New Skanska development chief has eye out for big projects
For the past three years, Russ DeMartino has been chasing deals around Boston for Skanska USA. Now, DeMartino gets to pull the trigger, too.
Skanska has promoted DeMartino to be executive vice president of its commercial development team in Boston, leading an 11-person team at Skanska’s Seaport offices.
DeMartino took over for Charley Leatherbee, who was recruited away this spring by national developer Trammell Crow to open a Boston office.
Two projects in particular occupy DeMartino’s time these days: a 12-story office building going up at the entrance to Boston’s marine industrial park, and a seven-story lab building planned for Union Square in Somerville.
He’s also busy looking for the next big thing. One place of interest: the Dorchester Avenue corridor through South Boston and Dorchester. He says Skanska was outbid by National Development for a few deals there as taller buildings are expected to eventually replace many of the low-slung structures that line the stretch. And Somerville remains intriguing to him, particularly with the Green Line extension under way.
“We’ll look at almost anything,” DeMartino says. “How much we put our backs into it depends on the opportunity. We are trying to be disciplined. Land pricing is getting a little heated right now.”
Exhibit A: Skanska made a run at General Electric’s future headquarters property in Fort Point. Alexandria Real Estate Equities and National Development won the bidding, agreeing to pay $252 million for a 95,000-square-foot brick office complex and an acre of developable land, with a permit for a 12-story tower.
“We were in it for a little while and we realized the pricing was going to go way beyond what we thought,” DeMartino says. “We knew it was going to be valuable, but that number, we would never have gotten there.”
Skanska’s development arm has an edge in chasing deals: Unlike many developers, the Swedish company also owns major construction and engineering businesses.
“Having a partner that is your builder, that you never really fight with, you’re able to solve problems that come up as a team, as opposed to fighting over costs,” DeMartino says. — JON CHESTO
Making food a star
When Jill Shah embarked on the My Way Cafe initiative, she had no way of knowing she would end up starring in a movie as a result.
Shah leads the Shah Family Foundation, which she formed two-and-a-half years ago with her husband, Wayfair chief executive Niraj Shah. She started My Way Cafe after she saw firsthand the unappetizing reheated meals that kids were being fed at Boston public schools that lacked proper kitchens.
Documentary director Fiona Turner heard about the project and thought it would make for an interesting story, as well as a possible model that could be replicated in other cities. “Eat Up,” an 81-minute film, chronicles the project’s steady success. About 30 schools have been retrofitted for healthier meals and another 30 will see their kitchens remodeled this summer. Shah says another 65 are scheduled to be updated within the next year or two.
The foundation hosted an event to showcase the movie at the Boston Public Library on May 31. Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh swung by. The film was later screened over several days at the Museum of Fine Arts.
“The movie is terrific [but] it’s hard to watch yourself sometimes,” Shah says. “I’ve never done anything like that before. I should have done my hair and makeup more.”
Shah says the foundation is paying for the equipment, about $30,000 per school, and the city is covering the installation costs. So far, kids seem to be gobbling up the tastier, healthier meals coming their way.
Shah says she’s already working on a playbook to help people in other cities launch similar programs.
“I was an entrepreneur my entire life, on the other side making money,” Shah says. “This is even more fun.” — JON CHESTO
HubSpot job is open
To HubSpot chief executive Brian Halligan, running a company is a bit like managing a baseball team. Sometimes, you need to lean on your home-grown talent and sometimes you need to draft veteran players from other teams.
Looks like Halligan is heading back to the free-agent pool to replace Hunter Madeley, the chief sales officer at HubSpot. He leaves on July 2 after five years with the Cambridge-based marketing software company. Madeley will be taking a CEO job at a software firm in his native Toronto. Madeley, who has split his time at HubSpot between Cambridge and Toronto, said it was a professional opportunity that was too good to pass up, plus a chance to cut back on travel and spend more time with his wife and two sons.
Halligan won’t be hiring from within for Madeley’s job. He chose to go outside to recruit a chief customer officer, a new role that will include Madeley’s sales responsibilities, as well as marketing and customer service.
He noted that the Red Sox won the World Series last year largely with home-grown players, plus a few free agents such as Chris Sale and JD Martinez.
“You can build a very good team through solely growing your own players,” Halligan wrote. “But to build a great team, you need to complement that home-grown talent with a few free agents.” — JON CHESTO
No penthouse view
He’s not just a developer. He’s also a client.
At a press tour Friday of the brand-new One Dalton condo tower, d eveloper Richard Friedman shared that he’s bought a unit himself, and plans to move in to the super-luxe tower this fall. The longtime Cambridge resident will join M ichael Dell (reportedly), Herb Chambers (whose future pad was featured in the Wall Street Journal recently), and probably other bold-faced Boston names in the city’s tallest residential building.
But Friedman won’t be living at the top. Friedman said he took a unit on the 49th floor of the 61-story tower.
Why? Well, Friedman joked, everything from 50 on up has balconies.
“And I worry my wife would eventually throw me off,” he said. — TIM LOGAN
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