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Old 02-11-2010, 12:02 PM   #1
PlanBoston
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Complete Liberty Mutual Tower | 157 Berkeley Street | Back Bay

http://www.boston.com/business/ticke...mutual_22.html

Quote:

Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

February 11, 2010 11:30 AM

By Casey Ross, Globe Staff

libmut211.jpgLiberty Mutual Insurance Co., one of Boston's oldest headquarters companies, is launching a dramatic expansion in the city, announcing plans today to build a $300 million addition on its Back Bay headquarters that will create 1,100 new jobs.

Liberty Mutual said that it currently has more than 2,500 employees located at its home office campus in Boston.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the city is planning to give the firm a $16 million property tax break to pave the way for the expansion, which the city estimates will generate a net revenue boost of $50 million during the next 20 years.

"Putting people back to work is a top priority," Menino said in a statement today. "Creating new jobs ? 600 permanent and 500 construction jobs ? as local unemployment numbers are at an all time high is my focus. Liberty Mutual and the insurance sector represent a $3.2 billion industry that is critical to Boston?s economic growth."
Map data ?2010 Sanborn, Google - Terms of Use

The insurance firm, founded in Boston in 1912, has purchased the former Salvation Army building and the nearby Benjamin Franklin Smith building to accommodate the expansion of its 175 Berkeley Street offices.

The firm is the nation's fifth largest property and casualty insurer and currently employs 4,100 employees in Massachusetts at 31 offices across the state.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city's planning arm, will vote on whether to grant the firm a property tax break for the expansion at a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.
This is at Berkeley and Columbus. It's good to see something on the horizon.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:10 PM   #2
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

Why can't anything good ever happen without something bad gumming it all up?

A $16 million property tax break?

WHY?
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:25 PM   #3
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

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Originally Posted by JohnAKeith View Post
Why can't anything good ever happen without something bad gumming it all up?

A $16 million property tax break?

WHY?
"Putting people back to work is a top priority," Menino said in a statement today. "Creating new jobs ? 600 permanent and 500 construction jobs ? as local unemployment numbers are at an all time high is my focus."

I guess the BRA vote is a foregone conclusion.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:33 PM   #4
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

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Originally Posted by JohnAKeith View Post
Why can't anything good ever happen without something bad gumming it all up?

A $16 million property tax break?

WHY?
Because the city believes that it will make more than that over the lifespan of the project - $50 million according to the next sentence.

You can ask why they're giving up anything, but the fact remains that if this were the linchpin (not saying it is) for this project to go ahead, the city is making money off of this decision.

Besides, all cities offer these incentives for tower projects, and this is a far more solid proposal than most that get thrown around here.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:45 PM   #5
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

I agree all these special deals, breaks and one-offs are crap. Switzerland provides a good lesson in boosting corporate activity: it manages to do quite well without lots of special perks because many of its cantons have competitive broad-based corporate tax rates (the federal gov't there has much less taxation power than the cantons). We'd be smart to learn from that -- using transparent, equal tax codes instead of jimmying the system for whatever bidder comes along -- rather than bash it as somehow immoral (which, certainly, the tax evasion that certain of its banks seem to engage in is)...

That said, I like this much better than the "MA is the Hollywood of the East" tax breaks. That stuff seems really open to being underbid by the next state that wants to be Hollywood, and Boston at least has a 250+-year history as a financial center, whereas our moviemaking history is a bit less, uh, storied.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:46 PM   #6
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

This is right near me. Brb, I'll go take some pics.

Edit: Ok here's what I got.

From about halfway between Clarendon & Berkeley on Stuart


From Stuart & Berekeley


From Stuart...I would think this would be the perfect area if they were planning on a vertical expansion.




From Berkeley & St.James






From Arlington & St.James...not sure if this part of the building is owned/occupied by Liberty, but it sure is purty.


Pretty cool view


The line for Viga at the bottom of the picture...it's like that almost every single day



Last edited by tmac9wr; 02-11-2010 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:50 PM   #7
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

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Originally Posted by JohnAKeith View Post
Why can't anything good ever happen without something bad gumming it all up?

A $16 million property tax break?

WHY?
Because they have 31 offices in the state and it would be cheaper to expand any of the other 30. I agree the "race to the bottom" that comes with cities competing for corporate HQs is sad, but it's a fact of life. Boeing got $63M to move 300+ jobs to Chicago.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:57 PM   #8
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

So the BRA gets to decide whether or not there are tax breaks, not the city council?

This is worse than the JP Morgan giveaway in the Seaport; Liberty Mutual wasn't going anywhere, no matter what.

It's bad public policy. Bad. Bad.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:58 PM   #9
itchy
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

BTW, anyone know what they'll be tearing down? It'll really suck if the city is paying them to tear down something worth keeping, rather than encouraging them to sign on as an anchor for one of the Seaport buildings ... Filene's.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:01 PM   #10
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

no renderings? 30 story tower they hope to start by next september?Do they know what city the're in? great new's though!
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:18 PM   #11
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

Press release from the BRA. Net property tax benefit to city estimated at $50 million after tax break.

Mayor Menino Announces Major Shot in the Arm to Boston's Economy

Liberty Mutual plans expansion of Boston headquarters, 600 new full-time positions at the company & 500 construction jobs

Quote:
In a major boost to Boston?s economy, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state officials today announced that Liberty Mutual plans to grow its global headquarters in Boston, creating 1,100 new jobs and generating more than $50 million in new tax revenue for the City. The company, founded in Boston in 1912, had opportunities to expand in other parts of the country, but ultimately decided that Boston provides the best opportunity for its growth. Liberty Mutual?s anticipated total investment of approximately $300 million in its corporate headquarters would make Boston one of the largest insurance hubs in the country.

?Putting people back to work is a top priority,? Mayor Menino said. ?Creating new jobs ? 600 permanent and 500 construction jobs ? as local unemployment numbers are at an all time high is my focus. Liberty Mutual and the insurance sector represent a $3.2 billion industry that is critical to Boston?s economic growth.?

Edmund F. Kelly, Liberty Mutual Group chairman, president and chief executive officer said, ?We thank Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick and their staffs for working so hard and creatively with Liberty Mutual to make this investment in Boston and its future economically attractive.?

?We are eager to continue our collaboration with Mayor Menino, the City of Boston, and Liberty Mutual to bring this expansion project to fruition,? said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki. ?Growing jobs is the number one priority for the Patrick Administration, and this partnership is a great example of creating employment opportunities for hundreds of people.?

Liberty Mutual recently acquired the former Salvation Army building and the Benjamin Franklin Smith building, which are located adjacent to the current Liberty Mutual home office campus at 175 Berkeley Street. The former Salvation Army building previously generated no tax revenue for the City.

Working with the State to stimulate the economy, the City is utilizing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to generate these 1,100 jobs and spur revitalization. A TIF allows the City to provide a property tax exemption for a portion of the new value created by the project. The exemption, worth $16 million, would phase in over a twenty year period as the new property is developed. The City would receive a net benefit of approximately $50 million in new tax revenues over the same period.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority will vote on the TIF agreement at its board meeting on Tuesday, February 16, 2010. The agreement must also be approved by the City Council. Liberty Mutual will then need to apply to the Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council (EACC) for designation as a certified project.

?Liberty Mutual?s expanded and integrated downtown Boston campus can?t come soon enough for our residents who work in the building trades, said John F. Palmieri, Director of the BRA. ?With unemployment rates up to 50% in parts of the construction industry, we must find ways to put these men and women back to work.?

The BRA is in the midst of conducting a planning study for the Stuart Street area. Liberty Mutual has been an active participant in the process and any new development that they propose will reflect the Stuart Street guidelines, which are currently in draft form. In order to move forward with the redevelopment, Liberty Mutual will need to go through the Article 80 development review process, which includes community review, and receive BRA approval.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:23 PM   #12
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

City council does get a vote, btw.

Here are four street views, courtesy of Google Maps.







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Old 02-11-2010, 01:27 PM   #13
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

Dammit!!! I went out and took pictures of the wrong building! GAHHHHH

Oh well.

Did I miss something? Where did it say this was a 30 story tower?
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:29 PM   #14
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

google street view did that building a favor.. I feel like in person its not that great. That intersection is def struggling
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:33 PM   #15
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

I like some of the buildings on that block, but I would not miss the Salvation Army building or the parking lot adjacent to it.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:33 PM   #16
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

Berkeley and Columbus... Two of the four corners of Berkeley and Columbus are parking lots (the south-side corners of Columbus), which do their part to anchor a dead-zone alongside the Turnpike (the Columbus Center wasteland).

I wish a new tower could go up on one of those parcels instead of expanding the Salvation Army building.
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:53 PM   #17
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

Quote:
Originally Posted by tmac9wr View Post
Dammit!!! I went out and took pictures of the wrong building! GAHHHHH

Oh well.

Did I miss something? Where did it say this was a 30 story tower?
click on the link in the 1st post of this thread, ok just re-read it and it's not there? did anyone else read that 30 stories /hope to start construction by September quote?or am I loseing my mind???
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Old 02-11-2010, 01:53 PM   #18
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

^^ Ditto what Shepard said. The Salvation Army is a pretty nice Art Deco building. From what I recall, it looks pretty decent in person.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:12 PM   #19
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

So, given this is Boston and there is a proposal for a substantial building to be put up (I'm guessing somewhere in the range of 295-340 feet?), who wants to take a stab at the first group who will oppose this? Will it be the people around Berkeley on the opposite side of the highway? Maybe some cranky people on Isabella St? The usual suspects along the Boylston corridor who will illogically complain of shadows and wind tunnels?

Not to take the sheen off of the potential for new development, but we gotta be realistic. It won't take that long for the cranksters to start crawling out from the woodwork.

"Two of the four corners of Berkeley and Columbus are parking lots"

Weren't these to be taken care of with the Columbus Center? Obviously, that's not going to happen now, but I imagine they can't be speculatively developed just yet. Though I would love to see those have something on them as well.
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Old 02-11-2010, 02:18 PM   #20
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Re: Liberty Mutual plans major Boston expansion

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Weren't these to be taken care of with the Columbus Center? Obviously, that's not going to happen now, but I imagine they can't be speculatively developed just yet. Though I would love to see those have something on them as well.
That's a good point - I hadn't realized Columbus Center's footprint would have extended as far as this corner.
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