Fenway apartments, once supposed to be dorms, win key approval

January 17, 2020 Tom Acitelli

Rendering a of sleek multi-story apartment building along a sidewalk.BPDA

Other big development news of the week includes disruption at South Station, a tentative opening date for the Globe’s old HQ, and a big listing from UMass-Boston

Welcome back to Critical Mass., in which Curbed Boston covers all the major development news in the region every week. There is a ton in this go-round, including construction at South Station, a big Dorchester site up for grabs, and the effects of the rise of the life sciences industry. Deep breath. —Tom Acitelli, Curbed Boston editor


Construction is about to start on that multi-building project on and around South Station in downtown Boston. That means disruptions for commuters who use New England’s busiest train and bus hub, including entrance and exit reconfigurations as well as track closures. The good news? The project will leave South Station looking snazzier. Below is a rendering of the future outdoor concourse.

Rendering of a capacious train station concourse.South Station Air Rights Project

Speaking of development-related disruption, elected officials and residents in Roxbury are concerned about the pace of Northeastern University’s construction and land acquisition in the neighborhood, including a proposed 26-story dormitory at 840 Columbus Avenue.

In other recent university-related news, some 10 acres of the University of Massachusetts’ Boston campus could be redeveloped, according to a request for information that the UMass Building Authority put out to developers. The site in Dorchester’s Columbia Point includes the historic Calf Pasture Pumping Station and an adjacent lot.

The success of the region’s life sciences industry has to do in large part with all of these local universities. And that success—Greater Boston is the industry’s national capital—has had all sorts of ripple effects on the region’s real estate, including development.

Case in point: Part of the redevelopment of the Boston Globe’s old Morrissey Boulevard headquarters in Dorchester could be set aside for companies in that industry, according to the project’s developer. Dubbed the BEAT, it’s due to open now in the summer.

A painted sign on a water tank.Nordblom Company

Over to some smaller-scale development. Watertown zoning officials approved a five-story, 34-unit apartment building at 164-166 Main Street in Watertown Square. And Boston zoning officials approved a six-story, 65-unit (all affordable) apartment building at 1599 Columbus Avenue in Jamaica Plain. The same officials, however, rejected a couple’s plans to officially turn their attic in a two-family house in West Roxbury into a studio. Neighbors had opposed the move.

This is more medium-size development: A Boston-based developer filed preliminary plans for a six-story, 106-unit apartment building at 1500 Soldiers Field Road in Brighton. The project would also include on-site bike storage and garage parking for 60 automobiles.

Now back to bigger developments. The developer behind the multi-building Fenway Center, where Beacon Street meets the Massachusetts Turnpike and Commonwealth Avenue, could break ground on the project’s second phase later this year. It’s supposed to include 720,000 square feet of office and lab space in two buildings.

Moreover, the Boston Planning and Development Agency approved an 80-unit co-living building at 525 Lincoln Street in busy, busy Allston. It will contain 278 bedrooms total, 48 of which will be income-restricted.

The BPDA also signed off on a 15-story, 451-unit apartment tower at 1252-1272 Boylston Street in Fenway. The building will include a 10,000-square-foot, 156-seat theater that will operate as a nonprofit LGBTQ-centric performing arts venue. The Theater Offensive has signed a letter of intent with developer Scape to operate what it’s calling the Black Box Theater. Recall that Scape had intended to develop a dormitory at the site unaffiliated with any school, but neighborhood opposition led to the developer pivoting to apartments.

Finally, it’s curtains for the Prudential Tower’s Skywalk Observatory and Top of the Hub restaurant, both of which will close in April to apparently make way for a new observatory at the Back Bay skyscraper.

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