No Longer Just A Ballpark: Fenway Is Boston's Hottest Neighborhood
Boston’s building boom has made each of its neighborhoods seem like a giant construction project, but the one made famous for its ballpark is quietly reinventing into a dining, retail and tech hub.
“The transformation going on in the Fenway has, in my mind, rivaled and maybe even succeeded what’s going on in the Seaport,” Wahlburgers CFO Patrick Renna said at Bisnow’s Boston Restaurant Development event last Thursday. “We just aren’t getting the attention.”
Others on Renna’s panel agreed. Ruberto, Israel, & Weiner commercial real estate chair Michael Rosen pointed to the state of the neighborhood when he was a student at Boston University 35 years ago. Kenmore Pizza Pad was the area’s main dining destination, he said. Today, the neighborhood has exploded with wide-ranging fare from Jack Huang’s Basho to Wahlburgers, Island Creek Oysters and vegan eatery By Chloe.
“To me, it’s an extension of Back Bay,” Huang said. “It’s the neighborhood that you say, ‘when my kids grow up, I want them to be here.’ It’s magnificent.”
Huang said Steve Samuels, president of Samuels & Associates, was the visionary who led him to open a restaurant in Fenway to complement Douzo, his popular Back Bay sushi haven. The developer behind numerous Fenway projects like Landmark Center, Van Ness and Fenway Trilogy, S&A has had a careful, influential hand in forging Fenway’s redevelopment.
Sabrina Sandberg, the company’s vice president of marketing and merchandising, said S&A has brought in an eclectic mix of national and boutique restaurants and retailers to its buildings because they ultimately help each other.
“We don’t offer incentives like free rent,” Sandberg said, “but we do pay careful consideration to our tenant mix, as it is an important mission. If we see a gap, we try our hardest to fill it.”
Fenway is becoming more of a live, work, play environment thanks to S&A’s three residential buildings (soon to be four, with Pierce Boston) and two office towers. Healthcare data firm Optum is on a hiring spree to eventually house 800 employees (roughly the same number GE is bringing to its Fort Point headquarters) in Van Ness. It is joined by fitness tracker startup Whoop, insurance provider Crico, and Decibel Therapeutics (the building’s first biotech company). Co-working startup HatchFenway opened nearby at Landmark Center across the street from apartments at Trilogy and Pierce’s luxury condos.
“Not having to leave the neighborhood you work in is a very New York concept, but Boston is opening up to the idea. We're getting there,” Sandberg said.