Fenway Center, a project on air rights parcels over the Massachusetts Turnpike in the Fen-way, is on track to becoming a reality, with changes to a previously approved proposal set to go before the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) board within the next month or two. A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting regarding Phase Two of the Fenway Center project was held at the Fenway Community Center on January 15, where changes to the two building project were generally well-received by members of the CAC, many of which who have been involved with this project for over ten years.
John Rosenthal of Meredith Management, the developer for the project, said that Phase One of the Fenway Center project is currently under construction and set to be completed by June of this year. Phase One consists of buildings One and Two, totaling 346,000 square feet and approximately 312 residential units. He also discussed many of the community benefits that came along with the original approval of the project, which included the development of Lans-downe Station, a new intersection at Maitland and Beach Streets, and improvements to David Ortiz Drive.
The original approval for Phase Two happened in 2009, and included approval for 1,300,000 gross square feet, 1,290 parking spaces, and buildings that were mixed use commercial of-fice/lab, retail, residential, and parking.
The current Notice of Project change filed with the BPDA includes less housing and less park-ing, and Rosenthal said they will have a garage with 600 parking spaces, a small increase in height for the two buildings (Buildings Three and Four) due to the need for more rooftop me-chanicals to accommodate office, lab, and life science uses, since that’s what the buildings will mainly consist of. Additionally, there will be connections to Lansdowne Station and more land-scaped public open space.
Rosenthal said that in order to finance a project in this location, rent that offices/labs are willing to pay are necessary. There is also a high demand for research and development as well as life science uses in proximity to the Longwood Medical area and Boston University, so this project will be able to provide those uses.
Todd Dundon of Gensler Architects said that the landscape design for this phase includes creating a series of open spaces that allow for people to pass through and connect from Brookline Ave. to Lansdowne, as well as opportunities for seating and activation from retail. There will also be an opportunity for a public garden as well. Trees will have to be planted in raised planters as it is not an option to compromise headroom for traffic below.
“Everybody’s really thrilled to see this connection being made,” said Tim Horn, CAC member and president of the Fenway Civic Association. “It’s really exciting; it’s really good to be a part of this.” He said that the Fenway Civic Association still feels that even with the reduction in parking, it is still an excessive number of spots and fears that they will go unused fifteen years from now.
“Now we’re looking at a way of doing a mechanical garage so in that day when parking isn’t needed, it can be dismantled and floors put in,” Rosenthal said. He said they want to adapt to a less car-centric Boston.
“You’ve been very thoughtful about the parking since the beginning,” Pam Beale, owner of Cornwall’s and a member of the CAC, said. She added that she believes a real solution to the traffic issue would be to have a 24-hour MBTA.
However, “I think all the changes are for the better,” she said about the most recent proposal.
Once the deck is built, which Rosenthal said will start this summer, the buildings will go up and should be completed in 2023 or 2024.
Rosenthal thanked the community and the CAC for their involvement in this project over so many years. “What this community did, it was a big vision and it is coming to life; it is coming to fruition,” he said.
Tim Czerweinski of the BPDA said that the comment period for this project closes on January 27, and comments can either be emailed to him or submitted through the project page on the BPDA website. He also said that a public hearing before the BPDA for a vote will be scheduled soon, possibly in February or March.
He added that this project is also pending comments and review from the city, and that it is finally becoming a reality: “We’ve been at this for quite some time.”