For the longest time, it seemed there was no end in sight, but in the South Shore town of Hull, the future of the Hall Estate has finally been decided. Nearly four years after first proposing a luxury apartment complex for the seaside parcel, AvalonBay Communities has finally begun work on the 162-unit development.

Patience is definitely a virtue in this business, but at the end of the day, it was well worth it, AvalonBay Vice President of Development William M. McLaughlin told Banker & Tradesman last week. It’s a beautiful site that we are proud to own.

AvalonBay paid $1.79 million to General Investment and Development, which itself had built dozens of luxury condominiums on the property before deciding to sell it several years ago. One of Hull’s last remaining open pieces of land, various efforts to develop the land have come before the town, including a proposal for a gambling casino and another for an amusement park. Avalonbay itself had to withstand an environmental group’s attempts to buy the land for conservation from GID.

Despite the occasionally contentious nature of the planning process, McLaughlin praised the community for working with his company. The biggest battles, he said, involved the state Department of Environmental Protection and implementation of the state Rivers Protection Act, a law passed in the midst of AvalonBay’s negotiations with the town and GID. AvalonBay understood the community’s concerns, McLaughlin said, and did its best to address the issues, such as leaving significant blocks of open space on the property.

With more than 140 apartment complexes in its portfolio – encompassing more than 41,000 apartments – AvalonBay is used to project delays, McLaughlin said, although he acknowledged that the Hull venture was unusually long. He noted, for example, that another parcel which AvalonBay acquired at the same time as it initially bought the Hall Estate has been permitted, built and occupied in the time it took the Hull acquisition to be even consummated.

You never know what direction these things might take, he said. You just have to sort of grit your teeth and work your way through it, and in the end, it usually works out.

Based in Virginia and operated as a real estate investment trust, AvalonBay acquires, builds and leases apartment complexes in 15 states. The firm made a big splash in Boston in July 1998 when it teamed up with Boston Properties to buy the apartment portion of the Prudential Center for $130 million. Other local projects include the ongoing construction of a 154-unit complex in Peabody near the North Shore Mall.

With the Hull agreement now finalized, McLaughlin said his company is eager to begin construction, and has already begun grading and clearing the site. The real estate will feature 20 two-story buildings with eight units per structure. Foundations will be poured this spring, he said, with completion in the spring/summer of 2001. One positive emanating from the delays heretofore, McLaughlin said, is that the demand for rental property is still white-hot, with a statewide vacancy rate in the low single digits.

In hindsight, the market has done nothing but improve, McLaughlin said.

AvalonBay Moving Forward With Upscale Hull Complex

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min