Gary Kerr
Managing Director, Greystar
Age: 41
Industry experience: 18 years 

Gary Kerr is the face of Greystar’s expanding profile in Massachusetts commercial real estate, as its developments rise in East Bridgewater, Somerville and Everett. Best known for its apartment developments, including the 212 Stuart St. tower in Boston and more than 1,900 units under construction in Everett, Greystar entered the Bay State biotech market with its June groundbreaking of the 74M lab tower in Assembly Square. Another first for the company took place in October when Greystar launched its first Massachusetts industrial development, a 413,000-square-foot distribution facility in East Bridgewater.  

Kerr joined Greystar in 2019 after executive roles at Tishman Speyer and MIT Investment Investment Management Co. He also sat on Gov. Maura Healey’s housing policy transition advisory committee. 

Q: What’s your reaction to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s proposed changes to Boston’s linkage fees and inclusionary development policy?
A: I’ve been vocal before this came out: Anything that increases the cost of housing will decrease the development of housing. We’re at a point where it’s been incredibly difficult to make housing projects work for the last two to three years. This is not helpful. This is something that is going to decrease the housing supply in the city of Boston. A similar policy [raising the minimum income-restricted component to 20 percent of a development’s units] had the same effect in Cambridge and some other major cities across the country. 

Q: Some researchers have tracked three months of declines in apartment rents nationwide. What’s your outlook for rents in Greater Boston in 2023?
A: Across the country, there has been a plateau in rent growth, and that’s driven by the things that the Fed has done to hinder inflation. Markets over the last two to three years that have seen month-to-month increases have moved to more cyclical leasing cycles, so rents move up and down. That’s what we’re seeing in Boston and have seen every year for the last 30 years. Rents tick up from March to mid-October and they fall off in the winter months and come up again. I think we’re going into a recession, and you’ll see rates stay flat. Boston is a little different. Our rent growth isn’t inflation-driven. It’s a lack of supply. We still have more people and students coming into the city every year. 

Q: What are the opportunities and obstacles for more workforce and student housing developments in Boston?
A: At its most macro level, there are all types of investors for different types of projects. Some investors will take a lower return for a very stable occupancy basis. Workforce housing is stable. There’s not a lot of turnover. Investors want to be in Boston, which is known as one of the biggest university towns in the world, and we don’t have dedicated student zoning for private developers to allow for students only. Other cities around the world have this. That could have a dramatic effect in Boston. If we take those roommates out of apartments and free that up, that creates workforce housing by its very nature. And it gives the students purpose-built housing that meets their needs. 

Q: Did the city of Everett’s zoning and IDP factor into Greystar’s big investment in recent years?
A: Their IDP was 10 percent and was reduced to 5 percent if the site had prior environmental contamination. They have since moved to a 15-percent requirement. We found the process in Everett to be incredibly straight-forward, and it doesn’t have all of the fees that the surrounding communities have. You have all the ability to get in and out of Boston and Cambridge, and can build housing for significantly less. 

Q: Has your leasing strategy changed for the 74M lab tower in Somerville at all since groundbreaking in June?
A: We’ve always thought of it to be a fully multi-tenant building with somewhere between eight and 12 tenants. We don’t expect to talk to those tenants for another year. We’re really launching the leasing in the first quarter of next year, and will deliver in May 2024, so 18 months is the optimum time to talk to some of those tenants. 

Q: Greystar recently submitted a proposal for the MBTA Wellington station air rights project in Medford. What is the likely timeline for a complex project like that to begin?
A: It’s a large complex site and if someone has the ability to execute. It’s going to take a while. You’re dealing with some big transportation issues and those alone will take a couple of years to resolve: to deal with the train yard and bridging it, and whether there are environmental issues. And we’re talking about a time when the economy is not stable. 

Kerr’s Five Favorite TV Shows Binged in 2022 

  1. “Yellowstone” 
  2. “Mayor of Kingstown” 
  3. “The Old Man” 
  4. “The Terminal List” 
  5. “Bluey” (binged with his 3- and 5-year-old children) 

Overseeing a Diversifying Portfolio in Massachusetts

by Steve Adams time to read: 3 min