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June 29, 2017

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Boston Seaport’s newest luxury apartment buildings: The Benjamin and VIA

It has been 10 years since developers began brewing up plans for what would be some of Boston’s most expensive luxury apartments. What were visions of shiny new residential buildings sprouting out of Boston’s Seaport are now real, towering glass structures that are ready to welcome a new fleet of wealthy Boston urbanites.

The $600 million construction of The Benjamin and VIA has been coined the largest mixed-use project in Boston in 30 years. Located along Northern Avenue and Seaport Boulevard, the two tall buildings offer stunning views that look over some of the city’s most coveted places: The Benjamin rises 22 floors, with apartments looking west and south over Fort Point Channel and the Boston skyline, while its rooms facing north and east soak in ocean views of Boston Harbor.

With 832 units total, the two apartment complexes have already attracted eager leasers.

Spokespeople say The 22-story Benjamin – which opened up to renters this month – is already 40 percent filled. The VIA, which is set to open its 20 floors in several phases starting on July 28, has already pre-leased 12 percent of its 487 apartments.

“Nearly every week has been a double-digit leasing week,” said Heather Boujoulian, senior vice president at Berkshire Group, during a press conference on Wednesday. Berkshire Group and Boston Global Investors are partner developers and owners of the project.

Since breaking ground two years ago, developers were eager to share information about the two new structures at a press conference in The Benjamin on Wednesday, including the unique personalities of each building.

Boujoulian said the 22-floor Benjamin aims to serve the “urban sophisticate,” while the VIA is envisioned to house “a slightly younger demographic,” though that remains to be seen.

Principal Architect Peter Zmuidzinas, of Elkus Manfredi Architects said that while The Benjamin is a completely glass tower, VIA has a bit “more energy in the facade.”

“If Ben is glass with no accents, we think of VIA as glass and metal … Glass for all the views, metal for areas that functionally we need to be opaque,” Zmuidzinas said. He added that VIA has vibrant patterns that shift in color and metal on each side.

As the edgier cousin to The Benjamin’s serene ambience, the VIA hosts a savvy “Fusion Wing,” several floors of studio apartments costing somewhere between $2,000-$2,8000 per month (the cheapest of them are already pre-leased, according to Berkshire Communities General Manager Jason Gomes). The special wing, designed to fulfill the city’s requirement for innovation space, as well as for renters craving the work-live-play combo, contains small private cubicles, work-lounge areas and a connected outdoor terrace on the ninth floor.

The costs for the new apartments? Well, that depends – do you want that high-rise ocean view? An extra bedroom? Three bedrooms?

The least expensive studio apartment with one bedroom, one bathroom, land at a starting price of $2,000 per month. Jump to the VIA’s 20th floor, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, higher ceilings and a wrap-around terrace that looks over the Fort Point Channel, Boston skyline and Boston Harbor, and you’ll be picking up a monthly tab of somewhere between $10,000-$10,900. Midrange apartments, like a seventh-floor two bed, two bathroom making up 1,090 square feet in The Benjamin will cost you about $5,600 per month.

Typical renters include young professionals or empty-nesters, according to Berkshire Communities leasing consultant Kellie Boles: “People who might have other places in Florida, or Vermont” or wherever else, as well as yuppies with jobs around the budding Seaport area who want close proximity to work and play.

And those “play” options will be readily accessible: in addition to the many new businesses and restaurants flourishing in the Seaport, the bottom three floors of the two new lavish towers will house more than 10 retail vendors developed by WS Development.

When it comes to retail space, developer director Todd Norley says “there’s a huge void” in Boston. In a press conference on Wednesday, Norley, Senior Director of Leasing at WS Development, said the city is “comparatively under-retailed.”

But his company is taking steps to change that perception. New recreational spots in the two apartment buildings will include a ShowPlace ICON Theater, Kings Bowl, an Equinox gym and several restaurants along with the newly developed “Courthouse Square.” The new courtyard will include outdoor seating, and serve as a pedestrian link between the two buildings and main roads, from Northern Avenue to Seaport Boulevard.

“Courthouse square will be a very special place when it opens,” Norley said.

The high costs reflect the project’s location, at the entrance of the Innovation District, as well as the dozens of amenities it offers. Like some of its luxury leasing competitors nearby, The Benjamin and VIA promises the whole package: gyms, yoga rooms, a dog spa, work space, kitchen space, grill space, lounge space, sustainable designs, high-tech temperature control systems and outdoor terraces.

But the apartment complexes are unique in other ways: an outdoor pool sits between the two buildings; its corner rooms give sweeping, simultaneous views of both the city and ocean. Its location near the border of the Seaport not only makes the apartments more easily accessible, but means its views capture the Boston skyline in a way other Seaport apartment buildings cannot.

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