty years experience improving neighborhoods. His first project occurred in 1980, when he renovated a $3-per-square-foot space on Congress St. and was able to turn it for $12 per square foot. Then for several years he developed old mill buildings in New Hampshire. Shortly afterwards, Kamran found his niche working with public entities and turning unused public buildings into residential living space.
Among a number of projects in that arena, Kamran took a former clinic and developed it into one of the first loft buildings in the South End. He also redeveloped a former Belmont fire station and a former Somerville police station into condominiums. More recently, he won a contract to develop 25 condominiums in the former District 4 police station in the South End. Today, Kamran is developing 691 Massachusetts Ave., a project consisting of 40 condominiums in the South End. This pretty, ground-up construction near the newly-revitalized Chester Square is set to come to market in the summer of 2011.
Kamran’s goals of enhancement, improvement and harmony mean his developments can take longer to build and cost more than more processed developments. In D4, Kamran’s team (including renowned stylist Phillip Starck) constructed an atrium with skylights that not only brought natural light to all the hallways in the building, but also housed a private garden modeled after the very recognizable interior of the Gardner Museum. Few other developers would have used thousands of square feet of living space and millions of dollars of revenue to build the garden, yet this unique space truly makes the building stand out.
If Kamran had done a cookie-cutter continuation of the block on Mass Ave. where “six9one” sits, he could have possibly gotten approvals from the Boston Historical Commission and South End Landmark Commission in maybe two months, but because his design goal is “modern elegance + classical setting,” it took a year to perfect the design to the satisfaction of the authorities, the neighborhood residents and his own exacting standards.
As for what it takes to be a successful developer in Boston, Kamran says you must be a good negotiator. Successful developers have to negotiate in a way that not only stands up for their product, but also keeps good relationships with the city, their buyers and the neighborhood. Or, summarized in my opinion, be a good neighbor.