Just a decade or two ago, Boston's Fenway Park stadium was surrounded by a smattering of surface parking lots, fast-food joints, gas stations and sports bars, an odd slice of Route 1-style suburban sprawl in the heart of the city.
Today, empty parking lots are fast becoming an endangered species in the Fenway neighborhood, one of the epicenters of new development in booming Boston—with the 350-ft Fenway Center tower just the latest in a series of projects set to transform the once dingy streets around the ballpark and next-door Kenmore Square as well.
Multimillionaire retail and residential developer Steve Samuels led the way with a series of high-rise apartment, condo and retail projects.
The 30-story Pierce brought the luxury condo boom to the doorsteps of Fenway Park in 2018, while Samuels’ 875,000-sq-ft Van Ness project, made up of a residential and an office tower with retail at its base, introduced Target to the neighborhood.
Fenway Center developer John Rosenthal and his partners have also been busy, having just opened last year his own residential complex, the Bower, a pair of eight-story and 14-story residential buildings with 312 apartments.
Officials from Fenway Sports Group Real Estate, a subsidiary of Fenway Sports Group and the City of Boston, joined representatives from Gilbane Building Co. for the project's topping out event on June 7.
Earlier this month, the new 91,500-sq-ft MGM Music Hall at Fenway also topped out. The performing arts center designed by D'Agostino, Izzo & Quirk Architects Inc. is being constructed in the triangular lot on the corner of Lansdowne and Ipswich Streets by Gilbane. The four-story venue for 5,000 patrons will partner with local schools, colleges and other neighborhood organizations to host local performing arts events.
Across the street from the MGM Music Hall, crews are rebuilding the Boston Arts Academy. The $125-million project, expected to be open for the 2022-2023 school year, includes a bold glass facade, theatre marquee and rooftop green space. The five-story building will also have a 500-seat theater featuring a proscenium stage, a black box theatre, dance studios, music practice rooms and fashion technology studios and workspaces.
More development is also on the way in the Fenway neighborhood.
Earlier this year, the Red Sox unveiled a partnership with WS Development and a local property owner to redevelop four sites on five very valuable acres around the ballpark.
While plans are still in the works, the team and WS, which had a key role in building out the city’s Seaport, have signaled interest in new office space, retail and a possible hotel.
On the other side of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Kenmore Square, new development is also transforming an area long dominated by student dives and fast-food joints.
Developer Related Beal is well along in its redevelopment of seven parcels underneath the iconic Citgo sign, with the developers having inked a 30-year lease to keep it in place.
The developer has demolished a number of buildings to make way for a new, eight-story 130,000-sq-ft office building. Now under construction, the Commonwealth Building, as it has been named, already landed an anchor tenant, wearable technology maker Whoop, which plans to move its headquarters into the building, according to Curbed Boston.
The new Commonwealth mid-rise is taking shape alongside the existing Beacon Building, being redeveloped into nearly 200,000 sq ft of lab space.
In fact, after years of new residential construction, lab space is shaping up to be a significant part of the next wave of redevelopment in Fenway. At the heart of the Fenway Center project are plans for 720,000 sq ft of lab space.
Alexandria Real Estate, which has been a key player in the explosion of new lab developer in Kendall Square, is looking at major plans for research space in the Fenway.
Alexandria earlier this year inked a $1.52 billion deal to buy the Landmark Center, not far from Fenway Park, and focus on turning it into a major lab center.