The 401 Park building, formerly known as the Landmark Center, was finally revealed to the public on May 17. Phase One of the project began in 2017, and includes 1.1 acres of open space along Park Drive, restoration and improvements to the Landmark Center building itself, and the creation of Time Out Market, which is set to open in a few weeks.
On a very rainy day, members of the Fenway community and employees of the offices located in the 401 Park building packed into the recently renovated lobby of the building to hear from representatives of Samuels & Associates as well as Mayor Martin Walsh, City Councilor Josh Zakim, and State Rep. Chynah Tyler talk about this milestone for the neighborhood.
“This is a very significant moment for the Fenway neighborhood,” said Peter Sougarides of Samuels & Associates. “We have dreamed for many years about creating an open space that acts as a gathering area for the community.”
Steve Samuels of Samuels & Associates provided a little bit of history about the 401 Park Drive building. “For those of you around this neighborhood 20 years ago, our involvement started with the Red Sox thinking about building a new park just to the west of the existing Fenway Park,” he said to the crowd. “And it brought up a lot of anxiety, and it brought a lot of community groups up to talk about living with a ballpark and what does that mean and how it’s been for the last 100 years. What came out of that was this desire to have something more, to have a mainstream, to have a central place where the neighborhood has a spine and a soul?”
He said that now, 20 years later, the Red Sox have relocated the original park and Samuels & Associates “picked up the torch to do all the other things about making this a 24/7 neighborhood. And while it’s not complete, Fenway to me finally feels whole,” he said.
The 401 park building was built in 1928 as a Sears distribution center, but began to change over the years as Sears became less of a powerhouse, Samuels said, which led to years of decline, vacancy, and disrepair.
But about 20 years ago, Samuels said, the building “made its first iteration of a new life,” and was renovated to include some suburban retail on the first floor and became home to Blue Cross Blue Shield above. “We felt the thing that was missing the most was it was still a barrier,” Samuels said. “It was not a place where the community could come in and out of. None of the office building employees felt part of the neighborhood. So we felt that it was our responsibility to make this thing entirely different than it has been.”
So to remedy that, in this most recent project, they opened up the interior of the building to expose all of the office space above with an atrium. “We want this to feel connected; we want the neighborhood to feel like they can come through here both east and west and north and south and not walk around it. And so its days as a a barrier are over. And we hope that once again will become a place for innovators and dreamers and overachievers. People who want to make things happen. It’s occupied upstairs by tech companies, life science companies, world-class medical institutions,” Samuels said.
Samuels also talked about the Time Out Market food hall, which he said will open on the ground floor in about two weeks and is also opening later this month to Miami, Chicago, and Brooklyn. The food hall “focuses on curating the best of the best food experiences from local purveyors of food,” he said. The market will feature 15 eateries and communal-style tables for people to mingle and enjoy cuisine from Boston’s finest chefs.
“The last piece of the puzzle is the park,” Samuels said. The opening of this park is significant, as it is the connector that will close the gap in Emerald Necklace that has been in place since Sears paved over the Muddy River in front of the building to create a parking lot. As part of this project, the river has been daylighted and make the Emerald Necklace whole again.
“We thought, well it’s fantastic to have the Emerald Necklace connected again and become a place where Bostonians recreate,” Samuels said. “When we realized we had this incredible amount of frontage on this park and we thought if we could activate the front of our building with activities, lifestyle, skiing, tons of food, and a place where families can convene, then it would be a great stop along the Emerald Necklace.”
Contemporary artist Nicole Eisenman will reveal sculptures in the park in the coming weeks, Samuels added.
“I would regard Fenway as one of the best arts and culture neighborhoods in the country because everyone talks about it,” said Walsh. “It’s important that we understand the history. And it’s also important that we think about as we go into this incredible growth and transformation in this city, that we still have the history of our city and understanding the history of our city, and knowing what came before and having a building like this as a gateway into the neighborhood, it really is important.” Walsh also touched upon the importance of open space, not only for recreation and gathering space for the public, but also for the environment.
Zakim said he’s really looking forward to the food hall, and is proud o the changes that have happened in the Fenway community in partnership with the community, such as “…building projects like this that make sense to development opportunity, that help the city, that bring so much to the community,” he said. “From the park outside…to this food hall that is having nationally known chefs and entrepreneurs.”
“I’d just like to congratulate Steve Samuels and the entire Samuels team with the opening of this wonderful facility. It’s truly amazing,” said State Rep. Chynah Tyler.
After the speaking program, Mayor Walsh, China Tyler, Josh Zakim,. And people from Samuels & Associates cut the ribbon, officially signifying the completion of Phase One of the project.