Fenway Center, Air Rights Project Could Begin in 2017 with Change

By Seth Daniel

The first air-rights project over the Mass Pike in 30 years could begin as early as next spring, as the Fenway Center proposal that unites Beacon Street to Brookline Avenue over the Pike issued a Notice of Intent to make changes to the project and initiate a Phase 1 this spring.

If the project changes are approved and the project goes forward, it would be the first air rights project over the Pike since Copley.

Manager John Rosenthal issued a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) this month calling for some changes to the previously-approved Fenway Center project – which has plans to build a deck over the Pike – and to notify the BRA that a reconfigured Phase 1 is slated to begin in early 2017.

The proposed changes to the overall project, first approved by the BRA Board in 2009, bring a Phase 1 project that includes no development deck over the Pike, but rather just buildings one and two on Yawkey Way and Maitland Street next to the new commuter rail station.

The most noticeable proposed change to the existing plan is to the 13-story tower known as Building 2. The change includes reducing the 265,000 sq. ft. tower by 56,000 sq. ft. (down to 205,000 sq. ft.) and making the building more slender at the top, while reducing the unit count from 230 to 213 units. The footprint of Building 2 and the 146 foot height would remain the same.

That would be countered by increasing the size of Building 3 over the air rights deck, a building that has always been part of Phase 2 of the project. Now, however, with reductions in size to most of the other buildings, Building 3 will increased from 317,000 sq. ft. to 375,000 sq. ft. – increasing the density of the portion of the project located over the Pike. Building 3 was originally slated as a 305-foot, 27-story tower with commercial office uses and residential uses with retail on the Beacon Street streetscape.

In a letter to the BRA, Rosenthal said the changes will help get the project off the ground.

“The proposed change creates a more readily financeable project under current market conditions,” he wrote. “This will allow the development team to complete its financing and commence construction on Phase 1 in the spring of 2017. The development team is continuing its efforts to secure financing for Phase 2, which is anticipated to commence construction in 2018-2019. By starting construction on Phase 1 as currently configured, we will build momentum for the overall project. Phase 1 will include a critical pedestrian deck over the eastbound railroad track of Yawkey Station to connect Beacon Street to the second level of the Station.”

In the proposed configuration, Building 1 along Maitland Street would be increased by 6,000 sq. ft., going to 130,000 sq. ft. and staying at seven stories tall. It is slated for residential and retail. Building 2, as shown above, involves reducing the building by 56,000 sq. ft. and reducing the unit count by 17 units (213 units). A private parking garage under both buildings would accommodate 590 spaces and would be part of Phase 1.

In Phase 2, the following changes are requested:

  • decreasing the shared-use parking garage on the air rights deck by 6,000 sq. ft. It is already approved as a seven-story, 280,000 sq. ft. parking structure. The footprint and height would remain the same.
  • Building 4 would decrease by 2,000 sq. ft., originally approved as a seven-story, 113,000 sq. ft. building for residential and retail uses.
  • The decreases in Buildings 1, 2, 4 and the Shared Use Parking garages, which equal out to 58,000 sq. ft., would be added to Building 3, taking it up from 317,000 sq. ft. to 375,000 sq. ft. The uses there, however, would remain the same.

“By changing the size of Building 2 to a more streamlined and efficient designs and increasing the size of Building 3 located on the air rights deck, we will be able to increase the overall density on the deck and make the overall Phase 2 project more financeable an attractive to future equity partners,” wrote Rosenthal. “Phase 2 now includes the air rights deck between Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street, the Shared Use Public Garage, Building 4 and Building 3.”

The project was originally proposed and approved through the BRA’s Article 80 process in 2009, and the last amendment to that approval was okayed in 2011. Rosenthal wrote that he believed the changes to be minor and requested they be approved without the need for a further Article 80 review process.

“We believe the minor changes will be embraced by the neighborhood stakeholders and will not adversely increase the impacts of the project,” he wrote.

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