A Boston development team has won the right to build a towering $360 million hotel, residential, and retail complex on state-owned property in the city’s Back Bay, adding to a surge of ambitious building proposals in the area.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Monday selected Samuels & Associates and Weiner Ventures to construct a 400-foot-high complex — about 32 stories — near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street.
The project, which still needs final approval from Boston regulators, would straddle the Massachusetts Turnpike and bring modern, glass buildings to what is now an empty, windswept corner of the Back Bay. The development would include two buildings with 230 residences, 270 hotel rooms, and 50,000 square feet of retail space.
“This project will make the area more walkable and active for residents, businesses, and visitors alike,” said Adam Weiner, a partner with Weiner Ventures. “It will reenergize the whole neighborhood.”
View the proposed development (PDF)
The selection of Weiner and Samuels is the first step in a long, uncertain process to get the project built. In recent years, several developers have proposed construction of massive developments in air rights over the turnpike, only to see them fail or get delayed due to financial problems, community opposition, or permitting troubles.
Executives with both firms said they are optimistic because most of the project would be built around the turnpike, not directly over it, making it cheaper and less complicated to build than other air-rights developments.
Massachusetts transportation officials, who have been burned by prior air-rights projects, such as the failed Columbus Center, also struck a positive tone Monday.
“This will be the first air-rights project in over 30 years and we think it will be transformative,” said Dana Levenson, chief financial officer for the transportation department. “We’re very
excited and hope it’s an indication of things to come.”
Weiner and Samuels have offered to pay the state over $18 million in rent and other payments over the course of a 99-year lease. The parties still must reach a final agreement on the lease in coming months.
The proposed buildings would occupy two air-rights parcels along Boylston Street near the border of the Back Bay and Fenway neighborhoods. On property next to the Hynes convention center, Weiner and Samuels will develop a 32-story hotel and residential tower. The high-rise portion of the building would be set back from Boylston, with retail stores closer to the street edge.
The second building would be an L-shaped midrise structure on the other side of Massachusetts Avenue; it would be built along and over the turnpike. It would contain about 110 residences and a low-rise retail section with several stores at the corner of Boylston and Mass. Avenue.
Samuels & Associates has developed much of Boylston Street in the adjacent Fenway neighborhood, building a pair of large residential and retail complexes that have brought new restaurants and consistent crowds to the area. A third such complex is under construction, and Samuels recently filed plans with the city for a fourth high-rise at Boylston and Brookline Avenue.
Weiner Ventures has also developed several large projects in Boston, including the Mandarin Oriental hotel, retail, and residential complex on Boylston Street.
The firms were selected over several other developers, including the Chiofaro Co., Trinity Financial, and Carpenter & Co., which was recently designated to build a hotel and residential complex on the nearby Christian Science property.
State and city officials have been weighing competing proposals for the air-rights property for several years. The review process started in 2008, but was put on hold during the economic downturn. It resumed in 2011, ending in Monday’s decision to select the Samuels and Weiner team.
The parties still must obtain multiple design and permitting approvals before construction can proceed. One former state lawmaker who spent years reviewing plans for the property said the community is supportive of the redevelopment, although a long process lies ahead.
“It’s good to see this project making progress again,” said Martha Walz, who left her seat representing the Back Bay to become chief executive of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. “There does seem to be community support so far, but the developers need to build on that.”