On Thursday January 13th I attended the ground breaking ceremony for the development of a beautiful, new Boston hostel that will open in Spring 2012.
On my flight into Boston from Washington DC, I knew I would be seeing the aftermath of a massive Northeastern snow storm that had hit the day before. But not to worry, the streets were cleared by City plows, and the turnout was terrific … more than 125 people attended.
The event featured speech making and toasts, to a new hostel twice the size of the building it will replace and many times more convenient for hostel users (on Stuart Street, a few blocks from Boston Common).
What does it mean when HI-USA undertakes a new hostel project? Firstly, the dream. In this case, it was furnished by local volunteers and staff, who felt that the existing out-dated hostel needed to be replaced.
Also, a healthy dose of pragmatism – there must be enough hostel users to justify the cost. In Boston we had operated the existing hostel for more than 20 years, so we knew firsthand of the need for a bigger building.
Because real estate development is expensive, dollars also are important. For the $40 million project, HI-USA brought both its healthy balance sheet and a strong operating record. Both New Markets and Historic tax credits helped with funding. And reaching a $2.5 million fundraising goal by the end of 2012 will put us over the top.
And of course, community support. Neighborhood groups have been welcoming of the idea. City, state and neighborhood officials all attended the groundbreaking. Community-minded Wainwright Bank (now Eastern Bank) provided financing, beginning more than a year ago when the lending climate was tight elsewhere.
The ground breaking marked the successful completion of a ton of up-front hard work by committed staff and volunteers, and a talented team of financial and real estate advisors. Now construction begins.
Of course, once its doors open, the hostel will take on yet another special meaning … for Boston, and for young people everywhere. It will be about cross-cultural exchange, experiential learning and community development.