Project Over Turnpike Moves Closer to Reality

October 28, 2016
By

By Beth Treffeisen

The tunnel that drivers take on the Massachusetts Turnpike underneath Back Bay approaching the Copley Square exit may soon get a little longer.

After two years of delaying, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Turnpike air rights project for parcels 12 through 15 was brought up once again at the seventeenth citizen advisory committee working meeting for the project this past Tuesday, October 25.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), formally known as the BRA, expects to begin the article 80-review process for parcels 12 and 15 in the winter of 2017.

The parcels span from the Prudential Center, over the turnpike, and jut out from Massachusetts Ave to the corner of Boylston St.

The two parcels brought up for discussion included Parcel 15, which abuts the Prudential parcel along with Parcel 12, that sits on the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Boylston Street.

After hearing concerns at the last meeting, held in December 2014, about the gapping hole between Parcel 15 and the corner of Boylston St and Dalton St., the developers Weiner Ventures and Samuels & Associates worked together with the Prudential Center to obtain the rights to that missing piece.

The Prudential Center still owned the rights to half the parcel of the hole you see today and MassDOT owns the other half.

“It’s not just twice the deck, twice the cost,” said Adam Weiner from Weiner Ventures. “It becomes significantly more complicated when you fill in the hole.”

By filling in a hole new problems arise with air ventilation with the new tunnel created below it, along with complex construction that goes into making a deck over the streets and rails below it.

Because they have combined the parcels, they had to change the original design to make the project cost effective. They have not come up with a definitive price tag for the project yet.

Instead of having one building on Parcel 15 the new design has two buildings sitting on a combined four-story base. The building that will be situated next to the Prudential Center will be 276 feet high with 160 condominiums and the further closer to Berklee College of Music will be 559 feet high with 182 apartments and 303 parking spaces.

The base will be made up of retail space and the two separate buildings on top will be residential. The original design had one building at 498 feet high.

“The thing that struck me somewhat shockingly,” said Meg-Mainzer-Cohen from the Back Bay Association, “Is that there could be an outdoor café where people could be sitting out having dinner on Boylston Street along that stretch because to say that’s not feasible today is an understatement.”

Across Massachusetts Ave., Parcel 12 was also brought up for discussion. At the meeting the developers proposed two possible designs for the spot: one for a residential meeting and the other for an office building.

For both designs the ground floor would house the Hynes Convention Center T stop and have retail space, along with possible public access to a rooftop green space.

The entire project will be 325,000 square feet. If it turns into a residential units the building would be taller and narrower than if it is used for an office space.

A portion of the retail will be visible from drivers traveling on the Turnpike, making a great spot for a company who would want a signature unit or Boston headquarters.

“They say it has a million eyeballs a year on this thing on the Mass Pike so a certain thousand a day,” said Steve Samuels from Samuels & Associates. “Your talking about someone who really wants an identity and wants to be in this great neighborhood – the possibilities are endless.”

The project began in the summer of 2011 when the citizen advisory committee was formed. In the summer of 2012 MassDOT designated Weiner Ventures and Samuels & Associates on Parcels 15 and 12 respectively.

In the winter of 2014 MassDOT designated The Peebles Corporation on Parcel 13, where no further action has taken place.

If approved, this will be the first deck built over the Pike since Copley Place in the 1980’s.

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