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Msg  42395 of 43135  at  8/1/2022 9:33:36 PM  by


How Moderna's Covid Vaccine Boosted Boston's Real-Estate Market

How Moderna's Covid Vaccine Boosted Boston's Real-Estate Market
WSJ / July 21, 2022

In late 2021, Cathy Angelini, the sales director at the St. Regis Residences Boston, an under-construction luxury condominium, was elated to have back-to-back showings after a long sales drought.

Things started well when a Pfizer employee agreed on the spot to purchase a 16th-floor condo with views of Boston Harbor for $4.85 million, she said. Two hours later, a Moderna executive honed in on the same unit. When she remarked on the coincidence, Ms. Angelini said, "He just looked at me, completely serious and said, 'I want the same home, but I need to be one floor higher than Pfizer.' " He reserved the option to buy a 17th-floor unit for $4.95 million that day, she said.

Ms. Angelini's buyer is just one in a flurry of Moderna employees who have descended on the Boston-area real-estate market since the company's blockbuster Covid vaccine helped drive the company to its first profitable year in 2021, more than a decade after its founding in 2010.

Moderna more than tripled its headcount in the Boston area as it raced to get millions of doses of the vaccine out the door. The company, which had approximately 830 employees at the end of 2019, added around 470 employees during 2020. The following year, it announced plans to double its production and lab space in Norwood in order to increase Covid vaccine production by 50%. By the end of 2021, Modern had 2,700 employees with a median employee salary of $133,074, company financials show. As of December 2022, Moderna employed north of 3,200.

"They had urgency and they were willing to compensate people," said Dave Melville, founder and CEO of the Bowdoin Group, a Boston-area executive search firm focused on the health and tech sectors.

The company's financial results, which in 2019 showed just $60 million in revenue with a loss of $514 million, soared. In 2021, the first full year it sold the vaccine, Moderna reported nearly $18.5 billion in revenue and net annual income of over $12 billion. Its stock, which traded at around $28 per share in March 2020, peaked at $497.49 in August 2021, up roughly 345% from its price in January 2021.

The 2021 spike minted new billionaires like co-founder and chairman Noubar Afeyan and CEO Stphane Bancel, who in May said he planned to donate after-tax proceeds from his original Moderna stock options, amounting to about $355 million, to charity. As of July 20, the stock was trading around $167 per share.

Moderna's rising financial fortunes and growing employee numbers coincided with a spike in real-estate purchases by both new and longtime employees in the company's backyard. Lori Orchanian of Coldwell Banker Realty calls this uptick in deals in towns near the company's headquarters, located in the Kendall Square neighborhood of Cambridge, "the Moderna halo effect."

Historically, large companies have impacted small towns by driving workers to the area. Walmart, for example, attracted scores of employees to Bentonville, Ark., while Amazon has created jobs in warehouses around the world. "The direct effect on housing isn't just around the headquarters, it's submarkets that are commuting distance," said Sam Chandan, director of the Center for Real Estate Finance Research at New York University'sStern School of Business.

Manny Sarkis of Douglas Elliman said, starting in mid-2021, he saw an influx of Moderna buyers from out-of-state, many of whom were willing to pay a premium to buy something quickly. "These aren't buyers who are going to be browsing for two to three months," Mr. Sarkis said. "These are buyers who are flying in to buy a home."

Newly hired, relocating Moderna executives helped to drive some of the halo effect on the luxury end of the market. They included Neal Dahiya, Moderna's head of litigation, who joined the company in January 2021 after eight years at Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Jersey. In June 2021, he closed on a $3.45 million house in Cambridge, records show. Mr. Dahiya declined to comment. A Moderna spokesperson said Mr. Dahiya was leaving the company as of July 22.

Allyson Nicholson, who spent 22 years at Amgen in Thousand Oaks, Calif., joined Moderna as vice president of supply chain design in September 2021. Two months later, she and her husband, Michael Nicholson, bought a house in Westwood for around $2.5 million, records show. Ms. Nicholson did not reply to a request for comment.

Tracey Franklin, Moderna's chief human resources officer, joined the company a few months prior to the start of the pandemic from Merck, based in New Jersey. Ms. Franklin and her husband, William Franklin, paid about $6 million for a house in Boston in April 2021, records show. Ms. Franklin did not reply to a request for comment.

It wasn't just newly relocated Moderna employees who spent big on luxury digs. In 2021 and 2022, some longtime employees purchased luxury real estate in Boston, New York and parts of Cape Cod.

Eric Huang, chief scientific officer of Moderna Genomics, purchased a nearly $3.9 million condo in Boston in June 2021, records show. He added an $8.1 million condo at the Soori High Line in New York in February 2022. Dr. Huang did not respond to requests for comment.

Melissa J. Moore, Moderna's chief scientific officer for scientific affairs, and her wife, Janet Kosloff, paid $ 4.95 million for a waterfront property in Provincetown in October 2021, records show. Moderna scientist Paolo Martini and his partner, Jonathan Hawkins, a producer, also bought in Provincetown. They paid about $2.5 million for a beach home in April 2021, and bought the nearby Crown & Anchor entertainment complex for roughly $7.3 million in November 2021. In Boston, Mr. Martini bought a condo for nearly $1.9 million in December 2021. Neither Ms. Moore nor Mr. Martini responded to requests for comment.

Even employees whose budgets were more modest upped their game as the company's fortunes surged in 2021. Brian Dougherty of Compass said he worked with a married couple, both employed by Moderna, who started looking for a home in September 2020 with a budget of $1.9 million. During the ensuing months of their search, he said, their budget "evolved" almost weekly. They closed on a $4.3 million property in March 2021.

"There's a lot of wealth in the region that's just kind of unlocking a bit," he said.

In response to a request for comment about employee real-estate purchases, a spokesperson for Moderna said, "As a major employer in Massachusetts, and as we grow our global footprint, we are proud to continue to attract the best and brightest talent in the biotech industry and beyond."

In June 2022, the median luxury sale price -- the top 5% of the market -- in the Boston metro area was $2.2 million, up 15.79% from June 2021 and up nearly 30% from June 2020, according to real-estate brokerage Redfin.

Ms. Angelini said her Moderna buyer at the St. Regis Residences put down 20% just before Christmas 2021. "I don't think he was concerned about price," she said. After ensuring the condo had water views, she said he insisted, "Just get me higher."

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