Cottonwood Management’s groundbreaking ceremony on its new $900 million, three-tower Seaport District development was more than just the latest mega-project to hit Boston via a new development player in town.
The project also marks an escalation in Boston’s luxury living wars, with a new building operator entering the local concierge-lifestyle market: Regent Hotel Group, which will provide and oversee the numerous services offered to pampered residents at Cottonwood’s future Echelon Seaport, as its new Seaport development has been dubbed.
Los Angeles-based Cottonwood, making its first development foray into Boston, clearly wants to make a splash in what its CEO, Alex Shing, calls the “hottest” residential luxury market in the United States.
“It’s become a destination point,” said Shing of the Seaport in particular and Boston, in general. “Boston has become ever more international and globally known. We have a lot of confidence in this area.”
Part of the Echelon Seaport’s appeal will be its design aesthetics and 50,0000 square feet of physical amenities, such as two outdoor pools, courtyards, sky lounges, indoor spa, fitness center and other perks for those living in the 733 luxury condominiums, apartments and innovation units. The 1.3 million-square-foot project will also boast 125,000 square feet of upscale retail and restaurants.
But Shing’s secret weapon may be his partnership with Regent Hotel Group, usually associated with high-end hotels and residential buildings in Hong Kong, Singapore and other parts of Asia.
“It will exceed and go way beyond expectations,” Shing said of the services Regent plans to offer residents at Echelon Seaport, after it opens in about 36 months.
Regent Hotel Group could not be reached for comment and Cottonwood was mum about what “innovative” services it will offer at Echelon Seaport. Additional details, however, are expected to be released this fall.
Sue Hawkes, managing director at Boston-based Collaborative Cos. – a high-end real estate company that will help market units at Echelon Seaport – said no one should underestimate Regent’s potential to surprise people with the level of services it may end up providing. The services will probably go well beyond the standard 24/7 concierge services now demanded and provided at most high-end residential towers in Boston, she said.
Today, concierge services are more along the lines of “lifestyle” assistance, such as setting up dog walkers for residents or arranging child care for tenants, she said. The services also include arranging catered dinners and parties, guest speakers in lounges and other events, said Hawkes, who also works with the developers of Ink Block, Pierce Boston and Slip 65 at Clippership Wharf.
A ‘White-Glove Experience’
Among the other concierge/luxury-service providers now working in Boston, or which are planning to work in Boston, are Luxury Attaché, First Service Residential and Four Seasons. Some developers, such as Millennium Partners, prefer to provide their own branded in-house concierge and lifestyle services.
“It’s gotten so competitive,” said Hawkes of the different corporate entities now operating and providing services to luxury residents in Boston.
Jenene Ronick, founder and CEO of New York-based Luxury Attaché, agrees that Boston’s luxury market has blossomed in recent years – and become highly competitive. Developers tout their hiring of “concierge and lifestyle” providers as a marketing tool to sell condos and rent apartments, she said.
Luxury Attaché, which operates in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as New York, is currently on site at Samuels & Assoc.’s Pierce Boston tower and Related Beal’s 157-unit Lovejoy Wharf development in Boston and will be offering luxury services to residents once those two projects open.
Ronick said there may be smaller “mom and pop” concierge-service companies out there, but it takes a “deep infrastructure” to provide the level of services that high-end tenants want. Such companies need call centers, sophisticated software to track the requests of residents, and experienced staff who have the contacts to make things happen for residents, from getting tickets to a hot theater performance to finding top chefs to cater dinners, she said.
Ronick said Luxury Attaché hopes to expand to other residential buildings in Boston – and maybe into office buildings, where high-end corporate tenants are now demanding more services from building owners.
At the Pier 4 development in Boston’s Seaport District, Tishman Speyer has hired FirstService Residential, also making its Boston luxury-market premier, to be its future provider of concierge services, once its 9-story, 106-unit project is finished.
It’s the initial Boston foray for First Service Residential, which has a significant presence in Florida’s luxury condo scene. Service components will include catering, doormen, a concierge and a “rover” attendant to coordinate events such as private parties in the building’s Topsider Lounge.
“They’ve raised the bar to truly create a white-glove experience,” said Janice Dumont, CEO of sales agent Advisors Living, a division of Boston Realty Advisors.
Cottonwood’s Shing expressed confidence his firm’s new Echelon Seaport will shine once it opens, staff competition or not, thanks partly to the partnership with Regent.
“Their name is synonymous with luxury,” he said.