The Development Story Behind The Success of The Brimmer Street Garage

David Bates / August 23, 2011-5:29 pm

     Jonathan Davis, one of the developers behind the Brimmer Street Garage, called the development of a Beacon Hill garage a “no brainer.” When we spoke with him recently, now more than thirty years after the project successfully sold out, he noted that not only was the garage located amidst the wealthiest demographics in the area, but that in Beacon Hill, unlike other parts of the city, there weren’t even alleys that can be used for parking.
     Davis credits previous owners of the garage for coming up with the idea for the first “parking space condominiums” in perhaps the history of real estate. Yet it was his development team that figured out a way to get 110 spaces in the garage versus the previous owner’s plans for around 60. This brought the price of the proposed spaces down. 

The exit of the famous Brimmer Street Garage, where the first parking space condominiums were developed in 1979.

Surprisingly, when marketing the condominiums, Davis and his team had to overcome the fact that many buyers didn’t see the value of owning a parking space at any cost. As a result, the company made a brochure suggesting that if the parking spaces eventually went up to $35,000, it would be cheaper to have bought the space than to have continued to rent it for that time. Indeed, considering the appreciation over the years, any of the original buyers not only have parked there for free for 30 years, but made a tidy profit by successfully investing in something that appreciated five times what gold did in the same time period.
     Two aspects of the marketing at the time helped Davis’ team execute the hugely successful sale of the spaces. The first was that they offered the existing renters a 60-day right of first refusal. The second was that just when they were going public with the sale, Pope John Paul II was visiting Boston. The parade of media following the Pope was in Boston and hungry for additional stories. As a result, the story of the first parking space condominium conversion made The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Today Show. In addition, the Associated Press distributed the story to hundreds of newspapers around the country. Such exposure helped create enough demand to sell the available spaces twice over, Davis notes, and provoked around 70 percent of the then-current tenants to purchase their spaces.
     Davis notes that his only mistake wasn’t keeping some spaces for himself. While they may not add to his already outstanding reputation as a developer in the city, they would look good in his portfolio.