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The Changing Boston Skyline

There’s no denying that there is a building boom happening in the city of Boston now. The reach, size and grandeur of this, “Urban Renaissance,” is redefining the skyline forever. 


To understand the present conditions, we must look at the past. Boston is well known for its storied history. However, its construction developments can be summed up in three major time periods.

The first came in the 20’s, which brought along a series of skyscrapers to accommodate the ever expanding workforce of white collar-employees. Coupled with engineering breakthroughs that made it possible to build and live in taller buildings than ever before, the first building boom was commenced.

Next, the 60’s and 70’s brought along a period of massive transformation due to America’s increasing post-war affluence. The majority of Boston’s iconic buildings were built during this time period. To name a few, The Prudential, City Hall Plaza, One Boston Place, The First National Bank Building, The Federal Reserve, The John Hancock Tower, Exchange Place and many more.

The third is happening now! There is more than 14 million sq. ft. under construction presently in Boston. To put that in perspective, the 2012 high water mark for development was 4.5 million sq. ft., which was then drastically higher than the previous averages from the early 2000’s. Quantity of new space being built is only half of the story. The quality of these developments are of the likes only seen in New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, and London. It is the developers plans to make Boston, shinier, taller and more expensive than ever and this is happening through the means of European, Asian and South American investors.


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What is sparking this growth? Boston ranks as one of the most walkable big cities in the country. The convenience and ease of being able to walk to work or school or get to shops or restaurants by foot is something that attracts many people, particularly millennials, to the metro area. Companies and developers are becoming more and more focused around the concept of, LIVE, WORK, PLAY,” facilities, which creates an environment that attracts the top talent as well. Long gone are the days of commuting from the suburbs to your office park where the excitement of the day was leaving! Top talent requires more. They want energy, excitement and action around there workplace. Companies such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, State Street Corp., and the law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, have commissioned new office buildings in the Seaport neighborhood under this concept.

Over a two-year span culminating in July 2012, Boston grew 3.1 percent from the official 2010 count, the Census Bureau estimates, to 636,479 people. Major developers are betting big that this growth will only increase over the next decade. 

Developments happening now:

1. Millennium Tower: The Downtown Crossing area has struggled to thrive for years given its highly work centric environment. As of September 2013, ground was broken on the lifeless block that graced the city’s core for so many years. The aim of this development is to inject some life into the hours outside of 9am-5pm. This change is only possible with the  support of the Live, Work, Play concept. Millennium Partners is converting the historic department store into a massive 685-foot-tall residential tower featuring 442 residences, various retail establishments and a much needed grocery store.

A brief history of the site shows just how major this current development is. The former flagship Filene’s store was purchased by Vornado Realty Trust of New York in 2006. They had planned for a 39-story tower including a 280 room hotel, a 125 seat restaurant, 475,000 sq. ft. of office space, 166 residential condos and 300,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The project ran out of money largely due to the widespread recession and the city of Boston eventually revoked the permits. In 2012, Millennium Partners took over and have been thriving ever since. Millennium Place was the FASTEST selling luxury condo building Boston has ever seen. 231 homes were sold in a period of 15 months. The project is expected to be completed in 2016.


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2. LOVERJOY WHARF: One of the largely untapped regions of Boston is the waterfront borderland of the West and North End. Developer, Related Beal is working to change that through the construction of another Live, Work, Play environment. There plans include a 175 unit luxury residential complex, the Converse headquarters, updates to the Harborwalk and an amazing waterfront public space.

The Converse headquarters officially opened on May 13, 2015. As stated on the companies website, “the 214,000 sq. ft. facility, provides a world-class, collaborative work environment for Converse employees and will enable the brand to continue its mission to attract top talent, celebrate consumers through retail, engage the music community, and bring Boston’s vibrant cultures together.”



3. THE VICTOR AT THE GREENWAY: Just steps from the Related Beal Lovejoy Wharf, Simpson Housing, has constructed a 286 unit apartment building on Causeway Street across form the TDGarden. The building was completed in January of 2015 and presently has over 80 percent occupancy. Keeping true to the high end market, this best-in-class development features, custom Italian cabinetry, hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, electric car charging stations and  state-of-the-art athletic facilities. The developers designed the building to have a “down-to-earth yet chic vibe,” which bodes well with the changing tides in Boston while staying true to the gritty Bruins and Celtics crowds.

If you are looking to grab one of the remaining units at The Victor, prices range from $3000 per month for a studio rental to $5,000 for a 2 bedroom.


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4. 40 TRINITY PLACE: Located in the Back Bay, Trinity Stuart LLC, has received approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority to begin construction of a 33 story multiuse facility. This project will be located in the Back Bay at the site of the existing Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center, formerly known as the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center. The building will include a 220- room hotel with meeting spaces, 142 residences, 100 parking spaces and several restaurants. A prominent feature of this development will be the 2-story lobby on the 18th floor.

Construction of the 379,370 Sq. Ft., 400 Ft. tall facility has been delayed due to numerous objections from area residents. There concerns are that the building will cause “ear-lobe burning wind,” due to is size and scope in addition to casting an unfavorable shadow on the existing structures surrounding the proposed development. The total price tag has been projected to come in around $225 million, but due to the numerous objections, this number will undoubtedly continue to rise. Only time will tell if the building will rise as well!


5. PIER 4: Located along the Boston Harbor in the Seaport District, Pier 4 is a long, rectangular piece of land, which extends roughly 400 feet into the harbor. The land is permitted as a mixed-use project with the intent of creating an entirely new submarket with the direct harbor frontage and easy accessibility to established amenitites as well as it’s own amenity base to be developed. Tishman Speyer purchases two parts of the Pier for development. Lot 2 will feature 353,000 sq. ft. of office space and 20,ooo sq. ft. of ground floor retail. Lot 3 will be a 9 story condominium building featuring, 171,000 sq. ft. of residential space and 17,000 sq.  ft. of ground floor retail. Both lots will be built upon a combined two-level subterranean parking garage. 

The area was first developed in 1960, which included the opening of Anthony’s Pier 4. Unfortunately, given the prime location, the restaurant has been sold. Not without a significant claim to fame. At its height, Anthony’s was the highest grossing restaurant in the Unites States.


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6. INK BLOCKNearing completion, the former site of the Boston Herald on Harrison Avenue features a Whole Foods supermarket, three residential buildings and retail/restaurant space. National Development bought the six-acre South End lot in 2006 with plans to create a South End inspired property. In initial meetings the plan was turned on its head and Ink Block set out to be an agent of change for the area.

That has been accomplished with three largely different properties, 1 Ink, 2 Ink and 3 Ink. 1 Ink is designed for the city lover in us all, with huge floor to ceiling windows and excellent views of the Boston Skyline. 2 Ink has a more modern, loft feel with edgy designs and open floor plans. Lastly, 3 Ink is for the more formal individual with refined finishes, warm light wood cabinets and great functionality. The hopes for the area are to develop a vibrant, young area. Whole Foods supermarket is the cherry on top of what will soon be the new place to be. 




To Be Continued….






Christina Reinwald, Building Boston's Skyline. Dec 13, 2013.

Zeninjor Enwemeka, Greater Boston Needs More ‘Walkable Urban Places.' Mar 11, 2015.

Construction Projects in the Boston Area.

Contact Ryan Clunan

172 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02116