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Expanding insurer MassMutual joins Pine Street housing effort

MassMutual chief executive Roger Crandall
MassMutual chief executive Roger Crandall(Chris Morris for The Boston Globe)

Not long after MassMutual announced plans for an office building in Boston that could house more than 1,000 employees, the requests for donations began to arrive.

Here’s one call that stood out: Mayor Marty Walsh dialed up MassMutual CEO Roger Crandall (right) and asked for help with Boston’s Way Home Fund. The money will be used for a 225-unit residential project for the city’s homeless that Pine Street Inn has proposed in Jamaica Plain.

Former BJ’s Wholesale Club CEO Laura Sen put in a good word. Sen sits on the boards of MassMutual and the Pine Street Inn.

Crandall, of course, wanted to make a good impression in the city where his Springfield-based company is dramatically expanding.

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MassMutual eventually agreed to give $1 million, a donation that was announced last Thursday at the Pine Street Inn’s annual Home Remedy breakfast at the Westin Copley. Crandall says the gift fits with MassMutual’s corporate mission.

“We aspire to provide financial security for all Americans,” Crandall says. “You can’t talk about financial security if you don’t have a roof over your head on a cold night.”

MassMutual joins a number of companies with deeper roots in Boston: Bank of America, Liberty Mutual, Suffolk Construction, and Partners HealthCare have all agreed to give $1 million apiece as well. Along with smaller donations, Walsh and his team have raised $6.2 million so far. The goal, when it was first announced in early 2018, was to raise $10 million over four years.

“Hopefully, we’ll inspire other companies and other philanthropists to help support this effort,” Crandall says.

MassMutual unveiled plans in February 2018 to build a 300,000-square-foot office building on Fan Pier on the South Boston Waterfront. The insurer had already invested in the land with developer Joe Fallon back in 2005. Crandall says MassMutual executives had long viewed the site as a possible Boston beachhead. (MassMutual will occupy about two-thirds of the building.)

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As of the end of 2017, MassMutual employed about 200 people in Boston. That number exceeded 300 by the end of 2018, representing a mix of new hires and relocations from Springfield and North Carolina. Crandall expects that figure to pass 1,000 by the time the new building opens in 2021. (A groundbreaking is expected in June.) The company is also adding 1,500 jobs over time in Springfield, part of a plan to consolidate its major US offices.

The Seaport has changed dramatically since MassMutual made that initial investment 14 years ago.

“It’s almost like a brand new city,” Crandall says. “Traffic is worse [but] it’s good to have those kind of problems. It means you’re growing.”
— JON CHESTO

Arrowstreet chief takes on global warming

Can architecture fight global warming?

It’s a question that Amy Korte is determined to answer as the new president of Arrowstreet, the 100-person architectural firm in downtown Boston. Korte, one of the firm’s principals, succeeds Jim Batchelor as president.

Arrowstreet, named after the street in Cambridge where the firm began, has had a number of high-profile projects lately. Among them: the Congress Square complex at the former Fidelity headquarters, and the Massport-owned “Parcel K” on the waterfront, where an apartment building and hotel are going up.

There’s at least one school project that speaks to Korte’s focus on energy efficiency: the King Open/Cambridge Street Upper school complex in Cambridge, described as the first net-zero emissions school in the state. The building, slated to open in the fall, is designed to use 43 percent less energy than a typical Massachusetts school and will feature nearly 3,600 solar panels.

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Korte says the biggest shift underway in the industry is how it deals with climate change. She believes architecture can make a big difference by designing structures that require less energy to power and heat, thus producing fewer emissions.

The King Open school turned out to be a useful laboratory. “We used different [virtual reality] experiences to help the students, teachers, and administrators understand how they could improve the energy usage in the building,” Korte says. — JON CHESTO

CBS president steers clear of merger talks

CBS president Joe Ianniello held forth about a variety of programs during an earnings call with analysts last Thursday.

His presentation mentioned the success of “Star Trek: Discovery,” a new Showtime comedy called “Black Monday” starring Don Cheadle, and a Boston-set Showtime drama called “City on a Hill” starring Kevin Bacon (of course) and produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (who else?).

But Ianniello steered clear of the drama that the analysts probably care about most: the on-again, off-again CBS/Viacom merger talks.

CBS fired up the rumor mill again on April 23 by revealing that it would suspend its search for a replacement to ousted CEO Les Moonves. (Hasbro chief Brian Goldner was reportedly in the running.) Instead, Ianniello would stay as president and acting CEO, at least through Dec. 31.

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CBS didn’t mention Norwood-based National Amusements Inc. in that announcement. However, as the controlling shareholder of both Viacom and CBS, the Redstone family company always looms. With Sumner Redstone ailing, daughter Shari Redstone is essentially in charge at National Amusements.

She has tried to merge the two in the past. While she agreed to a two-year cease-fire of sorts last year, there is nothing to stop the boards of either company from bringing up the merger on their own accord.

One of the previous sticking points: who would run the recombined company. Redstone initially resisted Ianniello, a Moonves protégé, and supported Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. Like any good soap opera, this one shows no sign of ending soon. — JON CHESTO

TripAdvisor effort helps immigrants transition

Some recent immigrants to Massachusetts might learn more about their new home through a Duck Boat ride, a walking tour of the North End, or a visit to the Boston Tea Party museum. It’s all part of a plan at Needham’s TripAdvisor to make immigrants more comfortable with their new surroundings. TripAdvisor makes free tickets available through its Welcome Home campaign to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through its experience-booking platform.

The program started last year in New York and San Francisco, and expanded to TripAdvisor’s hometown – Boston – this spring.

TripAdvisor has teamed up with the International Institute of New England, which helps prepare immigrants and refugees for the workforce. Beth Grous, TripAdvisor’s chief people officer, says the firm has committed $10,000 so far for vouchers in the Boston area. The hope is to help at least 500 people, so that number may grow. “If the demand exceeds supply, we’ll actively evaluate this,” Grous says.

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“Put yourself in a position of a refugee, who is coming to a new country, often needing to reboot themselves professionally, often learning a new language,” Grous says.

“If we even make a small impact in someone’s ability to feel at home, to belong here, to [develop] a sense of place, we will consider that a success,” she added. — JON CHESTO


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