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Affordable Ecoluxury

Posted by: Maya Roney on June 7, 2007

I’m basically a city person. I don’t like driving, I get bored if I eat the same ethnic food two nights in a row. But I have to admit that Monarch on the Merrimack, a new eco-friendly condo development on the Merrimack River, almost makes me want to move to Lawrence, Mass. Almost.


Monarch has a few good things going for it. It’s the largest single residential geothermal heating and cooling project in the country. Geothermal energy reduces utility bills by 25 to 50% over conventional systems, according to Monarch’s developer, Bob Ansin of MassInnovation. The building itself— a massive old mill almost one third of a mile long transformed into 600 modern lofts—is another study in renewable development. And here’s the part I like best: one-bedroom condos, with 1,201 square feet of space and 16-foot ceilings, start at $209,900. Two bedrooms start at $279,900, and the most expensive unit, the river side penthouse, is $489,900.

The question is, will prices like these lure the trendy and eco-concerned away from Boston and its classy suburbs, to the slightly shabby industrial town of Lawrence, a 45-minute train ride from Boston? So far, Monarch buyers are about half empty nesters and half young professionals, Ansin reports. “We’re not telling people its back,” he says of Lawrence. “It’s coming back, and you can be part of that.”

Reader Comments


June 7, 2007 1:56 PM

I'd be curious for the perspective of an engineer and/or someone who specializes in energy usage in space design:

Statement: "the geothermal heating system itself is 25-50% more efficient than 'conventional systems.'"

However, as a design feature, the ceilings stand at (except perhaps in the bathrooms) 16-feet.

Do you tend to get a net energy savings or a net energy loss over a space with a convential heating system and 10 foot ceilings?

The point is that just because some elements of the design may be more "eco-friendly" doesn't necessarily equate to the whole package being more environmentally sound in sum. It is certainly an interesting idea for a complex, but I'd be very interested to see some more robust discussion on this point. They are clearly wanting to be in the fashion of eco-friendly...whether or not they truly are, I can't tell from what's presented here.

Of course, perhaps I'm the one missing the point. Many buyers may well respond to the perception (and label) of 'eco-friendly' without really working out such details.

But if anyone out there could work up some rough estimates on the overall efficiency gain/loss of such a design as a whole, I'd be interested to know.


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BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.

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