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Construction on Fenway Center May Start Before 2018

The developers of Fenway Center now say that construction on the complex could begin as early as the end of 2017. Once completed, the development will span 1.1 million square feet and five buildings. It is located at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue, Brookline Avenue and the Kenmore Square neighborhood.

This would be a remarkable timeline for the project. The lead developer on the project has been trying to build on the 4.5-acre parcel for almost 20 years. Financial problems and infrastructure issues have delayed the development over the years. Part of the project includes building over the Massachusetts Turnpike, which is an infrastructural nightmare for developers.

Last year, the developers finally managed to get the financing in place for the project. With the influx of money, the construction could begin before the end of 2017. The first phase of the project will include two apartment buildings that house 313 units. Ultimately, the project is expected to have 650 housing units. It will boast of 50,000 square feet of retail, 160,000 square feet of offices and 1,290 parking spaces. Once it is finished, Fenway Center will include a daycare center, a community space, a bike-share station and bicycle storage options.

A Transformational Project

For years, Fenway Center was delayed because of funding issues and infrastructure problems. Part of the problem is the creation of a deck that is supposed to go over the Massachusetts Turnpike. One of the reasons the developers are able to move forward now is because they are focusing on building the easier parts first.

The current plan is for the developer to construct two apartment buildings near the Turnpike and Fenway Park. They will delay the construction of the 27-story tower and deck until later on in the development. When the additional tower is added, it will bring an additional 335 units to the property. Once completed, the development will completely remake the neighborhood.

The first proposals were originally pitched about 15 years ago. A string of lawsuits held back the project. After the recession hit, the project had to change its plans. Now, new investors and a different approach has helped to get the Fenway Center project back on track.

The developer spent the last year working with state officials to divide the $600 million project into two different phases. The first two apartment buildings will be at the corner of Matland Street and Beacon Street. This location is directly across the Massachusetts Turnpike from Kenmore Square. In order to delay constructing the deck across the Turnpike, the developer paid an extra $21 million to the state.

The positive momentum of the project is intended to attract more investors for the construction of the next phase and the deck. Earlier this year, the MassDOT board voted to approve a $21 million lease for 99 years. The remaining air rights and terms for the portion above the Turnpike will be negotiated by the end of 2020. The ultimate price for this phase will be set according to the market rates at the time. If the developers cannot start the second phase by 202, they will have to pay the state a $3 million penalty. Once the project is entirely finished, Fenway Center will be the first project to build over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston since the 1980s.

Finishing Yawkey Station

Over a decade of community planning, the developers worked to create three public and privately financed developments. Two of these projects were the MBTA Yawkey Commuter Rail Station and the Yawkey Way Extension from Brookline Avenue. The first project was funded by the state and included major renovations to the rail station. It cost $14.9 million and finished in 2014. This development involved making two platforms that are fully accessible from Brookline Avenue to Beacon Street. These stations accommodate up to 40 commuter trains on a daily basis.

Before the project, only 17 trains could stop each day because the eastbound track had just one short platform. With Fenway Park and Longwood Medical Area nearby, Yawkey Station was posed to become an economic engine. The new station has made transportation easier for the thousands of students, patients and visitors who go through the Longwood Medical Area every day.

The other state-funded project was the Yawkey Way Extension. This extension will connect Matland Street and Overland Street for better vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access. With both of the transportation projects, the city was able to relieve traffic in and around Kenmore Square.

Now, the developers are prepared for the 1.3-million-square-foot Fenway Center. This mixed-use project will provide the area with more than 1,800 construction jobs. Over time, it will ensure hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate tax revenue for Boston. It will also provide hundreds of millions of dollars in lease payments for Massachusetts. Once completed, it will be the source of hundreds of permanent jobs for residents in the neighborhood.

The Design of Fenway Center

When both phases are complete, Fenway Center will consist of five new buildings. This will include a 27-story tower placed above the Massachusetts Turnpike. The development will span 1.1 million square feet. This mixed-use property will ultimately include the air rights for space above the Massachusetts Turnpike. There will be a total of 550 residential units in the finished property and 50,000 square feet of retail space. It will host a total of 160,000 square feet of office space.

To ensure that residents have plenty of parking options, Fenway Center will construct a seven-story parking garage. This garage will host a total of 1,290 spaces. In addition, the exterior of the property will be designed with immaculate landscaping and green space. There will be a total of 30,000 square feet of green spaces and parks on the property.

While the first phase of the development will be started soon, the transportation updates have already happened. New public access roads were built through existing parking lots. The Yawkey MBTA commuter rail station was updated to accommodate all of the extra residents and visitors who will arrive in the area in the future.

For the actual building, the first phase of construction will include building one and two. These buildings will be 7 and 13 stories high. In total, these residential buildings will encompass 339,000 square feet.

After the first phase, the developers will transition into the second phase. This phase includes a 27-story tower that includes office and residential space. This mixed-use tower will ultimately encompass 375,000 square feet. The second construction phase will also include a 111,000-square-foot, 7-story residential building over the Massachusetts Turnpike. It will also include a parking garage on the air rights deck that encompasses 274,000 square feet and seven stories.

The Architecture at Fenway Center

All of the four buildings in the complex will include retail space on the ground floor. The original master plan for the property was created by the New-York based architects at Carlos Zapata Studio. Since then, the architectural designs for Fenway Center have been carried out by the Architectural Team.

The goal of the design is to effortlessly integrate the beauty of the Kenmore, Fenway and Longwood Medical Area neighborhoods. Long ago, the 1960s urban renewal divided the city into old architecture and new designs. With Fenway Center, the architects sought to reconnect the old and new styles of the neighborhood. The designs emphasize a gradual increase in the building's scale and height. This starts with the lower scale near Brookline Avenue. Then, it transitions to a higher scale and height with the central tower next to Beacon Street.

While the plan works within the urban grid, it revitalizes the space with greenery and pedestrian friendly walkways. Each green space is designed to maximize communal enjoyment. The finished product will boast of an elevated streetscape and plenty of vibrant, lively public spaces. With improved access for cars and bicycles, Fenway Center will transform the neighborhood in a desirable place for work or play.

In addition to a beautiful, integrated design, Fenway Center will also be environmentally sustainable. It will include one of the biggest private solar power plants in the entire state. The accompanying station will also be the MBTA's first net-zero-energy station.

Exploring Kenmore Square

Located on the east of Boston, The Kenmore Square neighborhood includes sub-neighborhoods like Audubon Circle, East Fenway, Kenmore Square and West Fenway. Known as Kenmore Square or Fenway-Kenmore, this neighborhood includes major tourist attractions like Fenway Park and the First Church of Christ. East and West Fenway are separated by the Muddy River.

Throughout the streets of Kenmore Square, residents will find mid-rise buildings, brick walk-ups and brownstone townhomes. Many of these structures were first built between 1880 and 1930. While the neighborhood has grown over the centuries, it still contains a number of independent shops. In recent years, major commercial developments have also been constructed around Boylston Street, Brookline Avenue, Huntington Avenue and Beacon Street.

Within Kenmore Square, residents will find the Fenway Park baseball stadium to the south of the Massachusetts Turnpike. Because of the presence of many colleges in the area, there is a thriving food and shopping culture. Over the last 20 years, many residential buildings in the space between Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street have been converted into dorms. Today, the Berklee College of Music, Boston University, the Boston Conservatory of Music and Northeastern University have presences within Kenmore Square.

Originally, this neighborhood was made by annexing land from the Brookline neighborhood in the 1870s. Over the years, the new neighborhood developed a strong educational focus. By the early 1900s, there were nine universities or colleges in the neighborhood. The residential buildings in the area were beautifully designed because they had to be. The Park Board decided that buildings had to be approved before their construction to make sure that poorly made buildings were not constructed. The board also had the power to determine which constructions could have frontage along the parkway and the park.

In recent years, developers have flooded the area with new projects and architectural designs. The Landmark Center, the Hotel Commonwealth, the Trilogy apartments and 1330 Boylston have all been constructed within the last 20 years.

There will also be other new developments in the area. On Boylston Street, the Howard Johnson motel will be renovated into an upscale hotel. Meanwhile, the Isabella Steward Gardener Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have both constructed new expansions in the neighborhood.

Residents are drawn to the neighborhood because of the many amenities and excellent transportation options. In the modern Kenmore Square neighborhood, residents can find amenities like the Boston Conservatory, the Isabella Gardner Museum, the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral and the Forsyth Institute. Home to Fenway Park, the neighborhood is also the site of top colleges like Harvard Medical School, Boston University, Simmons College and the Massachusetts College of Art.

For commuters, the neighborhood offers easy transportation options through the MBTA's Orange Line. The Orange Line Ruggles subway station rings the area. In addition, residents can access multiple MBTA Green Line trolley stops. These stops include the E stop at Symphony, the Museum of Fine Arts and North Eastern. The C stop can be found at Kenmore or St. Mary's Street, and the D stop can be accessed at Fenway or Kenmore. The B stop is only available at Kenmore. Next to Kenmore Square and Fenway Park, residents can find the Framingham/Worcester Line at Yawkey Station.

Additional transportation options can be found through the many buses that run through the neighborhood. For drivers, the neighborhood is home to major roads like Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street. Fenway and Park Drive also traverse the area near the neighborhood. The Massachusetts Turnpike runs through the neighborhood, but residents have to head outside of the neighborhood to reach the access points.

Fenway Center: A Bright Future

After nearly two decades of uncertainty and delays, Fenway Center is finally getting the attention it deserves. The developers expect to start construction on the first phase of the project before 2018. Once this phase is complete, they can move on to the final phase of construction. Before long, residents can enjoy living, shopping and working at one of the latest and most stunning developments to hit Kenmore Square.

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