GentriWatch: ‘Boston’s Worst Landlord’ Buys 100 Units in Somerville

Plus, our dive bars are a dying breed.

Welcome to GentriWatch, where we look for signs of gentrification happening around the city.


PHOTOGRAPH BY DANA SMITH for "Lord of the Sties"

PHOTOGRAPH BY DANA SMITH for “Lord of the Sties

Anwar Faisal, considered by some to be the worst landlord in Boston, has expanded his empire across the river and into Somerville.

Faisal became infamous for the reportedly decrepit conditions in some of his more than 2,000 apartments, inhabited in large part by college students, thanks to a 2013 Boston profile, as well as a Globe Spotlight team investigation the following year.

Now, Faisal has purchased 100 units in 116-year-old apartment complexes along Summer Street, and plans to buy up more when the city makes them available. “People working in the financial district, they should be getting the market,” he told the Somerville Journal. “Somerville has a good mayor, a hard worker. They have a good [Board of Aldermen] there and it is coming on the market next to the financial district and it’s a hot market.”

Faisal, who resides in a $6 million Brookline mansion, said he plans to raise any rents currently below market rate between five and seven percent the first year. The average monthly rent in Somerville is $2,350, according to a December housing inventory report by LDS Consulting Group of Newton, a rate that’s out of reach for close to 75 percent of renters in New England’s most densely populated municipality.

One resident told the Journal she’s already planning to move.

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Image via Google Maps

Image via Google Maps

Let’s all pour one out for Boston’s dive bars.

While Whitey Bulger’s Southie is long gone, the gentrification ripping through in the once tight-knit, Irish neighborhood is staggering. The Globe took a look at one unique sliver of city life that’s rapidly disappearing beneath the wave of luxury condos and brunch joints.

It’s a depressing inventory: the Cornerstone Pub is a hole in the ground, awaiting condos; the Williams Tavern, which got its start in the 1940s, could soon be razed to build The Residences at One Hundred A, pending approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority; and the Quiet Man Pub is now Stephi’s in Southie and a Starbucks.

About 20 of the 70 bars listed in a 2011 roundup of the city’s dive bars have shuttered in the five years since. And in that time, rents in intensely gentrified areas like the Fenway and South Boston have risen 75 percent to $50 per square foot per year, according to commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Combined with the cost of a liquor license roughly doubling in the last 10 years, it’s getting decidedly tougher for Boston’s dive bars to keep their doors open.

These watering holes—some more charming (and cleaner) than others—have more character than any soulless, LEED-certified hunk of blue-gray glass. If and when they die out, we’ll lose something less tangible, more important than $2 PBRs: our sense of place.

Notice something changing in your neighborhood? Let me know: [email protected], @KyleClauss.