SOMERVILLE - Somerville’s never been immune from the threat of commercial redevelopment but then again, few cities in Massachusetts are. Commercial real estate in Boston alone constitutes over 30% of total available property at an assessed value of well over $46 Billion. By way of comparison, the White House itself has only been valued at $400 Million.
But someone’s getting rich in Davis Square, and I can guarantee it’s neither you nor I. Nor your neighbor. In fact, it may not even be a Massachusetts based company. Scape, a UK based student housing development interest, completed a $9.77 Million transaction earlier this week from Newton-based Myer Dana and Sons for a three parcel retail lease on Elm Street in Somerville—the first American purchase for the seven year old development firm.
Commercial development in Somerville’s nothing new. Nor are entreaties towards student accommodations. But when real estate sales also threaten the continued existence of one of the most beloved Irish bars in the greater Boston metropolitan area (and one of the few remaining that’s actually operated by an Irish native)... the likelihood of both eyebrows and fists raised are going to be raised exponentially.
Except the Burren—which sits on one of the parcels purchased in the Scape deal—isn’t going anywhere. At least for the foreseeable future. “I’m glad to say the Burren is not affected,” owner Tommy McCarthy stated in an email to Boston magazine recently in response. “Long live the Burren.”
“We remain excited to bring an innovative approach to urban living in Boston and beyond. As we look to potential projects in Somerville, we are fully committed to a transparent process that engages all stakeholders as we move forward on specific plans over the next few years,” said Scape USA CEO Andrew Flynn in a public statement on Tuesday. “We look forward to working with the neighborhood, community stakeholders and the Somerville Planning staff.” The company previously announced a five year plan aimed on investing $1 Billion in the greater Boston area by 2023.
The Davis Square purchase isn’t the only controversy facing Scape, however. A proposed co-living project on Boylston Street in the Fenway faced opposition from neighborhood residents last week after initial reports complained the planned 15 story building would be out of scale and against current zoning laws.
While a Scape USA representative has confirmed to Boston Business Journal an agreement is in place to keep the Burren open, the future of other retailers on the block—including Burren competitor Sligo (which currently holds the distinction of possessing the oldest liquor license in Somerville) and the recently relaunched Korean outpost Jae’s Cafe—remains uncertain.