Here is a potential slogan for residents of one particular Fort Point luxury tower to direct at their new property manager: Yuppie Lives Matter.
First lured in by spacious rooms with built-in furniture and posh amenities, the disruptors filling high-end units at 315 on A, seemingly an orgy of 25- to 45-year-old innovators, feel as if the building’s recent sale and changeover in management has left them paying senior rates for sophomore accoutrements. Some of their complaints seem legitimate, especially considering the less-than-savory reputation of the building’s new owners. Nevertheless, residents leading the charge have done themselves no favors by making hysterical statements in response to controversial access restrictions to the building’s top-floor “SkyLounge.”
When EQR–315, an affiliate of Chicago-based apartment company Equity Residential, bought 315 on A for a reported $130.3 million in April, the company put in place its own management team, and that’s where the trouble appears to have started. An email obtained by DigBoston offers a disturbing, first-hand account of life inside the walls of this correctional facility masquerading as a luxury building for ambitious professionals. Written by a resident of 315 on A and dated May 15, the note was formally addressed to Equity Residential staff (though informally directed to a much more sinister group) …
Dear 315 on A Wardens,
It’s only a been a couple short weeks since you’ve taken over the building. While I appreciate that you have quickly fixed many of the issues left by Greystar [the former property management team], creating unnecessary rules is not acceptable.
Said inmate goes on to praise the “Wardens” for implementing a “schedule for the Freight Elevator,” which he hails as an “expected” move by a considerate management team because, after all, “nobody wants to wait 15 minutes to get up to their apartment.” However, the ringleader then throws the gauntlet. “A schedule for renting out the SkyLounge is also expected … it’s a privilege to use [SkyLounge] for a private gathering, but not at the expense of other residents who share the space.”
How did the so-called wardens respond? They slapped a curfew on SkyLounge privileges, sending angry shockwaves through the building. “[F]orcing us to vacate the common area by midnight is completely illogical,” the perturbed resident cried in a subsequent email, on which many of the 315 on A tenants were copied. “If you are to propose a seemingly senseless mandate such as removing access to the SkyLounge, please provide at least a modicum or rationale.”
Don’t hate on the resident just yet. It turns out the landlord has a rep for infuriating contractees with nickel-and-dime tactics. The 315 on A complaint email was absent any lick of self-awareness, but Equity Residential, a publicly traded apartment company, appears to place money before tenants. “[Equity] isn’t from here,” according to one local real estate player who is familiar with the situation, and who spoke off the record for fear of professional retaliation. “Equity is a national company that operates like a business. For them, it’s all about the bottom line.”
Equity Residential has properties in 11 states and Washington, DC, and specifically targets “high-quality properties in growth markets.” That ranges from obvious places like New York City, Boston, and San Francisco to smaller up-and-coming monied areas like Stamford. In total, Equity owns 18 properties across the Commonwealth, including seven in Boston, six in Cambridge, and three along Route 128 in Waltham and Burlington.
At 315 on A, Equity now offers monthly studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom leases in the $2,790 to $5,745 range. They’re currently 94 percent occupied, though when online listings with expiring leases are factored in, that percentage falls below 80 percent. In the past, owners have attracted new tenants by offering up to three months of free rent. This practice of sacrificing so much money up front is often seen in real estate as an indication that prices are high. At the same time, even if amenities like overnight lounge access evaporate under Equity’s watch, they’re situated to endure a high turnover by feeding off development in the surrounding Fort Point goldmine.
As for those currently caught in the money pit, you don’t need leaked internal email threads to see that residents are outraged. Equity Residential’s Boston operation is a favorite punching bag for people at least claiming to be tenants and ex-tenants, so much so that their Yelp status is worth mentioning. Behold a sampling of 315 on A reviews:
The building itself has been cheapened considerably. They have let the lounge area fall apart. They are considering removing the coffee machine, the pool table cue sticks have been taken away, the grill is never cleaned.
The little things are also becoming noticeable. The area around the building isn’t as clean, things stay broken longer, and it just doesn’t seem like a luxury building anymore (and for $4k a month, it should).
Equity knows all about the criticism. “I think it’s just part of the change [in management],” an employee of 315 on A said in a phone interview. “Change can be tough, but in the past month we’ve gotten a ton of issues resolved that were here prior to us having control of the building.” A representative from Equity Residential further explained: “The pool table has had its felt repaired and new pool sticks have also arrived. We are exploring possible options for the coffee machine.”
Meanwhile, some of the dissatisfaction with the Equity way of doing things boiled over in mid-May, starting with the aforementioned community-wide email addressed to the “Wardens.” In laying down demands, the author wrapped up with some big words …
I request that you return the SkyLounge to 24/7 access, effective immediately … I will be “sitting in” the SkyLounge this evening as the clock ticks past our new 12am curfew. As usual, I will not bother anyone while I am there. Be warned though, my puppy may offer you a kiss as I’m carried out in shackles by your newly appointed deputies.
Though the note wrapped with a call to “#OccupySkyLounge,” the 315 on A leasing office rep reports that “no protest was staged.” At the end of the day, residents settled things the old-fashioned way—with an online petition. Launched on May 16 by the same 315 on Type A resident who quietly occupied the common room, the wording requests “that new rules limiting access to the Sky Lounge between 12am and 6am be repealed immediately.”
As of this writing, the campaign to “save” the SkyLounge has garnered 62 of the 1,000 signatures needed to reach its goal. The effort hasn’t all been for naught though; at the least, it’s shown that new money on A Street is just as entertaining as retiree money across the bridge at Harbor Towers, where legal action is a contact sport, and where multilateral lawsuits involving everyone—from residents, to contractors, to management—sprout like startups in a tech boom. As one rhetorical opponent of the formidable rabble rouser at 315 on A commented under the doomed petition:
For a dude that has a second bedroom filled with Chuck-e-Cheese balls and blow-up rafts it is ironic you would be arguing that you don’t want to be treated like a child. Seriously … it’s probably the obnoxious actions from people like you that are ruining it for all of us.