Transit-oriented development has increasingly become a focus of Boston City Hall in finding a solution to the city’s housing shortage. The Boston Redevelopment Authority cites, “Boston will be the first older American city to use transit-oriented development principles and strategies to systematically improve the areas around existing transit stations.” The BRA promotes the development technique as a way to foster development in emerging and often overlooked neighborhoods like Mattapan and Upham’s Corner; however, it is also leading to complete makeovers to three of the city’s biggest transit hubs. South Station, North Station, and Back Bay Station are all currently in some stage of redevelopment that will literally raise the roof over the rails and bring everything from upscale shopping to trendy eateries to soaring towers mere steps from the tracks.
- North Station: The most underway of the three, North Station’s redevelopment has been coined the “Hub on Causeway.” Comprised of three phases, the first part of the Hub—entailing a $285 million multilevel podium to be completed by 2018—is under construction and will bring a Star Market, 15-screen movie theater, and finally provide a covered, underground connection between the subway and commuter rail platforms. The second phase will bring both a 38-story residential tower and a 10-story hotel. The entire 1.5-million-square-foot project will be completed with a 21-story office tower with a sky lobby and spire to provide a breathtaking northern gateway to the city.
- Back Bay Station: Long derided for its dingy waiting areas, limited retail outlets, and poor ventilation that causes diesel fumes to accumulate, Back Bay Station’s redevelopment proposal is the newest of the three. Boston Properties, the company also behind the remake of North Station, unveiled plans in late March to transform the station and its surrounding block into a retail, residential, and office hub. The hulking, adjacent parking garage on Dartmouth and Stuart Streets would be partially demolished and incorporated into an architecturally unique, twisting office tower. A little-used bus plaza behind the station would be replaced with two residential towers while the concourse of the station would get expanded retail with up to two new floors for either a department or grocery store. The station is already receiving $32 million in renovations later this year that will bring expanded waiting areas, more retail options, renovated restrooms, and better lighting.
- South Station: Plans to use air rights to develop above the tracks at South Station have been on the books and actually approved for years, but the project had languished amid the Great Recession. However, an impending BRA deadline might actually get shovels moving and produce an iconic addition to Boston’s ever-changing skyline. Houston developer Hines has approval for 1.9 million-square-feet of new development that includes a 677-foot office tower and two smaller buildings that would house a hotel and residential component. However, city officials told the Boston Globe that developers had implied there might be more residential and less office in an updated proposal. With the development rights expiring in 2017 and a new investor behind the project, look to see construction commence quickly at New England’s largest train station—only two stops away from Seaport on the Silver Line!
Photo courtesy of MBTA.