Eliot Conviser, a young real estate developer, and his wife were finishing some egg rolls at the Golden Temple restaurant in downtown Boston in March 1979, when he spotted a familiar face at a nearby table. Wes Marins, a veteran broker in the real estate of Boston's downtown areas, had just paid his bill and was making his way over to the Conviser’s table.
"What a coincidence, Eliot," Marins remarked." You were on my list of people to call this week. Want to buy a garage?"
Although buying a garage was the farthest thing from Eliot’s mind–he ,specialized in residential condominium conversions in Boston's Beacon Hill and Back Bay neighborhoods–he was curious about the opportunity. "Sit down for a minute and tell me more."
It's the Brimmer Street Garage," replied Marins, pausing to give his drink order to a passing waiter. "It will cost you $450,000 and it has 110 spaces. I think it might be a conversion.”
Eliot Conviser had heard about the Brimmer Street Garage. He knew it was located in Boston's fashionable Beacon Hill area, that it had been recently declared a historic site, that it had been built sometime during the early 1900s for a company that manufactured carriages, and that it was later converted into a hack stable. Since 1944 the facility was used as the only contract-rental garage on "'The Hill," notorious for its lack of parking space, and its list of tenants were as exclusive as any club in town. The property had been acquired in 1961 by Mr. Edward Bennett who charged uncomplaining clients $65-$100 a month per car. Parking was one privilege that even tight-fisted Bostonians were willing to pay for.
Eliot did a rapid calculation in his head. 110 spaces at say, $5,000 apiece, would be $550,000 right there. Anything more...?
“Sounds interesting, Wes,” he replied casually, “but what’s the catch?”
"No catch, Eliot. Ed Bennett tried to convert it to condos a few years back but the renters weren't interested. It's a pain in the neck for him to manage, and Ed's got better things to do with the money. If you're interested, give me a call this week."
"I’ll do better than that, Wes. I’ll meet you there tomorrow morning at 7:00, and I’ll bring your check. If I like what I see, we can decide how to fill it out. And, speaking of checks–your drink is on me."
On the way back to their own car, parked on a dark side street at some distance from the restaurant, Eliot turned to his wife "What do you think? Say the place is structurally sound and it will cost a maximum of $100,000 to put it into good shape. Say we treat it like any condominium property and bill it as a good investment as well as a good place to park. Say we charge $7,500 per unit. Why can't we be in the black from day one on?"
"I wonder why Ed couldn't convert the units himself," replied his wife, who participated actively in Mr. Conviser's business ventures.
"I wonder how much earnest money we can afford to put up," continued Eliot. "I know the answer to that. No more than $25,000,” replied his wife.
"Then that will he the amount I write on the check,"said Eliot."How would you like to be part owner of a garage?"
In the dark, he couldn't see the expression on her face.
BACKGROUND OF ELIOT CONVISER
Eliot Conviser grew up in the real estate/construction business. His grandfather, a Russian immigrant, founded the first Jewish carpenter's local in 1910. His uncle, trained as a lawyer, was a successful contractor all his life. His father, who had passed away the previous year, had built a legendary business by innovating and building theaters. During his career, he had supervised the reconstruction of over 200 venerable showhouses in the Northeast including the Shubert, the Colonial, and the Metropolitan Center in Boston.
Eliot received his education at Babson College located just outside of Boston where he attended a four-year undergraduate business degree program. Eliot felt his education had...