Itâ€™s just a crumbling strip of asphalt barely big enough to fit two cars one behind the other â€” lined by weeds, hard against a brick wall, hemmed in by a utility pole. The closest thing it has to an amenity is straight white stripes.
For this, a crowd gathered for an auction in the rain Thursday, because it wasnâ€™t just any piece of pavement, but a pair of tandem parking spaces in one of the most parking unfriendly sections of the city: the Back Bay.
Bidding began at $42,000. It shot up to six figures within seconds. When the auction ended 15 minutes later, the lucky winner agreed to pay $560,000 â€” nearly double the $313,000 median sales price of a single-family home in Massachusetts.
â€œThis is just amazing,â€ said Ken Tutunjian of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, declaring the price a new parking space high. â€œGod bless America.â€
The spots behind 298 Commonwealth Ave. are in a neighborhood that already is home to the city’s most expensive parking spots. A space at 48 Commonwealth Ave. set the record for a single spot at $300,000 in 2009. Two tandem spots a block from the Public Garden on Commonwealth Avenue sold for $200,000 last summer, and a spot on Marlborough Street went for $250,000 in December, according to the real estate firm Cabot & Co.
The rare opportunity to own a primo Back Bay parking spot came courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service, which seized the spaces from a man who owed nearly $600,000 in back taxes. He bought the spaces for $50,000 in 1993.
Real estate agents, business owners, lawyers, and local residents gathered in the alley behind the spots, clutching numbers on blue cards. One man brought his son, and a badminton racket; a women pushed a baby in a stroller. Several had cashierâ€™s checks.
Mary Miele, who inherited two tandem spots attached to her property on Newbury Street, came to see how high the bidding went. â€œIâ€™m curious what we have here,â€ she said.
She learned that what she has is a hot item.
Not even a light rain or an announcement from a lawyer that the soon-to-be-ex-wife of the man who owned the parking spaces had a legal interest in the spots cooled the bidding. After calling the property the â€œtwo prettiest parking spaces Iâ€™ve ever seen,â€ auctioneer Tim Smith, an IRS liquidation specialist, started the bidding, which raced to $100,000, then $200,000.
â€œCheap, cheap, cheap,â€ called out Smith, who has auctioned off a boat in Fall River during a blizzard, but never a parking spot.
Soon only two bidders remained, a petite woman with short dark hair clutching an umbrella and a grinning man in jeans and tan sneakers and a short-sleeved checked shirt â€” residents of the block, it turned out, who live on opposite sides of the coveted spots.
The price shot up in rapid $10,000 increments. â€œ330 looking for 340. .Â .Â . 410 looking for 420 â€” it wonâ€™t be here tomorrow. .Â .Â . 500 looking for 510.â€
â€œThis is just entertainment at this point,â€ said a woman in the crowd.
Finally, the man in the checked shirt gave in: â€œIâ€™m done.â€
â€œYouâ€™re all set? Youâ€™re all through?â€ Smith hollered. â€œSold, 560, to bidder number nine.â€
And the crowd broke out in polite applause. The two bidders shook hands.
â€œI was worried you were giving me a run for it,â€ said the winner, Lisa Blumenthal, who lives in a single-family home with three parking spots on Commonwealth Avenue valued at more than $5.8 million, according Cabot & Co.
â€œI really wanted them, but there was a limit,â€ said the man, who declined to give his name but said he owned the tandem spots beside the ones up for auction.
Blumenthal said the auction was a unique opportunity to get more parking places for guests and workers, although she admitted she didnâ€™t expect the bidding to go so high.
â€œIt was a little more heated than I thought it would have been,â€ she said.
Said Beth Dickerson of Gibson Sothebyâ€™s International Realty: â€œThe demand is not about value. Itâ€™s about wanting the parking spot at whatever cost.â€