An Anatomy of Boston’s Gentrification in One Eastie Block

A case study in how money has dramatically changed our neighborhoods.


Photographs by Webb Chappell

Years ago, East Boston welcomed poorer immigrants. Now the neighborhood beckons luxury buyers with higher-end apartments and condos under way at Hodge Boiler Works, Clippership Wharf, Maverick Shipyard Apartments, and East Pier.

Older housing stock is changing, too. “A lot of speculators are buying triple-deckers to rent to postcollege people,” says Realtor Tony Giacalone, who has worked in East Boston since 1987 and has seen families move to Revere, Saugus, and Lynnfield. “Many landlords try to get in the $2,000s from millennials willing to pay $700 to $800 each,” he says.

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We visited a historical block along Cottage Street to witness the changes happening up close.
Source: City of Boston Assessors and Massachusetts Land Records.

Shown above, from left to right:

117 Cottage Street
Tenant: Deyvisson Dossantos, 23, construction worker

Total Living Area: 3,838 square feet
Sale Price in 2003: $335,000
Sale Price in 2004: $400,000
2000 Assessed Value: $106,4000
Current Assessed Value: $647,000

Dossantos moved to East Boston from Brazil three years ago. He’s lived here for a year and a half with his mother, older brother, and younger sister.

“I think I’ll stick around,” he says. “It’s pretty cold, but I was kind of tired of the heat—in Brazil it was summer all year. Usually I’m not home, and when I’m home I stay inside. It’s pretty loud [here]. Especially in the summer, with the playground. There are a lot of kids playing and stuff.”

135 Cottage Street
Tenant: Fred Barnes, 24, flight attendant

Total Living Area: 3,746 square feet
2000 Assessed Value: $115,500
Current Assessed Value: $500,800

Harlem native Barnes moved here recently and lives in an apartment with three roommates.

“It makes my commute a lot quicker to get to work, so the location is great,” he says. “But ideally, I would prefer to move to something that’s a little more my own…more like a community that’s together, where you feel safe, where there’s a lot of things to do, a lot of restaurants.”

137 Cottage Street
Landlord: Nicola Dilibero, 52, owner of Neptune Construction and Neptune Laundromat

Total Living Area: 3,684 square feet
Sale Price in 2005: $630,000
2000 Assessed Value: $117,300
Current Assessed Value: $478,700

Dilibero grew up in Eastie, now lives in Boxford, and plans to return to his old neighborhood, eventually. He rents apartments at 137 for up to $2,500 per month to Brazilian and Hispanic families.

“When I grew up, everyone knew everyone,” he says. “Kids played in the street. Some of the businesses here are [run] by kids I grew up with. You have the Lombardos, who are involved in the city; you have Liberty Market; you have a lot of the businesses in the community that still stick together. You get that sense of family.”

139 Cottage Street
Tenant: Patty (no last name given), 60, former healthcare worker

Total Living Area: 3,684 square feet
Sale Price in 2009: $332,000
Sale Price in 2010: $260,000
2000 Assessed Value: $141,400
Current Assessed Value: $516,400

Patty’s grandparents came from Italy; her parents grew up in East Boston and the North End. She’s seen property resold as condos, like the historical Mt. Carmel Church, bought by developers in late 2015.

“The people protested the Mt. Carmel project for years,” Patty says. “And finally they said no, and they locked the doors, and that was the end of that. It’s sad, because all the old Italian people in the area—you know, they built that church, for God’s sake.”

141 Cottage Street
Tenant: Caitlin King, 22, senior at Suffolk University

Total Living Area: 3,684 square feet
Sale Price in 2013: $510,000
2000 Assessed Value: $121,200
Current Assessed Value: $502,700

King, a student and part-time worker at Macy’s, says she’s found her niche here.

“I always knew I loved Boston, but once I moved [to East Boston], now I’m here to stay. A lot of my friends are still apartment hunting for next year, and I’ve been convincing everyone, ‘We’ve got to stay in Eastie!’” she says. “This used to be known as a tough neighborhood…and you do encounter that, the farther you get away from the T. [But] it definitely doesn’t live up to its reputation.”


Source: City of Boston Assessors and Massachusetts Land Records.


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