fb-pixel Skip to main content

The week in business


Planning agency approves sale of Harriet Tubman House to condo developer

The Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday unanimously approved the hotly contested sale of the Harriet Tubman House in the South End so it can be redeveloped into condominiums. United South End Settlements, which owns the building at the corner of Columbus and Massachusetts avenues and runs youth and social service programs there, says it needs to sell to raise money to stay afloat. The 57-year-old nonprofit’s endowment dwindled below $900,000 in 2018, from $3.1 million four years earlier — according to tax returns — and it says the Tubman House needs millions of dollars in repairs and maintenance. Earlier this year, the nonprofit reached a deal to sell the property to developer New Boston Ventures for an as-yet-undisclosed price. The company wants to convert the building into 66 condos. The nonprofit plans to move its operations to a site on nearby Rutland Street. “We would not be selling this building if the survival of the organization was not at stake,” settlements board chairwoman Julia Johannsen wrote in a letter in September. “We are painfully aware of the strong, long-standing ties many have to this space.” Those connections had been made clear through vocal opposition to the sale from some neighborhood residents. They say the Tubman House is an anchor in the South End and Lower Roxbury communities, particularly for longtime lower-income residents in a neighborhood that has become vastly more wealthy in recent decades. They note the planning agency initially sold the nonprofit the site for use as a community center, and argue the Tubman House should be preserved — perhaps by the city or another nonprofit — as a home for social service agencies that have been there since it opened in 1976. — TIM LOGAN


Beth Israel Lahey to enhance orthopedic care through NE Baptist ties

Beth Israel Lahey Health on Wednesday launched an initiative to enhance orthopedic care at its community hospitals, the first clinical program to launch at the state’s second-largest health system since it was created by a historic merger earlier this year. The initiative will expand the nationally recognized model of care at New England Baptist Hospital, which specializes in orthopedics. New England Baptist’s surgeons have shared their best practices — their specific way of doing orthopedic surgery — with surgeons at Beverly Hospital in Beverly and Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport. Executives said the goal is to draw more patients who need joint replacements to community hospitals in the Beth Israel Lahey Health system, by standardizing and improving the quality of care for patients. Beverly and Anna Jaques will rebrand their orthopedic surgery programs under the New England Baptist name. Dr. Kevin Tabb, chief executive of Beth Israel Lahey Health, described the orthopedic surgery program as the first of several clinical collaborations that are in the works, including in behavioral health, women and infant care, and cancer care. The initiative is focused on hospital-based hip and knee replacement surgeries and spine operations, but it will later expand to include additional types of surgeries and additional hospitals in the Beth Israel Lahey system. New England Baptist surgeons work from lists of dozens of best practices, which are designed to prevent infections and result in the best possible outcomes for patients who undergo joint replacements. — PRIYANKA DAYAL MCCLUSKEY



Latest design for a new Northern Avenue Bridge favors pedestrians, cyclists over cars

Don’t expect to drive over the Northern Avenue Bridge ever again. City officials working on replacing the long-closed bridge over Fort Point Channel appear to be moving toward designing a span that would prioritize walking and bicycling and prohibit single-occupancy cars. Indeed, conceptual images shared last week with an advisory committee don’t show any vehicles. There are still details to work out before the project can move forward, such as the cost and how to balance the needs of walkers and bikers with those of the corporate shuttle buses used by many people who commute into and out of the Seaport. But city engineers pledged a “people first” design, and the new images reflect that, depicting two narrow spans crossing the water, connected to a pavilion that extends over the channel. One span — accommodating one lane of traffic — would be devoted to buses, shuttles, and emergency vehicles. A separate span — on the harbor side — and the space below it would be for walkers and bikers, or just a place for people to congregate. While the bridge would be planned to “evolve” with the city’s transportation needs, officials said, there are no plans to allow regular car traffic. — TIM LOGAN



Few high school students know of state’s booming life sciences industry

Life sciences jobs are opening up faster in Massachusetts than employers can fill them, according to a report that says colleges aren’t preparing enough qualified graduates for such positions. Despite a nationwide push in recent years to encourage young people to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, or STEM, the growth of life-sciences jobs in the state far outstrips the growth in the number of qualified candidates, the report says. As a result, it often takes more than three months to fill openings as employers compete against one another for promising candidates, according to the report by the nonprofit Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation, a sister organization of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council industry group. The number of job postings that require degrees ranging from an associate to a doctorate has risen between 100 percent and 140 percent since 2010. Meanwhile, the number of graduates with those degrees has increased at a much slower pace. “Very few high school students know that the life sciences industry exists,’” the author of the 58-page report says. “Even students who enjoy and excel in science and plan to attend college as biology or chemistry majors typically assume their only career path is in health care.” — JONATHAN SALTZMAN



City Council approves a tax on big real estate transactions in Boston

Big-dollar real estate sales in Boston could face a tax that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for city housing programs, under a plan approved by the Boston City Council last week. The City Council on Wednesday passed a measure to allow a tax of up to 2 percent on real estate transactions of $2 million or more — including homes and apartment and office buildings. It has the support of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and with his signature would head to the state Legislature for a vote. The measure is a compromise between council members who had pushed for a tax as high as 6 percent and Walsh, who supported the idea in general but was concerned about its effect on development and the housing market. Even at 2 percent, a real estate tax would have raised $169 million a year, on average, over the last decade, according to a recent city report. The prospect of that kind of money — which far exceeds the city’s current budget for affordable housing — has drawn support from housing advocates and some city councilors. The measure needs the approval of the Legislature. — TIM LOGAN