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Micro-Units Pop Up in Boston, Fetch High Prices

News Renting Boston Cambridge
One Seaport Square, which broke ground earlier this month, will include 96 “innovation units’’ ranging 300 to 500 square feet in size.
One Seaport Square, which broke ground earlier this month, will include 96 “innovation units’’ ranging 300 to 500 square feet in size. Elkus Manfredi

The new breed of micro units popping up in Boston and Cambridge’s hottest neighborhoods are definitely small, but they are packing some macro rents.

The micro revolution took a major step forward earlier this month when developers broke ground in Boston’s Seaport District on a $600 million, twin tower, apartment, retail, and entertainment complex.

One Seaport Square will include 96 “innovation units,’’ studios and one-bedrooms ranging from 365 to 685 square feet in size. Targeted at up-and-coming entrepreneurs and young professionals, it is the largest number of micro units to be built to date in Boston.

Developers are mum on the prices for the tiny new apartments, which will have a wing of their own in the VIA tower. Overall 832 luxury apartments are slated to be built in the VIA and an adjacent tower, The Benjamin.

But if the prices set by other developers for these postage stamped size apartments is any indication, they won’t come cheap.

A 464-square foot unit at 315 on A next door in Fort Point rents for $2,700 to $2,800 a month.

Innovation units at Factory 63 leased out at roughly $1,700 a month when that hip new Fort Point rental building hit the market last year. The units are a sprawling 374 square feet.

Across the Charles River in Cambridge, the pricing is similarly high. At Avalon North Point, pricing for micro lofts starts at roughly $2,000 for 421 square feet, rising to around $2,100 for 450 square feet.

For developers, it is the best of both worlds. They get to offer units at a somewhat lower overall price point in a market where $3,000 and up for space in a new rental tower is the norm, while also maintaining a high cost-per-square foot ratio, notes Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association and a long-term observer of new waterfront development trends.

Take a $1,700/month micro unit, double it to the size of a one bedroom, and suddenly you are at $3,400 a month.

But developers are also trying to create units that will appeal to younger renters, offering up common space that can be used for everything from working on a startup to meeting new friends.

One Seaport’s new innovation units will have their own separate wing, with common “collaboration spaces’’ for budding entrepreneurs to team up on projects and swap ideas. Those renting the innovation units will also have access to an array of common areas planned for the VIA tower itself, most of which will be luxury units.

The VIA will have outdoor lounges, water features, grilling areas and gardens, according to a press release detailing the project.

And while living in a micro unit could prove cramped and maybe even a bit lonely, pet friendly policies at One Seaport and 315 on A can ensure at least a little cuddly comfort.

“The innovation unit is where you sleep and keep your clothes,’’ Li noted. “When you want to socialize, you have these large common areas.’’

“It’s one step up from a dorm room,’’ she added.