Building Boston: A Chat with Joel Sklar of Samuels & Associates

He wants more flexible housing options for Bostonians—and a great espresso bar in every neighborhood.

Welcome to Building Boston, where we chat with local developers, builders, architects, and change-makers about our city.

Photo courtesy of Samuels & Associates

Meet Joel Sklar. He’s president and principal at Samuels & Associates, a Fenway-based real estate development company
responsible for Pierce Boston, the Verb Hotel, and the Landmark Center, among other projects.

My favorite building in Boston’s skyline is…Pierce Boston (that’s easy!) and also the John Hancock Building. Both are simple and elegant glass towers with subtle angular inflections that make them appear completely different depending on the viewer’s location and perspective.

If there’s one thing I could change about Boston, it would be…to fill in the gaps in our MBTA transit system. Our hub and spoke system works okay if you’re riding directly from the outer neighborhoods into the downtown core, but we need to solve the transit issues of getting around from one neighborhood to another. We need thoughtful transportation investments for our city’s growth and connectivity.

I’m working on…new and more flexible housing options that will enable residents who want to live a more walkable, urban lifestyle to remain in the urban neighborhoods of Boston. This is an enormous challenge for both millennials looking to start families and less affluent empty nesters moving back to the city from suburban towns.

In 15 years, I hope Boston will…have a safe and seamless network of dedicated bike lanes and cycle tracks that encourage healthier, more sustainable lifestyles and give people exploring the city more options for getting around.

To help ease the housing crisis, I’m…an active member of the Board of Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, a community based nonprofit working to build and preserve affordable housing in Roxbury. As we continue to enjoy the greatest building and economic boom in the history of our city, I believe the true measure of our success will be our ability to spread the wealth of this resurgence across all of our neighborhoods, enabling a broader cross-section of our population to live in the city and enjoy the lifestyle and economic benefits available here.

Honestly, I hate it when…I can’t get a great cup of coffee when I want one—no neighborhood should be without a great espresso bar. Fortunately, we are making great progress in this area! I’m proud to chair the Boston Main Streets Foundation, helping neighborhood commercial districts to invest in local small businesses and keep our main streets competitive and thriving.

Pierce Boston / Image courtesy of Samuels & Associates