The redevelopment of the South End Penny Savings Bank from a circa 1914 bank into a 2007 mixed-use building was originally well publicized and well received by the community. The ground floor bank building has been renovated, and will host the Banq restaurant and a Citibank branch, while a clean and modern glass addition has been added above, creating 23 high-end loft-style condos. The redevelopment is striking, and a great addition to the Washington Street corridor, however, it’s absorption has been slow. We’ll look at why that is, and why recent changes leave the development poised to make a positive turnaround.
The overall state of Penny Savings Bank is that it was lauded as the new high-end development in the South End, one of the “landmark” properties (on the same page as the D4 Condos), but its absorption has been slow, for various reasons. Ultimately, this is a story of a changing of the guard, with the new kids on the block now making strides in the right direction.
The original listing agent sold 6 units before the development opened its doors, while at the same time, interest and exposure for the development waned. There were attempts to do preconstruction sales out of a makeshift model across the street from the bank before it was ready for hard hat tours. The model consisted of a shared office space that featured part of a kitchen build out, but little more than that. Once hard hat tours began, there was little to no focus on the delivery of a furnished model unit (more on this to come). Potential Buyers were continuously led through a work in progress job site with concrete floors, leaving them little room to envision living in a landmark property such as a 1914 bank.
The original listing agent was replaced in the summer of 2007 by a Boston agent focused mainly on luxury properties, at which time the development did get a shot in the arm of new exposure, but little to no progress was made towards the end of actually selling units to interested Buyers.
In steps what perhaps may be the final changing of the guard, that of Brian Perry, Mary Kelleher, and Brian Back, who recently took over the marketing of the remaining units at Penny Savings Bank. They began by getting back to basics, and quickly sold one unit in the building, bringing the total sold number to 7, leaving 16 units remaining for sale.
One of the first and most important things that the new team did was focus on putting together a furnished model unit, thus allowing Buyers to see the space for what it is, and perhaps more importantly, what it is capable of. Some people have a very good sense of interior design, and can see an empty room and create a masterpiece in their head, but not everyone is so gifted.
Yes, the model unit is something that we did, and it really helps people see the space. We have Buyers who are perhaps empty nesters looking to downsize a little and come back into the city, and the concrete floors and sleek glass may startle them unless you show them what can be done with it,” says Anthony Bruno, a member of the Sotheby’s team now handling the marketing of the Penny Savings Bank.
The new team has held three open houses (we featured one of them as our Featured Open House of the week, see Penny Savings Bank Featured Open House), which were well received by the public driving roughly 20 parties to each. They are rekindling interest in the project, and they are aware of several interested parties working on potential offers. They are beginning to do some of the things that are simply necessary to do, which went unrecognized, in order to sell a unique high-end property in Boston (see You Build We Sell for more information on boutique condo marketing expertise).
The momentum is now going in the right direction, and there are several other things that could be done to help the cause:
- A new user-friendly website that accurately maintains prices, floorplans, and individual photos of units, or at least the views available from units, needs to be put up, quickly. The Sotheby’s team is currently working on a website.
- A Broker Open needs to take place to get the buzz going again with agents and their Buyers. The property has been passed over for some time, and the new pricing structure and any new incentives need to be made as public as possible.
- Leverage the combined prominence of The Boston Condo Blog (this blog) and The Boston Real Estate Blog by John Keith, the two most popular real estate blogs in Boston, to advertise the development.
- A focus group of current residents, potential Buyers, and prominent real estate agents specializing in new condo developments, may be in order to discuss adding appropriate amenities to the property – for a high-end property, the condo fees are quite low because certain things, like a concierge for instance, which may be appropriate for such a luxury building, are missing.
16 units in the 23-unit boutique development are available, 7 of them being listed in the Boston MLS currently (see Penny Savings Bank listings for full details – PDF 276 KB). Units range in size from 814 to 2,015 square feet, and in price from $595,000 to $1,500,000. The Penny Savings Bank remains one of the landmark properties in the city, and we look forward to the property receiving more attention in the immediate future.