After working with several other agents, Silverman came to the conclusion that Campion — who at the time was running the residential division for the Boston office of R. M. Bradley — was thinking bigger and better than the rest. Eventually, he handed off all the listings to her. “She finds good matches between buyers and sellers,” Silverman says. “Each property was sold to a different buyer. She wasn’t trying to sell all [of the buildings] to two or three connections. She was trying to find the best buyer at that particular time for that particular property.” One of those Emerson deals included the sale of 132–134 Beacon to the Hamilton Company. When chairman and CEO Harold Brown bought the buildings in 2005, he was envisioning a large number of units at a lower price point. Campion talked him out of it. “Fewer units, more luxury,” she warned him. Sage counsel, it turned out. “We sold the penthouse unit as raw space for $6.5 million,” Brown recalls. “She’s tenacious. She has clear vision for what a project can be. She mesmerizes the seller down to the right price. There are few as good as her.”
Nearly two decades after the start of the Emerson selloff, Campion plays a bigger role in the doings of Back Bay real estate than ever. Consider the Bryant on Columbus Avenue, a new luxury development at the edge of Campion’s prime selling territory. The project was in trouble in 2009, owing to a combination of bad timing and branding missteps. Campion jumped in with Donald Trump’s former marketing wiz Louise Sunshine to save it. Their first move was to instruct the building’s owner, Steve Roth and his Vornado Realty Trust, to rip out the lobby. The stripped-down, loftlike rectangle just wasn’t appealing to the upscale clientele Campion wanted for the area. These days, residents are greeted by a sumptuous oval with an inlaid marble floor. From there, they zip up the elevators directly to their units. Campion also recommended changing the name to the Bryant Back Bay. The other side of Columbus is technically the South End, but who cares? Campion, in fact, made sure the words Back Bay appeared everywhere, even replacing the lobby door handles with ones that featured double B’s.
The results? In October 2009, Jason Sheftell wrote in New York’s Daily News that “Real estate history was made last Saturday in Boston’s Back Bay when up to $20 million of luxury homes in the same building were sold in less than an hour.” As one buyer put it in the article: “Considering the economic situation in this country, what these guys have done is fantastic for real estate anywhere.”
Then there were the three empty, moth-worn mansions that last year hit the market on the “wrong” side of Commonwealth Avenue, i.e., the grubbier, westerly side. To prevent what she feared would be down-marketing in her neighborhood, Campion immediately called Joe Holland, a principal at Holland Development. Her pitch: Buy the properties, restore what can be restored, create the city’s most enviable lobby using the original sweeping Gilded Age staircase as the centerpiece, and build out 12 ultra-luxurious condos. Holland agreed, and as the plan rolled along, Campion worked with him on everything from the layout of the units to the sales literature, which was adorned with watercolor renderings and its own crest (inspired by a ceiling medallion). Her goal was to ensure that the branding, pricing, and the properties themselves were all in alignment. Most developers would have chucked that huge staircase to get more sellable square footage, but Campion, acutely aware that a tony neighborhood is a fragile ecosystem whose success hinges on the little things, made the case for saving it. Such authentic details both contribute to and benefit from the value of the Back Bay, she argued; make it too modern, and it might as well be SoWa or Fort Point. Holland followed her advice, and now, a year from completion, the building is already 100 percent sold — by Campion and Company, of course.
UNLIKE CAMPION, Beth Dickerson, a.k.a. Number Two in town, isn’t reluctant to talk to the press, or go on vacation. The former Ford model photographs well — or, in real estate speak, shows well; her print ads all feature a breezy headshot. Sporting a Gucci watch on one wrist and an Hermès cuff on the other, she isn’t hard to spot as she ambles down Newbury Street to her office, arms full of glossy brochures.
Below: Sold! Tracy Campion’s Real Estate Triumphs