Thousands of Apartments on Tap for Downtown Boston

Demand for high-end housing is leading Boston developers to propose mixed-use and luxury apartment buildings. Now they just need to be built.

After three-plus years of inactivity, downtown Boston developers are poised to begin construction on new apartment complexes that may bring over 3,000 new units to market during the next couple of years.

Here's a look at what's to come:

Hayward Place - This proposal is for a $200-million, 15-story, 265-unit rental building with 12,000 square feet of retail space and underground parking. Millennium Partners owns this parcel of land, currently used as a surface parking lot.

After years of promises dating back to the turn of the century and multiple proposals, it looked as though this 397,000 square foot project would break ground this summer. Renderings have been released of the mid-rise building, but word leaked last week that the developer may be holding off until 2012 before commencing construction.

Kensington Place - The origins of this development start back in 2001. A beloved (but run-down and abandoned) live theater used to reside on this site. In 2006, the city allowed the developer to tear it down. Then nothing happened. There are approved plans to build a $172-million, 27-story apartment complex with up to 385 units and 110 parking spaces on this site, which sits directly across the street from the Archstone Boston Common. We might still see construction begin this summer, but paint me skeptical.

One Bromfield - Back in 2008, a 28-story, 276-unit apartment high-rise was proposed for this site across the street from One Franklin. You would have hoped it would be ready to start construction by now, but apparently not; while the Wendy’s restaurant (a.k.a., Neisner’s) that was part of the parcel closed for good recently, a new sign in the window says, “Coming soon: AT&T Wireless”.

North Station Towers - After they built the new TD Garden and tore down the "old" one in front of it, the parcel on Causeway Street was designated for new development. For years, unfortunately, it’s remained one big empty lot where TV stations park their trucks. Just this past week, however, the Boston Herald broke the story that Bruins’ owner Delaware North might be readying a proposal for a one-million square foot project on the site, with hundreds of apartments, office space, a hotel and ground-floor retail including a Stop & Shop supermarket.

Meanwhile, Trinity Financial’s 275-unit apartment project across the street remains stuck in neutral, as does neighboring Simpson Housing’s 360,000 square foot, 273-unit mixed-use complex.

Boston Herald - A preliminary proposal for this project was released a couple weeks ago and it didn’t please anyone. Residents were looking for something bold to replace the Herald editorial and business offices currently located there. A five-story, 262-unit apartment complex with a street-level supermarket and retail/restaurant space and 455 parking spots didn’t make the grade. This is an infrequent situation where a developer is being asked to think bigger.

Fenway Center - This $450 million, 1.3 million square foot project (previously, One Kenmore) is proposed for land built on top of the Massachusetts Turnpike, in the shadow of Fenway Park. When completed, it will include 370,000 square feet of office space, 330 apartments, more than 1,200 parking spaces and 100,000 square feet of retail.

Although a groundbreaking ceremony was held last year, it was purely ceremonial in nature. The first steps in the project were to renovate the existing Yawkey commuter rail station and to build a new street from Brookline Avenue to the transit stop, but nothing is going on there, currently.

Garden Garage Towers - Equity Residential has proposed a pair of mid-rise towers on Lomasney Way that could house as many as 500 units between them. With 950,000 square feet of development in the $300 million project, more than half of it will be residential space and 385,000 square feet will be for parking and mechanical equipment.

1325 Fenway Triangle - Samuels & Associates has proposed its third Fenway project, a pair of 15-story mid-rises along Boylston Street. The $250-million project will include 290 apartments, 225,000 square feet of office space, and 195,000 square feet of retail.

Prudential Plaza - As I last December, construction of a $129-million, 27-story apartment building on the Prudential Plaza was set to commence in early 2011, although nothing has happened to date. Located on Exeter Street at the rear of the existing Lord & Taylor store, it will rise approximately 311 feet in height and include as many as 188 rental units.

With all this residential building, you might wonder if the city can handle all this supply. In fact, it won’t even put a dent in the amount of new housing needed to even keep up with the city’s expanding population.

What’s yet to be proven is the theory of “trickle-down” housing economics. Will increasing the supply of high-end, expensive housing mean lower-priced units will then become available to the less well-off? Keep in mind, the residential housing projects above are adding to the housing supply, not removing existing units from the mix. So, no one’s being displaced.

If you’re interested in following progress of these buildings as they follow the tortuous process from proposal to construction, I highly recommend the ArchBoston forum, located at http://archboston.org.

Betty Lindsey June 24, 2011 at 02:12 PM
The question is with the economy the way it is who can afford the priced they will eventually charge? I know for one I certaintly won't be able to. God help those that are in true need of housing and won't be able to get it.


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