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TALKING POINTS

Trustees of Reservations moving forward with waterfront park

The Trustees of Reservations is embarking on a public process to gather input about how to remake an old pier into a new park.
The Trustees of Reservations is embarking on a public process to gather input about how to remake an old pier into a new park.Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

DEVELOPMENT

Trustees of Reservations moving forward with waterfront park

The Trustees of Reservations is soliciting community input on how to transform a rotting, nearly four-acre pier near Logan Airport in East Boston into a waterfront park. The project, dubbed Piers Park 3, could cost $30 million to $40 million. The Trustees group has been raising money among its influential donor base, with about $20 million committed so far, according to Jocelyn Forbush, the executive vice president at the nonprofit. The goal is nothing less ambitious than designing a “jaw-dropping park” with amazing views of the city skyline, working with the famed landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Forbush said. “We’re well on our way,” Forbush said. “That doesn’t mean we’re done. We have a lot of work to do as we push the design work forward to continue to raise those funds.” The group has begun meeting with community organizations groups to seek ideas. Last week,WE 11/21 it it met with the Eagle Hill Civic Association and the East Boston Greenway Council. Several more meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks. And the Trustees of Reservations will host its own community meeting on Jan. 12 (virtually, of course). Ideas under discussion include a kayak launch and manmade tidal pools. Forbush hopes construction can start in 2022 and be completed by late 2023 or early 2024. The group Trustees is working with the Massachusetts Port Authority in two ways: The port authority owns the pier where the park would be built, and it is also designing a park expansion with the community on land next to the pier. Massport built the first phase of the Piers Park complex about 25 years ago. In total, the complex will span some 15 acres. ― JON CHESTO

VENTURE CAPITAL

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Catamaran Bio debuts with $42 million in venture capital funding

A new startup, Catamaran Bio, was unveiled Monday. The firm has been incubating at LabCentral in Cambridge since July and has $42 million raised by five venture capital firms, including the founding investor, SV Health Investors, of Boston. “This was a group of people who had wanted to do something together for a long time,” said Houman Ashrafian, managing partner of SV Health Investors. The potency of natural killer, or NK, cells, he said, “was the lightning rod that drew us together.” In recent years, immunotherapy drugs have emerged as among the most promising treatments for blood cancers. The approach, also called CAR-T therapy, relies on harvesting patients’ T cells ― a type of white blood cell ― and genetically rewiring them to home in on cancer after they are infused back into patients. Catamaran wants to do something similar for solid tumors found in diseases like lung cancer and kidney cancer. Instead of harvesting T cells from the cancer patients being treated, the company wants to obtain natural killer cells ― another form of white blood cells ― from healthy people. Scientists would use these cells, which have natural cancer-fighting properties, to develop an “off-the-shelf” drug for people diagnosed with malignant tumors. There are no approved cell therapies for solid tumors, but several companies are working on using natural killer cells to attack those types of cancer, including Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is collaborating with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. ― JONATHAN SALTZMAN

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PUBLIC HEALTH

High-tech business group says COVID-19 testing falling short

Members of the state’s high-tech business community on Monday urged the state and the rest of the nation to step up the amount of COVID-19 testing, saying the number of tests is still falling far short of what is needed to win the fight against the coronavirus. A virtual panel discussion hosted by the Massachusetts High Technology Council made the case for a broader and more methodical approach to testing. In the spring, the tech council recommended that at least 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day take place in Massachusetts by the end of June. The council recommended 500,000 to 1 million by the end of the fall, to stop the second wave of the virus. The actual number of tests has risen to an average of about 70,000 a day, according to a new report on COVID-19 from the tech council, though the total has exceeded 100,000 a day a few times in recent days. Remove college campuses from the equation, and the number drops considerably — and is a tiny fraction of the nearly 7 million people who live in the state. One key issue the experts on the panel identified: the benefits of testing asymptomatic individuals who might be carrying the virus. Many people getting COVID-19 tests right now, they said, already have symptoms. But a broader survey of the population is necessary to curb the disease. In its latest report, the council recommended that federal, state, and local governments develop a systematic, expanded testing regime using multiple kinds of tests and employing public-private partnerships. ― JON CHESTO

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REAL ESTATE

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Downtown condo sales lag in an otherwise hot market

Greater Boston’s housing market remained red-hot in October, with prices surging and the number of sales at record highs. All except for in one place: Downtown. The recent split between increased sales of single-family homes in the suburbs and declining sales of urban condominiums became more marked as the fall housing market hit its peak. The widening gap highlighted the premium home buyers are putting on space during the COVID-19 pandemic, as opposed to wanting a relatively small perch in the heart of the city. Figures released by the Greater Boston Association of Realtors show sales of single-family homes in the region rose 37 percent in October compared with the same period last year, with the median price hitting $700,000, easily a record for the month and up 17 percent from October 2019. Condo sales jumped, too, did the median price ― a 4.6 percent increase to $575,000, also a record for the month. The figures cover 64 communities across Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk counties. But GBAR noted that within the City of Boston, which accounts for about one-third of the region’s condo market, sales were up just 1 percent and the median price fell 6.9 percent, to $642,500. The number of listings in Boston was up 51 percent compared with October of last year. ― TIM LOGAN

SMALL BUSINESS

State’s new grant programs overwhelmed by applications

Governor Charlie Baker’s two new grant programs to help small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic have been swamped by applications, essentially ensuring there won’t be enough money to go around for everyone who sought the help. Working through the quasipublic Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp., the Baker administration unveiled two programs in October offering a combined $50.8 million in grants, aimed at helping small businesses endure what’s expected to be a tough winter. One program, backed by $40 million, offers grants of up to $75,000 for businesses with as many as 50 employees; the other, with $10.8 million, provides grants of up to $25,000 for businesses with five or fewer workers. The latter program also requires that the owners who apply have below-average incomes. Mass. Growth Capital stopped accepting applications earlier this month. At that point, state officials said, more than 10,000 applications had been received for the two programs, which are being funded by federal dollars. About 37 percent were for the program to help businesses with five or fewer employees, although a few businesses applied to both programs. Generally speaking, the industries most affected by the pandemic were most represented in the applications: restaurants, beauty and personal care, and educational and personal services. It remains unclear how many applicants will successfully get a grant; that number will depend in large part on whether state officials decide to award requests in full but assist fewer businesses, or reduce the sizes of the grants to reach more businesses. But it’s highly probable that thousands of requests will be rejected. State officials hope to decide who wins grant funds in December. ― JON CHESTO

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