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June 26, 2014
Future of the Greenway
Today, the City starts to gather public suggestions for development of the last three parcels of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (They should build a soccer stadium. We've got World Cup fever.) With Summer's arrival, the park along the downtown waterfront looks luscious but more than a pretty face, it's boosting property values, rents, and encouraging new development.
The 27 acres of open space created when the Big Dig demolished the Central Artery and put the sooty elevated highway and train tracks below street level has enticed developers. (Have some beauty work done and everyone wants you: The Hollywood Method.) Among them is Forest City Boston and Hudson Group, which just opened the $130M glass-clad Radian at the Chinatown end of the Greenway. Last month, the first residents began to move into apartments, with rents starting at $3,000 a month. The tower was designed with a curved facade—in part—to take advantage of Greenway views, Forest City VP of development Doug Arsham tells us.
For office landlords, being near the Greenway adds value to property, says Cushman & Wakefield head of US Investment Sales Rob Griffin. The Big Dig decreased the number of highway entrances; being near the Greenway means easy access to the few that remain. The rise of the live/work/play trend creates a new appreciation for streetscape space, he adds. The Millennial action “junkies” like being close to what's happening outside; the more activity the better. (They'd live in the woods, but they also need fast WiFi.) So far, 1,800 trees and thousands of perennials, grasses and flowers have been planted. At first, they resembled pin feathers on a baby chick; now they're lush and inviting.
The Greenway space in Dewey Square (above), across from South Station, is a hardscape where food trucks and a farmer's market feed office workers, visitors, and the growing contingent of downtown residents. (It was our journalistic duty to research it.) Boston is one of few US cities that have built a major new downtown park. Usually they've come with the redevelopment of elevated transit ways, like New York's High Line (see our series How the High Line has changed Manhattan). Syracuse, Rochester, and St. Louis are considering similar projects. The Greenway, unlike the High Line, has the advantage of being woven into the city streets, says BRA planner Lauren Shurtleff.
Pre-Big Dig, buildings turned their backs to the Central Artery with its noise, darkness, and dust. Now, landlords and retail tenants are orienting spaces to face the Greenway. To make that easier, the city adopted new zoning ordinances last year to encourage the introduction of more active uses at garages, loading entrances and blank facades, Lauren tells us. The idea of having parkland here was introduced as far back as the ‘80s when planning for the Big Dig started.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, when International Place (circular building above) was developed some considered its location to be off the beaten path. But The Chiofaro Co, the developer, knew the city would install the $43M park someday and has benefited like its neighbors at 99 High St, 200 State St, and Independence Wharf. For their first 20 years, the lower floors of these buildings were dark since they faced the highway. Having a park, daylight, and views instead can mean rents that are 30% higher, says Cushman & Wakefield executive director David Martel, a downtown leasing broker. (The sun should get commission.)
The Greenway is divided into sections: Dewey Square, the Wharf District, the Armenian Heritage Park and the North End Park says Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy's Charlie McCabe. Seating, food trucks, fountains and the carousel in front of the New England Aquarium (above) make it kid friendly and a lifestyle amenity for the downtown workforce. People eat lunch, play Frisbee, and soak in the sun there. Before, few sat under the highway for fun. (Except for mythical highway trolls demanding tolls from billy goats.) Boston Properties might have had a tougher time leasing the ground-floor retail space at Atlantic Wharf if it was still in the shadow of a six-lane highway. “That's real value,” David says.
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