The Fenway Catalyzer
By Chris Bonarrigo
February 7, 2017
For decades, massive asphalt parking lots dominated the landscape around Fenway Park, punctuated by gas stations, auto-repair shops and a series of national fast food chains. With the exception of cheers emanating from nearby Red Sox games, this was a relatively sleepy part of the city. Today, this version of the Fenway neighborhood is a distant memory that has been overtaken by a truly stunning transformation. At the heart of this regional rebirth was a project that was not architecturally revolutionary, but one that was unseen in the area and would set the stage for a next-generation Fenway.
The Fenway Triangle Trilogy started construction in 2004, after a comprehensive rezoning process by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), then called the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). The 1 million square foot project soon established itself as the first significant stock of 21st century housing in the area. A series of ground floor retail spaces tied the development to the street level and related well to the already retail-oriented Landmark Center next door. The design approach was particularly impactful at this location because of its' ability to activate the pedestrian realm at Brookline Avenue and Boylston Street simultaneously. Fortunately, the Fenway Triangle Trilogy launched prior to the looming recession that would stunt real estate growth across the country. It revealed that the Fenway neighborhood would be receptive to new growth and that future mixed-use development could thrive.
Boston has experienced unprecedented growth over the past several years, and one of the most noticeable neighborhood transformations has been the area around Fenway Park. The height and density of the newest buildings are starting to resonate with the Back Bay’s high spine, further integrating the Fenway into the city’s urban fabric. The diverse character of the neighborhood, however, has not been entirely lost. Boylston Street alone is now home to hundreds of new residential apartments as well as the funky Verb hotel, LGBT nonprofit Fenway Health, a massive Guitar Center and a mix of divey pubs and high-end dining options.
The Fenway renaissance is quite possibly just now at its' beginning stages. Samuels & Associates, the developer largely responsible for creating such momentum in this community, is currently building Pierce Boston, a 340-foot-tall tower adjacent to Fenway Triangle Trilogy. Numerous projects nearby are being planned or already are in construction, including John Rosenthal’s colossal Fenway Center which will expand out over the Massachusetts Turnpike. Beyond the shiny new high-rises, local improvements consist of a new Yawkey commuter rail station, freshly day-lit pieces of the previously-covered Emerald Necklace and substantial property value increases within the historic West Fens and Kenmore Square sub-districts. Today, Fenway Park, the “Cathedral of Boston,” continues to be an anchor for the neighborhood, but the area has evolved to something beyond a destination for baseball fans. The Fenway neighborhood is now a vibrant place that people want to call home.