10 Boston developments to watch in 2020

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BOSTON ,MA  04/ 18/ 2012 : CASINO......The owners and management of Suffolk Downs will discuss their plans for a resort development.  ( David L Ryan / Globe Staff Photo )   SECTION:  METRO  TOPIC 06Suffolk
The redevelopment of the Suffolk Downs site is one project Boston officials say they're looking forward to in 2020. David L Ryan / Boston Globe, File

So far, Boston’s building boom shows no signs of abating in 2020. 

In the last six years, the Boston Planning and Development Agency has permitted about 65 million square feet of new development and the city has seen more than 60 million square feet built in that time, according to the city agency.

Even as some of the city’s most transformative projects of the last decade, like Hub on Causeway, continue to inch higher into the sky in 2020, we asked Jonathan Greeley, director of development review for the BPDA, to name some of the notable developments the public should keep an eye out for in 2020.

“One of the things the city is trying to do is respond to tremendous residential demand,” Greeley said. “In addition to responding to that residential demand by hopefully permitting and building as many units as possible, we’re trying to find a way to maximize the amount of those units being affordable. We put our money where our mouth is.”

The director of development review said that in 2019, guided by goals established with the city’s 2030 plan, 20 percent of all the units the BPDA approved were affordable. Officials, he emphasized, are constantly thinking about how to plan and facilitate “proper growth” in Boston.

“We want to make sure we’re creating a thriving city for all Bostonians,” he said of the efforts. 

Below, 10 projects in Boston that will be ongoing or kicking-off in the coming year. 

Already under construction


Winthrop Square

Winthrop Square Tower Rendering
Renderings of Winthrop Square Tower. —Handel Architects

Work on the new residential and office tower at 115 Winthrop Square will push on in 2020, Greeley said. 

“What’s exciting about this year is you’re going to start to see it come out of the ground,” Greeley said. “They’ve been doing a lot of work below the surface.”

The almost 1.6 million-square-foot project, on the site of the previously city-owned, shuttered Winthrop Square Garage, will feature residential, office, retail, and dining space. The tower, which will stand 691 feet tall, will contain a “Great Hall” at its base to serve as a public space.  

Greeley emphasized that the project is a “one-two” punch for the city. Not only will it create new, mixed-use space, but it will contribute to other efforts city-wide. He said notably it will bring “significant investment” to the area around the site, including infrastructure improvements to Winthrop Square and the nearby park. But money from sale of the site to Millennium Partners will generate more than $150 million in funding for the City of Boston, which is slated for efforts  including improvements to the Boston Common and Franklin Park and affordable housing. 

“Most importantly it’s going to help to fund an all-affordable building in Chinatown,” Greeley said. 

“[Winthrop Square] is a great example of a public/private partnership on public land to deliver a wide variety of results, which will add improvements on the site, but also in and around the neighborhood they sit in,” he added. 

The Beat

The Beat Rendering
A rendering of The Beat. —BPDA

Work to redevelop the former headquarters of the Boston Globe got underway in 2019 and will continue in 2020 as the developers search for a wide variety of tenants to fill the building, Greeley said. The new name for the property at 135 Morrissey Blvd., “The Beat,” stands for “The Boston Exchange for Accelerated Technology” and pays homage to the “beat” reporters who used to call the site home. 

“What’s exciting there is that they took a look at the site and said, we’re not going to demolish the whole thing, we’re going to re-envision the whole thing,” Greeley said. “So if you drive by it today, either from Morrissey Boulevard or the highway, you’ll see they are gutting and rebuilding the building.” 

Development firm Nordblom envisions reconfiguring the 695,000-square-foot building into both tech and traditional office space, while maintaining ground floor use for neighborhood amenities that could serve nearby Savin Hill. 

“One of the things that project has done is make sure there are pedestrian connections through Savin Hill,” Greeley said. “So they want to make sure that it’s not just ground floor uses and ground floor retail amenities that serve the building — they want those uses to be enhancements to the neighborhood as well.”

Greeley said the project is one of several exciting development efforts around the Columbia Point peninsula, and the city believes the approach taken for the “The Beat” is a precursor to other projects that could follow in and around the JFK/UMass area.  

Fenway Center

A rendering of the Fenway Center project. —The Architectural Team

Both Phase I and Phase II of the enormous development will be underway in 2020, Greeley said. When completed, the $500 million construction project will comprise four buildings and a parking garage that will extend along, and above, the Mass. Pike.

Phase 1, which features the construction of two buildings on Brookline Avenue and the creation of about 312 new residential units, broke ground in 2018 and is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2020. 

“Those two new buildings will bring some life to that area, which again, it’s been a series of surface parking lots for a long time,” Greeley said of the project. 

In 2020, Greeley said the BPDA is also expected to hear proposed changes to Phase II of the project, which would feature the construction of a 27-story tower above the Mass. Pike. The change would bring more space for office and life science tech to the site, replacing about 150 housing units originally planned for the site. 

“We’re currently reviewing that project — those alterations,” he said. “And that project could be considered by our board in the first half of 2020.”

When the second phase over the Mass. Pike moves forward, it will be one of two so-called “air rights” projects, the first in decades, predicted to get underway in 2020.

“That’s something that was the subject of long-term planning efforts in partnership between the city and state, and we’re really thrilled to see that piece of the project go forward, built over the turnpike,” Greeley said. 

Bulfinch Crossing / Government Center Garage Redevelopment 

Renderings of the Government Center Garage redevelopment project. —BPDA

By the end of 2020, Greeley said he expects to see the first phase of the downtown project, which will ultimately create six new high-rise and mid-rise buildings, completed. 

The project includes 800 new residential units in two towers and more than 1 million square feet of office space, with the new corporate headquarters for State Street anchoring a retail tower at One Congress

As the project moves forward, Bostonians can expect to see the existing Government Center Garage on Congress Street come down, Greeley said.

“[It’s] a dramatic change to the downtown neighborhood,” Greeley said of the project. “A dramatic change in the daylighting of Congress Street and I think just a really pleasant removal of a barrier between Government Center and North Station.”

Expected to start construction


Back Bay / South End Gateway 

Rendering of the proposed Back Bay Station redevelopment. —Courtesy of Boston Properties / Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

The 1.26 million-square-foot mixed-use project that will rise above and adjacent to Back Bay Station is one the city hopes will reach into the skyline in 2020. 

Some elements of the project — which features a new office building with ground floor retail, two new residential buildings, an expansion of the existing station, and redevelopment of the 165 Dartmouth Street Garage — are already already underway, Greeley said. 

Improvements within Back Bay Station, such as redoing the bathrooms, are already underway as part of the project. The MBTA is responsible for platform level investments, but developer Boston Properties is responsible for the station renovations itself.  

“That work is starting now,” Greeley said. “We hope and anticipate that Boston Properties will start construction in 2020 on one of those three towers.”

Suffolk Downs

A rendering of the proposed development at Suffolk Downs. —Provided by BPDA

Greeley said the hope is that redevelopment of the East Boston site can get underway in 2020, pending an ongoing community review and approval by the BPDA board. 

“The goal is to return what is kind of largely a surface parking lot with [an] infrequently used racing track and take it and use it to create a dynamic mixed-use community that is really anchored by two MBTA stations on the Blue Line, Suffolk Downs and Beachmont,” he said. 

The project from HYM Investment Group proposes during Phase I of the project the creation of 520,000 square-feet of corporate and amenity space, three residential buildings, and town homes for the construction of more than 800 housing units. About two-thirds of the 150-acre plot sits in Boston, with a third falling in Revere. 

About 40 acres of the development are proposed to remain unbuilt, serving as a mix of parks and open space, Greeley said. 

“It’s going to be a really, really dynamic space and will truly be a mixed-use project that we’ll see manifest itself over the next 20 years,” he said. “One of the reasons why it’s taken us so long in the review process is that it’s been something we really want to get right, prioritizing a real mix of use, of affordability, of open space, and also making sure the design is just really dynamic as well.”

Allston Yards 

A rendering of “Building A” at the proposed Allston Yards development. —Stantec via BPDA

The project, proposed at the nexus of Allston, Brighton, and the area surrounding Boston Landing, was approved by the BPDA in December, and Greeley said he anticipates construction of the new neighborhood to get underway in 2020. The 868-unit mixed-use development would transform the existing Stop & Shop plaza at 60 Everett St. into a “transit-oriented” neighborhood featuring open space, a flagship grocery store, office and retail space, and residential units.

Greeley said the project will also create a new roadway network for better connectivity through the neighborhood and has subsidies for local transit in and around Allston/Brighton, including to help fund more frequent MBTA service for rail and bus. 

“[It’s] a great mixed-use, dynamic project,” he said. “The project is getting 17 percent affordability on site and will fund another 40-plus units of affordable [housing] offsite throughout the neighborhood. So we’re really excited for the potential of that project.”

Dot Block 

A rendering of the Dot Block project. —Provided by the BPDA

This project, located on almost an entire city block along Dorchester Avenue, first won approvals from the BPDA in 2016 and has gone through several iterations since then. A revised proposal for the project was approved in 2019, and Greeley said the hope is that it could break ground in 2020. 

The project at 1205 Dorchester Ave. would include the construction of four new buildings that would contain 488 residential rental units, about 23,000 square feet of commercial space for neighborhood-oriented retail and restaurant space, as well as 1.34 acres of open space. 

“That site will take what was essentially a derelict site, not a lot going on, and bring much-needed housing to the neighborhood, as well as breaking up a very large development site with new roadways and public realm,” Greeley said. “And we’re excited because it’s investment in an area that hasn’t seen as much investment traditionally, and so it would also set the tone for the types of development we want to see there long-term.”  

Mattapan Station

A rendering of the proposed Mattapan Station project. —Provided by the BPDA

Construction on this $57 million mixed-use project is anticipated to start in the spring of 2020. It will feature the construction of 135 units of mixed-income apartments for rent and 10,000 square feet of commercial and retail space at 500 River Street

Located beside the Mattapan MBTA station, it is being heralded as a transit-oriented development project that will provide affordable and market-rate housing to the neighborhood. 

“We are excited to see investment in Mattapan and in the Mattapan Station area,” Greeley said. “This is a good project.”

3368 Washington Street / Pine Street Inn

A rendering of the Pine Street Inn project. —RODE Architects

Pine Street Inn formally filed plans with the BPDA last March to construct the 225-unit building at 3368 Washington St., with the aim of serving chronically homeless disabled adults. The proposal won board approval later in the year, and Greeley said he hopes the project will secure its needed financing in 2020 in order to break ground and be under construction by the end of the year.  

“One of the things that we’ve been able to do over the course of this year is that 20 percent of all new units throughout the city have some sort of deed restriction making them more affordable to Bostonians,” Greeley said of the project’s importance. “This project has a higher percentage and is an example of a nonprofit working really hard to fulfill their mission. So we’re really excited about the mission-driven outcome of this project in a neighborhood that has been really, really receptive to that type of use.”  

Of the 225 affordable residential units in the six-story building, 140 would be reserved for supportive housing for individuals being served by the Pine Street Inn. The remaining 85 units would serve households earning between 60% and 80% of area median income.   

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