Kaitlin McCarthy: Delivering the First All-Affordable Housing in Boston’s Iconic Seaport District

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Kaitlin McCarthy

BOSTON–Kaitlin McCarthy, a Harvard MBA, founded Ionic Development in early 2022 to affect change both within the real estate development industry and the communities they develop in.

“I’m grateful to be able to bring change to different areas of the Greater Boston area and develop spaces that fit the needs of the people there,” says Ms. McCarthy, whose firm is a partner in the team chosen by the Massachusetts Port Authority to redevelop a parcel of land in Seaport.

Ms. McCarthy will be honored as the Outstanding Women of Commercial Real Estate 2024 by the Boston Real Estate Times on Feb. 22, 2024 at its Annual Awards gala at the Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA. To register for the gala, please click here.

The project will be the first all-affordable housing development in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood and will deliver 200 units of income-restricted housing.

“Representation is incredibly important to Ionic and is critical when developing large projects for diverse uses and users,” says Ms. McCarthy, a theater or ballet enthusiast.

Prior to founding Ionic Development in early 2022, Ms. McCarthy served as a Vice President at The HYM Investment Group. While at HYM, Ms. McCarthy projects included The Sudbury (a 46-story residential tower with 368 apartments and 55 condos), One Congress (a 52-story, 1M sf office tower) as well as other projects within the Bulfinch Crossing development, a 2.9 million sf mixed-use project in downtown Boston.

Ms. McCarthy holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University.

In addition to working on the affordable housing project in Seaport neighborhood, Ionic Development is also a finalist with a team seeking to redevelop 6-acres of land near the Massachusetts Convention Center into mixed-use buildings that will contain unprecedented community benefits. The program includes an art gallery dedicated to lesser-known Black and Brown artists, subsidized daycare, space for the Pensole Lewis School of Business and Design (HBCU), a community health center, a grocery store, an arboretum, a market hall, a Black-owned film studio, life science space and more.

Additionally, Ionic Development is involved in life sciences projects throughout the greater Boston area.

Here is a brief Q/A with Ms. McCarthy:

Boston Real Estate Times: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Kaitlin McCarthy: The opportunity to go to work every day and actively make a positive impact on communities is what makes everything worth it. I’m grateful to be able to bring change to different areas of the Greater Boston area and develop spaces that fit the needs of the people there. I love doing this work, especially with the additional benefit of interacting with so many incredible people across many different industries. Starting Ionic has given me such enjoyment, and I’m grateful to see the impact of my work.

BRET: What do success and failure mean to you?

KM: Success means to make the world a better place than you found it. Whether this manifests itself through a positive outcome on a development or knowing that all stakeholders on a project feel excited by the end result, to me that is success in the industry. A failure, rather, is all about how you choose to look at it. Failures give you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and take the knowledge with you in the future to improve. I don’t think failure is necessarily a bad thing; you can always find a new perspective from something that may not have gone according to plan.

BRET: What is the one thing you attribute your success to?

KM: The mentors I have had throughout my career have been instrumental to my success and the entrepreneurial process. Without their belief in my vision, I would not be here.

BRET: To which charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

KM:

  • Treasurer/ Secretary: Women’s Development Collaborative Investment Club
  • Northeastern Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Board
  • Northeastern Galante Engineering Program INC Board
  • Harvard Alumni Real Estate Board Founding Member
  • Boston Ballet Young Partners Advisory Committee
  • Asian Real Estate Professionals Association Board
  • National Association for Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP)
  • Urban Land Institute (ULI)
  • Professional Women in Construction.

BRET: In what way do you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community, your company/organization or professional field?

KM: In the industry, I feel excited to be a female-led development company at a time where there are so few in the Boston area. In the history of Boston’s real estate development, the lack of women in ownership positions has been pronounced, so I feel as though I’m making an impact by participating in projects and creating spaces for the community. In terms of projects, I always seek to involve diverse voices from the team and the community from the earliest step in the process, as I truly believe that’s the best way to make a positive impact through your development. For a development to be truly inclusive, everyone must have a seat at the table from the beginning.

BRET:  Is there any aptitude, gift or talent that not many people know about you?

KM: Most people may not know that I can juggle!

BRET: What are your hobbies and interests?

KM: I love going to the theater or ballet; we’re so lucky to live in a city like Boston that has such great offerings and performances. I have also been learning French in my spare time.

BRET:  Your favorite books?

KM: I love anything by author Erik Larson. His ability to explain and intersect the past in such a compelling way has always fascinated me.

BRET: Your favorite quotes?

KM: Be the change you want to see in the world.

BRET: The one person you would like to meet and why?

KM: Winston Churchill.

BRET:  Your core values you try to live by?

KM: I seek to bring excellence into everything I do. Whether it be business-related or not, I believe it is important to hold yourself to a high standard.

Also, since starting a business, I’ve realized how important it is to live life outside of your comfort zone. I started Ionic, and soon after realized I had to start selling my vision to everyone I met. I spent 99% of my time outside of my comfort zone, and that has continued to be a feeling that’s stuck with me and remained important

BRET: What inspires you?

KM: My mom has been an inspiration and a role model my whole life. She started her career as an administrative assistant and worked her way up to retire as an executive at the same company.

She worked full-time while getting her degree at night and having three children at home. The tides were against her in many ways, but she succeeded due to her grit, ability to build relationships, and commitment to growth. These three values have been instilled in me since I was young, and I have had a front row seat as she embodies these principles daily. I saw these attributes, but I also saw the challenges and the resilience she displayed as she worked through tough times.

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