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The Six Boston Neighborhoods and one City Everyone Should be Watching Right Now

By Tom Acitelli of Curbed


Major projects are driving a lot of change in different areas of the Boston region—in some more than others.

These are the six neighborhoods and one city everyone should be watching right now.

Back Bay 

Rendering via Pelli Clarke Pelli/Boston Properties

The under-construction Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences One Dalton Street—a.k.a. One Dalton—will be Boston’s tallest new building since 200 Clarendon in 1976

The 742-foot tower with 160 condos and a Four Seasons hotel is expected to open within the next 12 months. 

The neighborhood is also due to host a veritable forest of new towers around Back Bay Station

That project, which includes a redevelopment of the Clarendon Garage, is expected to total 1.26 million square feet of housing, offices, and retail, with at least one tower stretching toward 400 feet.


Fenway Center renderingRendering via Meredith Management

The 30-story, 340-foot Pierce Boston condo and apartment tower, the tallest building in Boston west of Back Bay, officially opened at Brookline Avenue and Boylston Street in Fenway on March 1. 

Four weeks earlier, one of the biggest—and longest-in-coming—new projects in the Boston region got officially underway: The five-building, 1.1 million-square-foot Fenway Center where Brookline and Commonwealth avenues meet in the Kenmore Square area.

What’s more, the Red Sox are planning to transform several lots around Fenway Park. And, speaking of Fenway Park, its famous neighbor is getting a new name

The South End 

Rendering via

An absurd rush of new development in the South End’s northeastern reaches is transforming the neighborhood—indeed, it might be time to come up with a new neighborhood name for this area.

Together, the fresh projects are adding thousands of condos and apartments, never mind hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail (and, inevitably, thousands of residents).

Then there’s the recent proposal for redeveloping the 5.6-acre site of the former Boston Flower Exchange. What’s now dubbed the Exchange South End would run to nearly 1.6 million square feet and contain four new buildings.

These buildings would total more than $1.48 million square feet of commercial, technology, and life science research space—the idea is to rival other regional commercial hubs such as Kendall Square and the Seaport.

Finally, a “millennial resort” is headed to the still-emerging Ink Block development. Don’t get more game-change-y than that. 

East Boston

Rendering of Suffolk Downs via HYM Group

A wave of new development is sweeping much of Eastie, but no single development—or potential development—is as portentous as what’s unfolding at the 160-acre site of the shuttered Suffolk Downs racetrack. 

It’s there that owner HYM Investment Group has put forward a general redevelopment plan with two paths. Both paths include 16.5 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, hotel, and lab space built out over as long as two decades. (Eleven million square feet of that would go in Boston and 5.5 million in adjoining Revere.)

Now, should e-retail sasquatch Amazon pick Boston as host of its second headquarters, HYM would go with a so-called pro-commercial approach.

That pro-commercial path would be paved with the up to 8 million square feet of office space that Amazon is seeking in a new HQ. It would, too, include 7,500 residential units, 550,000 square feet of retail, and up to 830 hotel rooms.

But suppose Amazon choose Dallas or some such exotic placeinstead of Boston. In that case, HYM would take a pro-residential path, with 10,000 housing units, 450,000 square feet of retail, and 670 hotel rooms. 

There would also be 5.25 million square feet of office space.

Kendall Square 

Rendering via Elkus Manfredi

Kendall Square-based M.I.T. is driving much of the change in the Cambridge neighborhood.

At the start of 2017, the university paid the federal government a mint to take over the 14-acre Volpe transit center site, and then floated plans for what would be, at 500 feet, the tallest building in Cambridge.

The plans, which won a key zoning approval from the city in October 2017 (and which are rendered above), also call for about 1,400 housing units and 1.7 million square feet of offices and research space as well as acres of new parkland and plazas.

The university, too, plans to build several buildings south of Main Street, including a 28-story dorm.

Finally, there is the bigger-than-expected 19,000-square-foot Brothers Marketplace—part of the famed Roche Bros.’ chain—that is expected to open in the summer of 2019 at One Broadway. It is part of a larger M.I.T.-driven project called the Kendall Square Initiative.


Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism/Flickr

Silver Line service from downtown Boston into Chelsea is expected to start this spring. The five-mile route will run from South Station to a stop just west of Everett Avenue, and will facilitate connections to the Red and Blue lines.

An estimated 8,700 people will use the route daily, a figure sure to further boost Chelsea’s status as a Plan B for buyers and renters priced out of Boston proper.

The route will include an exclusive right-of-way for Silver Line buses once in Chelsea, where there will be four stops total. And, as part of the extension, the state will relocate Chelsea’s commuter rail station westward and spruce it up quite a bit.

Also, there are several small condo projects going up or recently opened in Chelsea, especially in the areas closer to Boston (though with decidedly un-Boston prices).

The West End

Robbie Shade

Enormous new developments around North Station and TD Garden are driving lasting changes to the West End’s streetscape and traffic. 

These developments including the Hub on Causeway, the first phase of which is under construction and is due to include the city’s largest supermarket; a 15-screen movie theater; 10,000 square feet of outdoor space for a new entrance to TD Garden and North Station; and 175,000 square feet of what the developers are calling “creative office space.”

Then there’s the 44-story, 469-unit tower set to rise in place of the Garden Garage

Winning Strategies For Selling Your Property This Spring.

The greater Boston real estate market often logs in the largest number of sales closings in the Spring (2nd) Quarter each year; as the cold weather and snow give way to blooming flowers, warmer weather...and eager buyers! 

Often buyers want to enjoy the Summer in their new digs. Some want to have their children in place for the next school year, while others strategize to maximize their tax write-offs for the calendar year. Many just want to get their home purchase project done and over with!

If you want your property sold during the 2018 Spring market you need to get started.  Spruce up your property, assemble all the pertinent documents, hire a real estate broker and put your property on the market ASAP. 

The following topics are some of the most crucial elements that you should attend to before that first showing appointment of your single family home, townhouse, condominium or cooperative. 

Curb Appeal

As the buyer walks up to your property, their first impression often becomes their most lasting one. Make sure that their first view is as appealing as possible. It may determine whether the buyer will 1) go through with viewing the property. 2) make an offer...or not. 3) be willing to pay you a strong price.

I'm talking about increasing curb appeal with ideas like: repair cracks in the walkway, repair and paint the front steps, clean the litter and leaves out of the front garden of your building, replace worn hardware and touch up the chipped paint on the front door and make sure the entry foyer to your condo building is spotless. Not only does this first look affect the buyers initial emotional attachment to your property, it says a lot about how well the property has been maintained. In the case of a condo or coop building, it signals how willing your fellow owners may be to chip in on future repairs and general upkeep of the common areas; elements that directly affect the future value of your unit.

Let's Go Inside

Inside your property, there are numerous inexpensive ways you can make it show better. Clean your windows. Have your home professionally deep-cleaned. Place a few vases of fresh flowers in the main rooms. Increase the wattage of your light bulbs so the property appears bright and cheery. Clean the fingerprints off all doors, kitchen appliances and the bathroom mirrors. Clean out and/or reorganize your closets; a lot of buyers are coming out of large suburban houses where they are used to having a lot of closet storage. 

Most buyers are very critical when it comes to the kitchen and bathrooms. Be sure every surface is uncluttered and spotless. Store the extra kitchen appliances and put all the personal items in the bathroom away. Limit the number of personal photos on display; you want the buyer to focus on your property and not who owns it. And if you have some rainy-day money stashed away, freshen the paint with neutral colors and refinish your hardwood floors!

Repair those little problems that don't really bother you but that all buyers seem to notice. Repair that dripping kitchen faucet. Seal and repaint that water stain from the leaky toilet upstairs that you had fixed last Fall. 

If you’re aware of more costly repairs, consider doing them before you go to market. If the buyer doesn’t notice them, their inspector most likely will. And that can lead to unexpected renegotiations or even kill the deal. Replace that old hot water tank. Repair a roof leak. Repair or replace the decking or railings to that palatial deck.

Pets. Whether a prospective buyer is a pet lover or not, they want to buy a home that is immaculate. Pet odors, toys strewn about and damage to furniture, carpeting and woodwork can be a big negative. Some buyers are afraid of animals in general; they can be a real distraction. Although sometimes a logistical nightmare, best to not have the pet at home during showings. At the very least, have them crated somewhere private.

Assemble the documents and information you'll need to give to your real estate Broker.

Prior to going to market with your property, an experienced agent will ask you many questions about your property, from a dated list of your improvements to the age and condition of the heating system. Arm your broker with all the information you can. This way you'll shorten up the buyer's discovery period and get them to the offer stage quickly while their excitement level is still high!  

In the case of a condominium, put together a package including a copy of recorded condominium documents such as the Master Deed, Declaration of Trust & Rules and Regulations. Assemble the last two years of financial statements, association meeting minutes and the current budget. Make sure you know whether there are any upcoming assessments for capital improvements and/or whether your condo fee, coop fee or any other fees attached to your property will be going up within the next twelve month period. For all properties, give your broker copies of your utility bills (gas, electric, etc.) for the last twelve months and a copy of your latest real estate tax bill. 

Boston's height limit: Will the city ever pierce 800 feet?

Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

Boston, Downtown, Massachusetts, Scenic

In much the same way that the middle-class is unlikely to enjoy a renaissance in Boston, developers are unlikely to ever pierce 800 feet in terms of building height.

At least not for the foreseeable future.

The city’s tallest building by 2020 will be the same as it is today: 200 Clarendon (the former Hancock), which stretches to 790 feet at its tallest architectural detail, not counting antennae and other apparatus. 

The second-tallest will also be the same, too: The 749-foot Pru. 

The third will likely be new: The under-construction One Dalton hotel-residential tower in Back Bay is slated to stretch to 742 feet at its highest architectural feature. 

After these three, Boston’s 10 or so tallest buildings by 2020 will stretch little beyond the 700-foot mark. 

What’s holding the city back from building to 800 feet, 900 feet, (gasp!) 1,000 feet? The sagas of two arrested developments—both garage conversions, in fact—illustrate the answer.

Developer Millennium Partners had at one point proposed building a 775-foot mixed-use tower, including condos, at the site of the shuttered Winthrop Square Garage at 240 Devonshire Street. (Millennium bought the garage from the city, and originally proposed a still-significant 750-foot project, before bumping that to 775 feet in November 2016.)

Then concerns about the shadows such a tower would cast on landmarks slowed the requisite approvals. Then federal regulatory concerns about the effects of such a height on planes in and out of Logan slowed approvals some more. 

So the height started dropping—first to 702 feet and then to 691 feet at the start of 2018. The project would still pencil out to 1.6 million square feet of space, including 640,000 square feet of condos. But the height, it’s 84 feet off the boldest plan. 

And even with such reductions and a relaxation of state rules governing shadows in Boston’s historic core, the Winthrop Square Garage project remains uncertain nearly 18 months after Millennium reached a deal with the city to acquire the garage. 

Attempts to redevelop another Boston garage stretch back much further than the efforts at Winthrop Square. 

The Chiofaro Co. has owned the 1,380-space Boston Harbor Garage at 270 Atlantic Avenue since 2007, and has been trying to redevelop it pretty much since then.

Previous projects have included a two-tower complex that included hotel rooms and condos—and an ice rink as part of a year-round open space—and a single skyscraper with offices and condos.

Disputes with the neighbors, including the New England Aquarium, have held up the plans, however, and, while the single-tower proposal appeared to take a big step forward last winter, plans still remained up in the air.

That was until February 2018, when the Boston Planning and Development Agency proposed allowing Chiofaro to build a tower as high as 600 feet in exchange for establishing a fund worth up to $30 million to compensate the aquarium for any disruptions and to set aside parking for the institution. 

Chiofaro would also be on the hook for a so-called Blueway extension of the Kennedy Greenway. Moreover, open public space would have to be a sizable part of Chiofaro’s development under the BPDA plan.

All in all, the plan would allow for the tallest tower ever along Boston Harbor. Chiofaro appears amenable to the deal’s terms, including the aquarium’s indemnification against loss of visitors/business.

Still, the tower might yet tarry: The state could take up to two months to review the BPDA plan; then it’s another round of local and state permitting; and Chiofaro hasn’t settled on a final design to even propose.

There is also continuing opposition from the owners in the neighboring Harbor Towers complex.

An amalgam of regulatory hurdles, neighborhood concerns-slash-opposition, seemingly unchangeable infrastructure, and Boston’s simple geography appears to be the insurmountable obstacle to building beyond 800 feet. 

Meanwhile, the city continues to grapple with an infamous housing crunch that causes Manhattan-esque prices and to work overtime to draw and retain commercial tenants

What’d you think? In your lifetime, will you see an 800-footer in Boston? 

Congestion pricing in Boston: Has its time arrived?

By Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston

York City is closer than ever to enacting congestion pricing—that is, charging most motorists a fee for driving in and out of Manhattan’s main commercial districts. 

The idea has the backing of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the sort-of backing, or at least not outright opposition, of New York Mayor (and Cambridge native) Bill de Blasio. Business groups are starting to line up behind it, and even ride-hailing apps such as Uber are saying they wouldn’t have a problem with the fee. 

The idea behind congestion pricing is simple: To reduce vehicular traffic in congested areas by making it a cost-benefit analysis rather than a routine for drivers. Go in and about only if you absolutely need to—otherwise, take public transit, bike, or walk. 

In New York’s case, too, the revenue from congestion pricing under the most recent proposal would go toward paying for much-needed repairs to the region’s public transit system, particularly the subway.

You know what other region needs money for its public transit system, particularly the subway? Yes, Boston. 

The idea of charging drivers a fee for entering the city’s core is not a new one (and highway tolls are already a fact of life here). The idea has been bandied about to the point of mulling where officials might locate cameras to snap cars’ photos for fees.

Beige Book Boston Real Estate 1st Report of 2017

Boston - First District

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Residential Real Estate
Continuing recent trends, residential real estate markets in the First District showed robust increases in sales and prices relative to last year. Closed sales for single-family homes and condos increased in all six First District states as well as in the Boston metro area (five of the six First District states and Boston reported changes from November 2015 to November 2016; Maine reported on October 2015 to October 2016). Massachusetts recorded the most closed sales on record for the month of November. As usual, many contacts cited falling inventories as an issue: inventories decreased year-over-year in every reporting region. A contact in Massachusetts reported that "with such little inventory, buyers needed to be quick with their best offers from the start."

Home prices also rose year-over-year. For single-family homes, the median sales price increased in every reporting region. The same was true for condos, except in Vermont where prices decreased slightly.

Overall, contacts were optimistic about the outlook for the end of the year and into 2017. Many said rising interest rates would stimulate buyers to make offers at the end of 2016, but they did not expect further moderate increases in interest rates to restrain the region's consistently strong buyer demand.

Commercial Real Estate
Conditions in commercial real estate markets across the First District were stable in recent weeks. Office leasing activity was steady or modestly slower in the region's major metro areas. Investment sales activity and sales prices for prime commercial properties in Boston were also stable, as foreign investors were undeterred by higher interest rates and a stronger dollar. One contact estimated that office rents in greater Boston increased 10 percent on average in 2016. Apartment construction activity slowed in recent months in both Boston and Portland, while office construction was stable at a slow pace in Boston and minimal in the rest of the region.

The outlook among contacts was cautiously optimistic, with significant uncertainty related to domestic politics. Contacts across the District expected capitalization rates to increase in 2017 to keep pace with rising interest rates, noting that such increases imply that rents will have to increase and/or valuations will have to decrease. On balance, contacts anticipated that property values will remain flat in 2017. Apartment construction activity was expected to slow further in coming months as borrowing costs continue to rise and lending terms continue to tighten, but prospects for new office construction appeared brighter for 2017 in light of rising office rents and low office vacancy rates around the region.

Summary of Economic Activity
Business activity continued to expand in the First District at the close of 2016. Both retailers and manufacturers cited modest to moderate increases in revenues in recent weeks compared with a year earlier. Software and information services firms reported strong order increases in the fourth quarter. Commercial real estate markets were mostly steady in the region; in the Boston area office rents increased and sales prices for commercial properties were stable. Residential real estate markets across the region continued to experience increases in both sales and prices. Although none sought substantial additions to headcount, a number of firms reported difficulty finding workers to fill openings. Prices were largely stable. Most responding firms cited a positive outlook, expecting end-of-year growth rates to continue in 2017.



Residential Real Estate
Residential real estate markets in the First District remain strong. Five of the six First District states, as well as the greater Boston metro area, reported sales and inventory trends for the period May 2015 to May 2016; New Hampshire reported on trends between April 2015 and April 2016.

Closed sales of single-family homes are up by moderate-to-large margins in every state in the District, and pending single-family sales increased at a slow-to-moderate pace depending on the state. A contact in Rhode Island considers a summer slowdown "unlikely" in light of strong recent sales. Median sales prices for single-family homes are on average up modestly from a year ago--with Vermont and Connecticut reporting moderate price declines and the remaining states reporting small-to-moderate increases. Condominium sales figures varied across states. Closed sales of condominiums are up in all states except Connecticut and Vermont, while pending sales increased in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and decreased in Rhode Island, Maine, and Vermont. As in the single-family market, median condo sales price changes are moderate, with the exception of a large over-the-year decline in Rhode Island. However, a contact in that state believes the decline is likely transitory because the data are prone to volatility.

For both single family homes and condos, inventory is down in every reporting region. In addition, number of days on market decreased from a year earlier in all states reporting such data, as did months' available supply of both single-family homes and condominiums. Contacts continue to attribute the lack of inventory to a combination of lack of new construction and a dearth of sellers coming to market.

Despite persistent inventory issues, contacts are optimistic. Those in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island all expressed a positive outlook, primarily attributable to strong buyer demand. They cite stable employment figures and continued low interest rates as the key factors supporting such demand.

Commercial Real Estate
On balance commercial real estate markets appear stable or improving in the First District. In greater Boston, a modest slowdown in office leasing is reported, especially for high-rent space, but rents are steady amid low vacancy rates. Office leasing activity held steady at a moderate pace in Portland and Providence, but in Hartford activity remains light and some firms gave up space. Investment sales activity is down in Boston from last year's brisk pace. However, industrial sales activity picked up recently in Boston and parts of Connecticut, and a Portland contact sees a strong industrial property market with potential for new construction. Throughout the District, office construction remains limited in light of high building costs. Infrastructure construction is on the rise in Rhode Island, and hotel construction is planned for greater Portland. A regional lender to commercial real estate reports an uptick in loan demand at his firm amid reduced competition from other lenders. The outlook for Connecticut's commercial real estate market remains somewhat pessimistic based on weak job growth in the state. A Boston contact expects the Brexit vote to exert downward pressure on economic activity in the U.S. and the region, but notes that the vote should also boost foreign investment in Boston's commercial real estate market. Elsewhere in the District contacts are cautiously optimistic for commercial real estate but see risks as tilted to the downside based on global economic and political uncertainty.

Boston's Next Mega Tower

Boston's Winthrop Square Could See One of These Eight Mega-Towers

Courtesy of Tom Acitelli of Curbed Boston.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority just put out the formal call for proposals for redeveloping the city-owned Winthrop Square Garage in the Financial District. Per Tim Logan at the Globe, the BRA is looking an "iconic ... innovative" tower that could run to around 700 feet high, immensely tall for Boston and just under the limit the Federal Aviation Administration mandates because of nearby Logan Airport (no relation).

Eight developers and development teams have already proffered ideas for the garage, and, given the formal request, the BRA now expects more to filter in, including updates of the original eight. This octave gives a good sense of the sheer scope of any Winthrop Square development. Let's dive deep:

  • Millennium Partners, they of the game-change-y Millennium Place and Millennium Tower (Millennium!), pitched a 750-foot spire with 360 residential units and 14 floors of office space as well as 41,000 square feet of retail, including a market arcade. 
  • Thomas O'Brien, a former director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, would turn the garage site into a public plaza and then build a 780-foot tower with 700 apartments and condos across the street in a deal with the Franciscan friars who run St. Anthony Shrine Church. O'Brien would also build a public school. (For comparison's sake, know that the Hancock is 790 feet high.)
  • Accordia Partners would build a 750-foot building with 140 condos, a public gallery, retail and a 275-room Le Meridien hotel (it would join the one near M.I.T. in Cambridge).
  • A team that includes Hudson Group North America, developer of downtown Boston rental Radian, proposed another 750-foot tower, with 156 condos, 288 apartments, a 300-room hotel, public space and retail.
  • Trinity Acquisitions would build a 51-story building with 276 hotel rooms, 328 apartments and 261 condos.
  • The Fallon Co., which is behind so much of the recent construction in the Seaport District, pitched two buildings connected by a podium. One would be 75 feet and contain apartments; the other would soar to 700 feet, with 32 floors of apartments and 18 of condos. There would also be an open retail concourse.
  • Steven Belkin of Trans National Properties, who once proposed a 1,000-foot tower at the site (yup), is back with a 740-foot pitch now. It would include apartments as well as 100 condos (built by McMansion kingpins the Toll Brothers). There would also be a retail galleria; an "Innovation Sculpture Park"; and an "Innovators Walk of Fame." Belkin would also build on an adjoining site he owns at 133 Federal Street.
  • Finally, Lincoln Property Co. would build a 47-story tower with 29 floors of offices, a hotel with at least 250 rooms, six floors of condos and retail.

Developers have six weeks now to pitch the city. Stay tuned.