Boston Homebuyers Swapping History for Modern Luxury

Boston Homebuyers Swapping History for Modern Luxury

Jeanine Brennan
Jul 25, 2008

When we think of living in Boston, its all about beautiful old brownstones, historical row houses and bricked townhouses. Walking through Back Bay and the South End we can't help wishing we could live in those quaint historical buildings with bay windows, intricate wrought-iron railings and beautifully carved wood doors. To us, it feels like living with one foot in the past and one in the present. But The Boston Globe points out that we're in the minority these days...

Pics: above left, photo from jimtrue's flickr photostream; above right, BostonCityWalk's flickr photostream

above left: photo from vanshnookenraggen's flickr photostream

above right: photo from jimtrue's flickr photostream

The Boston Globe published an article, Bloom's off the brick row house, this week talking about Boston homebuyers choosing modern high-rise luxury buildings over the classic style brownstones Boston is known for. The Globe reports that sales of condos in Boston's traditional brick row houses and brownstones have dropped sharply while sales of units in new buildings are on the rise. So far this year, 525 condos in brownstones and row houses were sold in Boston, down from 2,442 during the same period last year. But sales in modern buildings, primarily those built since the mid-1990s, have surged to 875, compared with 767 a year ago.

We can see both sides of this issue. On the one hand, Boston is all about history. Many people consider that living in a brownstone is the only way to truly feel that you're living in Boston. Living in a historical rowhouse has the feeling of an intimate home on a tree-lined street, with architectural details like dentil moldings and carved fireplaces. You also might be more likely to know your neighbors. But living in these charming older buildings can bring their share of compromises. Tilting stairs, ants, little insulation, dark inner-rooms, parking in the alley are just a few of the possible annoyances. Not to mention the upkeep involved. Many people view brownstones as "a lot of work".

Modern mid-rise and high-rise buildings like the upcoming Clarendon in Back Bay and 45 Province (pictured at top right) have 24 hour concierge service, covered parking, central AC and open loft-like rooms. Many look like they came out of the pages of Dwell magazine with modern Arclinea kitchens, oversized windows and green materials used throughout. Not to mention the soaring views (and not of someone else's window) and more privacy. But they come with a higher pricetag, little to no charm, and additional condo fees.

above left: The Grand Lobby of the Clarendon Back Bay

above right: Paula Tennyson's flickr photostream

Its an interesting question. Does newer make it better? We think it all just boils down to living in a place that feels the most like home to you. If you feel most at home in an architecturally rich environment featuring high ceilings, hardwood floors and don't mind parking outside behind your home, then a brownstone might just be for you. If you need more privacy and anonymity, want the modern conveniences of a concierge and wired internet, in an open loft-like space requiring little or no upkeep and you don't mind the trade-off in pricetag, then the more modern high-rise works for you.

What do you think, Bostonians?

above left: photo from BostonCityWalk's flickr photostream

above right: photo from Ellyn Kocher's flickr photostream

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