The LINK listing service hosted a morning presentation by John Rosenthal, the man behind the company behind the massive development proposed over the Mass Pike, just outside Kenmore Square.
I am a big fan of new housing projects, because I think the number one way to reduce the cost of housing is to increase supply.
I enjoyed John Rosenthal’s presentation and was happy to find out we seem to think alike about some things.
The project he is proposing would develop four parcels over the Mass Pike, from the space nearest to the Virgin Megastore building, all the way down past Kenmore Square (where the Cask ‘n Flagon is) and beyond, to the Beacon Street bridge (I believe).
The multi-use project would include condos, apartments, retail, and maybe commercial, I am not sure.
Rosenthal had originally planned to put two high-rise buildings up behind Fenway Park (parcel 7 I think) but the Red Sox were, how you say, adamantly opposed to it, basically because they didn’t want the views past left field to be marred by buildings (they wanted a clear view of the Citgo building, apparently). After some pressure from city hall, the Red Sox and Rosenthal were able to resolve their differences.
The latest proposal has the Red Sox building a 2500 spot parking garage behind Fenway Park (beyond the Green Monster, on Lansdowne Street, where there is an existing garage, currently).
Rosenthal switched parcels, and now will construct his high-rises further down, on what is called Parcel 6 (parcels go up in number from here toward South Station and then end of the Pike). His buildings will have some parking, as well.
The audience at the presentation was made up of real estate agents as well as a couple of developers (Norman Leventhal of the Copley Group was in attendance). Honestly, however, I wonder how many people had any idea what he was talking about. I think most people came to network.
Rosenthal has spent the last two years trying to get the project together. He implied that the permitting and design work was arduous and time-consuming. He seemed resigned to the fact that the process was necessary in order to build anything in the city.
There is another two years of work needed, he surmised, before the first shovel can be put in the ground (of course, there won’t be shovels, since they will be building huge platforms over the Pike). He optimistically projected a completion date within five years.
The neighborhood is behind the project, to a certain extent. Some neighbors, however, have problems with the proposed parking garages, feeling that adding parking spaces will only encourage more people to drive into the neighborhood for baseball games and also to go to hospitals in the nearby medical area.
In fact, the newly constructed garages will replace some existing spaces, so it is unclear how much additional parking will be provided.
I think parking is needed, badly. If you remember, there was a scandal last fall when it was discovered that a couple of gas stations were charging up to one hundred dollars per car, on game days. Having a big garage less than five hundred feet from the front gate of Fenway Park will help reduce price gouging (allowing the Sox to gouge you even more with high ticket and hot dog/beer prices).
I would love for there to be a new Mass Pike off-ramp (and on-ramp) outside Kenmore Square. This would allow people from the west to get into the area without jamming up local roads. Now, I think, they get off either at the Allston tolls or at Copley Square. This helps no one.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely to happen. John Rosenthal said as much.
As part of his proposal, there will be a completely renovated Yawkey Way commuter rail stop, connecting to the Green Line subway (at Brookline Ave, I believe). This will encourage more people to take public transportation.
I have positive feelings about the project and am optimistic that it will end up looking much like it is currently proposed. The development will bring in much needed residential and retail space, as well as parking, plus, as important, replace the huge gash splitting two neighborhoods with a vibrant community.
I hope John Rosenthal is successful. I also hope his project helps the other big developments in the area get off the ground. Arthur Wynn is building Columbus Center down the Pike, between Copley Square and Shawmut Ave (I think) and is having a hell of a time getting it off the ground. Wynn is proposing a massive project in an already existing neighborhood (two, actually) so is up against a lot more than Rosenthal.
Millennium Partners also has a project in the works, or did, at least. They have the air rights next to John Rosenthal’s parcels. Whether or not they go forward is to be determined.
I could tell that John Rosenthal and I had lots in common when we spoke briefly after the meeting. We both agree that maybe the Popeye’s proposed for Kenmore Square is not the best use of the space or the direction they need to go in the area. But, we both like the idea of bringing ‘The Rat’ back!