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A Hotel Makeover That’s Ripped from the Headlines

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A Hotel Makeover That’s Ripped from the Headlines

By Steve Adams | Banker & Tradesman Staff | Jun 23, 2024

Bruce Percelay Chairman and founder, Mount Vernon Co. Age: 68 Industry experience: 39 years

The first draft of history takes center stage at a newly-renovated boutique hotel in downtown Nantucket. The 76 Main St. hotel’s owner since 2012, N magazine publisher Bruce Percelay, relied on the archives of the island’s public library to find newspaper clippings of local historic events ranging from the island’s Great Fire of 1846 to the Andrea Doria shipwreck in 1956.

The multimillion-dollar rebranding project as 76 Main Ink Press hotel took place over the past winter under the guidance of two island-based firms, Paul Gaucher of Icon Design Group and Jill Vieth of White Hart Design. Percelay’s Allston-based development firm, Mount Vernon Co. development firm owns approximately 2,000 apartments in Greater Boston and five hospitality properties including the Revolution Hotel in Boston’s South End.

Q: What is the history of the 76 Main St. property and changes under your ownership? A: It was built in the late 1800s as a sea captain’s mansion and I purchased it 12 years ago. It was a hotel at the time, but it was not an upscale hotel. We decided to upgrade it and I was looking for a theme. When we redid the Revolution Hotel in Boston, we went through a very exhaustive theming program which has worked incredibly well. So being someone who is interested in the media as a publisher, but someone who loves old media, I decided to rebrand it as 76 Main Ink Press Hotel.

Wherever you go in this hotel, it tells a story about Nantucket starting 200 years ago. Every room has a different theme, and all the common areas and lobby show different elements of Nantucket through the various newspapers and magazines that have been on the island, of which there were more than 20. It’s a curated, one-of-a-kind experience I hope people will enjoy. It’s a luxury hotel, but this adds a layer of history to it that I don’t think any hotel on Nantucket can match. There is a room about journalists, a room about shipwrecks. For whatever reason, Nantucket has been the home of an unusual amount of NBC broadcasters and executives, so we have the NBC room. Elin Hilderbrand is coming out with a Netflix series shortly, so we have an Elin Hilderbrand room.

Q: Where did you find the source materials? A: Our public library has archives of newspapers going back literally 200 years. It’s a combination of old and new. When you get an old newspaper, often you don’t get photographs, because the camera hadn’t been invented. The early stories were just print, sometimes with illustrations.

Q: What factors are affecting the outlook for multifamily development in Boston? A: There are tremendous headwinds for development on various levels. But on the city level, it’s become so expensive to develop and to satisfy the linkage costs and the stretch code and a lot of the requirements that have crept into this business over the years. The economics of developing new multifamily have become extremely challenging. You layer that onto the higher interest rates and you can understand why the production has virtually stopped. The irony is that supply is what keep rents down, and owners of existing properties are benefiting from this shortage. It puts a very high burden on the renter. Without the city becoming more accommodating and coming up with more incentives, the people the city is trying to help are currently being hurt.

Q: How effective will the BPDA’s “Squares+Streets” rezoning initiative be in spurring housing production? A: It sounds great on paper, but if a deal doesn’t work, it won’t get built. So higher density or lower density don’t really matter if the economics are prohibitive. All the zoning changes in the world aren’t going to make a difference. It’s the same challenges, but the problem with condo development is the affordability requirements [under the inclusionary development policy] are so onerous when you have to subsidize units to the level that is required, it makes the rest of the development very difficult to pencil out. The cranes you’re seeing are related to projects that had been financed and committed to years ago, but once those projects are complete it is going to be a very challenging time for the contractors and the unions.

Q: What sort of rent growth have you seen in the past year in your apartment portfolio? A: It’s almost embarrassing how strong the rents are and what people have to pay for units. We are seeing rent increases from 5 to 10 percent, and we’re trying to restrain ourselves, because we understand the challenges that the tenants face, but there will come a point that affordability is going to encourage people to vote with their feet and leave. Boston is in real danger of pricing itself out and creating problems for employers because they can’t find enough help, or have to pay them so much to compensate for housing it’s going to be making the attractiveness of companies to move here more questionable.

Q: Is Mount Vernon Co. planning to move forward with your approved [117-unit rental] project at 30 Leo Birmingham Parkway in Allston? A: It is not. We are very anxious to build it, but at the moment we’re suffering from the same challenges that every other multifamily developer is in the city. These projects take a huge amount of labor, and it’s going to impact the construction trades and the unions in a very negative way.

Percelay’s Five Favorite Cars:

  1. 1963 Split-window Corvette
  2. 1959 BMW Isetta
  3. 1967 Mustang Shelby
  4. 1969 Camaro Z28
  5. 1979 Morgan Plus 4

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