Star power design shines at Ashmont
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A groundbreaking for a new affordable housing development in Dorchester brought out all the usual suits Monday.
There was Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Trinity Financial honcho James Keefe and various bankers and builders who came to celebrate the project, a new apartment and condo building steps from the Ashmont Red Line stop.
And then there was a woman in a bright green dress and wedge heels, who looked vaguely like someone you've seen on TV. Because maybe you have.
Taniya Nayak, who has hosted a variety of shows on HGTV and the Food Network, designed the interiors of building's 83 apartments and condos and brought a shot of star power to the occasion without even setting foot on stage. Nayak was raised in Weymouth and now lives in Lower Mills, and is enough of a local to talk favorite neighborhood diners with Baker while showing him the finer details of a model kitchen.
It was in one of those eateries where Nayak — whose interior design firm specializes in restaurants — signed up for the job, she said. She likes to hit the Ashmont Grill on Sundays and knew a Trinity executive who does too. They got to talking, Nayak said, and before long she was working on her first apartment building, trying to design housing for a clientele as diverse as Dorchester itself.
"We talk about design for all," she said. "This is it. High end finishes that appeal to anyone."
And that's the idea of the building, a mix of affordable and market-rate housing in a neighborhood where many people risk being priced out.
"We want real and regular people to have a chance to live and raise a family and build a life here," said Baker, whose administration awarded $3 million in tax credits to the project, along with $4 million from the City of Boston.
And they might even get some big-name design in the process.
Vertex headed for the big screen?
If the crushing collapse of the global financial industry can make for lucrative movie fodder, why not the mind-numbing process of discovering new drugs?
Producer Yael Beals is working to give Boston's Vertex Pharmaceuticals the feature-film treatment, hoping to do for biotech what "The Big Short" did for hedge fund managers and their questionable haircuts.
Her plan is to adapt "The Billion-Dollar Molecule", a New York Times bestseller that chronicled Vertex's efforts to develop a blockbuster drug outside the corridors of Big Pharma. The company's founder, Joshua Boger, left a high-profile job at Merck to toil in the scrappy field of biotech, a story Beals believes will resonate in today's startup-obsessed culture.
Step one is gathering cash, and Beals was set to host a fund-raising event Tuesday at Cambridge's Mass Innovation Labs, featuring a Q&A with Barry Werth, author of the original book; Roger Tung, a Vertex co-founder; and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Walter Gilbert, among others.
Beals is a filmmaker by training, not a biotech insider, but became fascinated by the high-risk business of curing disease. So she put it her friend, Third Rock Ventures partner Alexis Borisy: "'I want to make a film or something about a biotech startup. Is there any drama in it?' And he said, 'Oh, yes,' and he recommended this book. And I just couldn't put it down."
Fate of sales tax holiday may be in question
Time is running out for Jon Hurst and his sales tax holiday.
It's become an annual August ritual for Massachusetts merchants since its inception 12 years ago, skipped only once in the wake of the Great Recession in 2009.
The economy is nowhere near recession-level now. But the warning lights are still flashing on Beacon Hill, with budget writers gearing up for relatively slow tax revenue growth for this fiscal year. So it's not entirely surprising that the pleas from the group Hurst leads, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, aren't exactly being embraced at the State House.
Hurst and his group lobbied to get the holiday included in the state's economic development bill last week during a House debate. But the amendment, sponsored by Representative Paul McMurtry, didn't survive. Now, it's on to the Senate, which plans to debate the economic development bill on Thursday.
The Department of Revenue has estimated that the two-day holiday can cost the state as much as $25.5 million in foregone sales tax revenue. But Hurst says that kind of loss is unlikely: Many purchases, he argues, would otherwise be happening in tax-free New Hampshire or over the Internet.
This issue has come down to the wire before. But Hurst is bracing for the worst. If the Senate decides not to put its muscle behind it on Thursday, he figures there's only a 25 percent chance of the tax holiday being passed as a standalone bill before lawmakers adjourn on July 31.
"If the Senate doesn't take it up Thursday, we're not totally done, but we're close to done," Hurst says. "[Consumers] have 365 days that they can buy tax-free right from their smartphone, and we can't get a lousy two days? It's very frustrating."
Patent law, with science and speed on the side
It is probably hard to find too many molecular biochemistry PhDs who also are gainfully employed patent attorneys, with side hobbies in high-stakes motorcycle racing.
And yet 48-year-old Jeff Vaughn, a patent attorney at Incredible Foods (which recently changed its name from WikiFoods) fits the bill.
When he's not helping scientists protect intellectual property at the Cambridge maker of frozen treats, he's getting new tattoos and racing motorcycles at speeds of up to 130 mph. Lately, he's been practicing for his first big race on July 23 at the Loudon Road Race Series in New Hampshire.
While it seems like a lot of education to risk on a dangerous sport, Vaughn said he doesn't have a secret death wish. He said he simply likes being fully immersed and focused on whatever he is doing.
"Motorcycle racers are a different breed of cat. They're really good at ignoring risk," Vaughn said, adding: "I'm not just going to sit home and watch TV."