Berklee Expansion Plans | Back Bay

quadratdackel

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From the Sept 23-29 Boston Courant (emphasis mine):

Boston Courant said:
Berklee College of Music plans to add 1,200 student beds, a new state of the art theater and one "iconic" building over the next 10 years according to preliminary plans unveiled Tuesday.

The development could include new student housing on the west end of Boylston Street near Fenway Park, partnership in an air rights project over the Massachusetts Turnpike and an expansion of the school's existing facilities at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street.

...

[Berklee senior vice president of administration and finance David R.] Hornfischer said the college would be willing to partner with developers in that area, including the Red Sox.

"The Red Sox know us," Hornfischer said. "They see us as somewhat compatible businesses. They think we would be a positive neighbor."

...

Millenium Partners tried to develop those [air rights] parcels about 10 years ago ["Boylston Square"] but failed due to strong public opposition.

"We're not going to be the developer of choice or the lead developer," Hornfischer said. "But if someone needs to fill floors three, four, and five, we'd be interested." He added that the school has not been approached with a specific project.

Berklee's plan also includes a "state-pf-the-art" performance venue that would be larger than the 1,300-seat Berklee Performance Center, located at 136 Mass Ave., and "an iconic physical space that identifies Berklee as (the) world's leading college of contemporary music."

...

[Berklee President Roger H.] Brown promised an open process that would serve as a "prototype" for public input.
If I recall correctly, Berklee is pretty much the only local college that can claim good relations with the surrounding community. Also, partnering with the Red Sox is wise: the Sox are looking for neighbors who are rowdy for the developments around the park. And anything that does air rights over the pike is dreamy in my book.
 

Ron Newman

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Does the article say what Berklee will do with the existing Performance Center?
 

kz1000ps

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Ron, that's still up in the air, depending on what development opportunity the school pursues. Right now, they're leaving things about as open-ended as possible, although they really want to get going on the housing over by Fenway Park ASAP.

But having said that, it looks more than less likely that the current theatre will be demolished. I'll talk to my source tonight to see exactly where they stand as of now.
 

kz1000ps

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Sorry I mean that Berklee is likely to get rid of it, but it's still up in the air. More likely rather than less likely to do it..but no definitive either way.

Hope that helps..
 

Ron Newman

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It's a very popular concert venue, as well as a pleasant facade, so I hope they can keep it around. A proposal to demolish it might lose them some friends in the neighborhood.
 

kz1000ps

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Not really. "Tolerate" would be the key word here.

Ok, so I got an earful from my guy. Concerning the Performance Center, whether that stays or goes changes weekly, but the current top 10 wish list calls for two new perfomance spaces, one of around 500 in capacity, and the other around 2000. Of course the 1100 capacity BPC sits square in between those numbers, so it doesn't look good, but again those are just the wishes. And there's the propblem right now - everything is still very much up in the air. The analogy he used was this: it's like an old-fashioned high school dance where the boys are on one side and the girls on the other. One wants to dance with the other, but they won't walk across the gym floor and ask the question.

And what he means is that Berklee has a tentative timeline of what they want to get done, Goody Clancy has yet to finish the master plan, and the BRA is being very supportive of Berklee's ambitions, yet they can't/won't approve anything since nothing is final. Summer of '07 is the goal to get some kind of concrete plans finalized, but even that is nebulous as of right now.

No matter what happens, our new president, Roger Brown, has made it clear since the day he came in that he wants Boylston and Mass to be stamped as Berklee's territory, and that is where the turnpike air rights weighs in as the big ticket in it all. He wants people to see Berklee as they drive in on the highway, and he wants to keep the school heavily concentrated around that intersection so some semblance of a campus can be fostered.

The only air rights parcel they are considering is behind (east of) 130 Mass Ave and stretches to Hynes, since it's already connected to Berklee property. By the sounds of it, 130 would be demolished, or perhaps just the facade would stay, but either way the building as it stands is underutilized and not of ideal configuration for the school.

He found it puzzling that the Herald was still talking about the residential development by Fenway Park because as far as he knows they've all but stopped looking over there because Steve Samuels (and the Red Sox) has snatched up a lot of the property, and as a result the land value has risen beyond what Berklee is willing to pay. And that area is far out of the "bubble" that Mr. Brown has set for keeping the school contained to Boylston and Mass. But I agree that putting student housing by Fenway Park makes sense on several levels.

Other developments and aquisitions they're working on: the Fenway Community Health Clinic building on Haviland St. will almost certainly be bought by Berklee once they vacate, as I said before. And they were also in early talks over buying the ICA and Apple store property, but Apple swooped in within a week of that building being put on the block, and the owner of the ICA has risen their prices beyond what Berklee and that other developer that announced plans within the past year were willing to pay. That, along with the fact that the structure needs an elevator and a sprinkler system, mean it will most likely sit vacant for a while until the owner gets his head out of his arse.
 

kz1000ps

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I don't know where else to put this, but for what it's worth, the Virgin Megastore now has going-out-of-sale "(up to) 50% off everything in the store!!!!" signs up on all their windows. So if you want some (relative) bargains, head over before it's too late!
 

DowntownDave

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Is it a cursed location, or were they just displaced by the internet? It can't be the best place for a record store if the mega chains can't make it there....
 

ckb

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I'd say a store like Virgin or Tower is definitely displaced by the internet. And the problem is two-fold. The best thing about these megastores was always the selection, but now if there's something a little odd that anyone wants, its easier to order from Amazon or the like. The other meat-and-potatoes business for these stores (all music stores, really) is the latest pop hit ... folks that buy one or two albums a year. And this business has really plummetted as a direct result of downloading (legally and illegally). It has also plummetted as a result of discount retailers (i.e. Wal-Mart, Target, and also to a lesser extent Best Buy) using CD's as loss-leaders to get people in their stores.

On the other I think it is telling that the Newbury Comics maintains a store (recently expanded) just a few doors away and that chain is going strong. They've diversified into trinkets and tchotkies, and have successfully positioned themselves to ride the wave of "indie" and "alternative" music which is popular with Boston's college and post-college crowd these days. Virgin never quite made the shift in taste from the dance/electronic stuff to the "indie" stuff -- note the layout of the store even today.

Tower Records as a chain is in deep trouble ... tottering on the verge of bankruptcy and for a month or so wasn't taking new deliveries of CD's because the labels were afraid they wouldn't be paid ... short term they're looking ok, but no way they'll be moving back to Newbury St.

Borders moving into the Newbry (God, I hate that name) will suffice for a major record chain in the Back Bay, along with Newbury Comics. I still don't see Virgin abandoning Boston, though. Look for them sometime soon in Downtown Crossing (especially if they can claim some incentive from the Mayor's office) or in the Seaport (if anything ever happens there).
 

bbfen

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ckb said:
I'd say a store like Virgin or Tower is definitely displaced by the internet. And the problem is two-fold. The best thing about these megastores was always the selection, but now if there's something a little odd that anyone wants, its easier to order from Amazon or the like. The other meat-and-potatoes business for these stores (all music stores, really) is the latest pop hit ... folks that buy one or two albums a year. And this business has really plummetted as a direct result of downloading (legally and illegally). It has also plummetted as a result of discount retailers (i.e. Wal-Mart, Target, and also to a lesser extent Best Buy) using CD's as loss-leaders to get people in their stores.

On the other I think it is telling that the Newbury Comics maintains a store (recently expanded) just a few doors away and that chain is going strong. They've diversified into trinkets and tchotkies, and have successfully positioned themselves to ride the wave of "indie" and "alternative" music which is popular with Boston's college and post-college crowd these days. Virgin never quite made the shift in taste from the dance/electronic stuff to the "indie" stuff -- note the layout of the store even today.

Tower Records as a chain is in deep trouble ... tottering on the verge of bankruptcy and for a month or so wasn't taking new deliveries of CD's because the labels were afraid they wouldn't be paid ... short term they're looking ok, but no way they'll be moving back to Newbury St.

Borders moving into the Newbry (God, I hate that name) will suffice for a major record chain in the Back Bay, along with Newbury Comics. I still don't see Virgin abandoning Boston, though. Look for them sometime soon in Downtown Crossing (especially if they can claim some incentive from the Mayor's office) or in the Seaport (if anything ever happens there).
Virgin left for a number of reasons (better, cheaper competition in the area and some internal corporate issues forced their hand; see also all their other closings around the country), but in the end, with the outrageous overhead and pressure from the landlord, they didn't have much choice.

While, in theory, Virgin's looking for other space in the city, I'm not holding my breath. The whole industry is spending so much R&D on DRM and technology advances, therefore unless it's a SURE THING, most labels aren't putting out capital on something as risky as relocating a business that made marginal, at best, profits when located within spitting distance of two of the biggest colleges in town. With good guerilla marketing to the 300 schools in Greater Boston, they could maintain a solid 60% of their business via the internets.

As for 360; despite the "Newbury Views" and the other rot advertised, being on the ass of Newbury Street and above the MBTA are two major strikes against the owner. The entrance to the upper floors has always been an issue--having a Newbury address was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE, but the Newbury entrance has been filled with garbage, emo losers, motorcycle gangs and bums for as long as I can remember.

It never morphed into the premiere property expected, and won't now. Had the bohemoth across Mass Ave been built, who knows what the neighborhood would be. At this point, it appears that small part of Mass Ave will remain a dead zone.

If they would have been smart, they would have cut their losses and sold the whole damn thing to Berklee two years ago (assuming Berklee would want yet another property they'd have to fit into, rather than have a new property they could design ground-up to their own needs).
 

Corey

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I don't know if it's just Virgin or if it's the same most everywhere in the city, but I am always amazed when I go into Virgin and see CD's that are being sold for like $18. Most new release albums at best buy are $9.99 for a bit and most other discs don't go above $13. Same goes for the Maine/NH stores known as Bull Moose Music.
 

naushoncap122

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It is pretty much the same everywhere in metro Boston in terms of the prices for CD's, except Best Buy, although I say that only because I have never bothered to enter one. It is kind of absurd, but relative to maine and new hampshire, we're talking about a far more affluent market so they can more or less get away with murder. Think about 360 Newbury as the condo development, infested with emo kids from Berklee and the biker thugs for the foreseeable future, yet many people, not myself of course, have chosen to buy or at least have a serious interest in buying moderately high end real estate there. To me the location was alright, not as good as the Heritage, but it really needs to be cleaned up. This area has a long way to go before it can make a serious push into the high end market.
 

TheBostonian

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I really liked that Virgin Megastore, although I don't think I ever bought anything there. I'm a real bum when it comes to this stuff. I've read whole short novels at Barnes and Noble and put them back on the shelf.
 

jass

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Thats why I never shop at Virgin. Why buy a CD for MSRP, when best Buy and circuit city usually discount them to 9.99? And with price matching using the weekly ad, I only need to walk to Best Buy for the cheapest CDs.

All Virgin stores sell at MSRP, its a chain thing.


The one thing I bought there was a game, they used to have a great selection of rare titles.
 
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ckb said:
It has also plummetted as a result of discount retailers (i.e. Wal-Mart, Target, and also to a lesser extent Best Buy) using CD's as loss-leaders to get people in their stores.
Loss leaders? I don't know if I'd say that...
Margin on CDs isn't very high, but it's not something we lose money on. Gross margin is usually around 15-20%, which I think is reasonable for a business.

I'd say that these places are going out of business because people don't go into stores to just buy music anymore. They go into places like Best Buy to buy other stuff, and pick up some CDs while they're doing it. Or, alternatively, they get CDs at Best Buy because that's where they've always gone for other electronics and it's a convinient place to go.
 

kz1000ps

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TheBostonian said:
I really liked that Virgin Megastore, although I don't think I ever bought anything there. I'm a real bum when it comes to this stuff. I've read whole short novels at Barnes and Noble and put them back on the shelf.
I've done the same thing, assuming I can get a comfy chair somewhere.. And although I live a block away, I can easily count on one hand the number of times I've set foot in Virgin. I find most of my music purchasing can be done for a more reasonable price at either Newbury Comics or the used CD/record store Looney Tunes, located on the 1100 block of Boylston. The place is always blasting good music out onto the sidewalk with what looks to be 30 year old speakers.
 

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