Hotel Towers, Retail And Office: Kenmore Square Finally Gets A Development Moment
A joint proposal for two hotel towers in Kenmore Square will deliver height and pivot development focus to a part of Boston largely overlooked amid the city’s continued surge of construction.
Wellesley-based Mark Development and Buckminster Annex Corp., the owner of Kenmore Square’s Buckminster Hotel, filed a joint letter of intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency to build two high-rise hotels on the neighborhood’s western gateway. With one rising to 260 feet and the other 210 feet on either side of Beacon Street, the two hotels would easily be the neighborhood’s tallest buildings.
“By proposing tandem hotel projects on parcels that are currently underutilized, we can create a new gateway to Kenmore Square, more effectively activate the streetscape and connect this edge of Beacon Street to the retail, restaurant and other spaces in both Kenmore Square and Fenway,” the developers said in a joint statement.
The partner bid to the BPDA allows potential zoning changes to reach a wider area but still permits each hotel to be constructed separately. Representatives with the Buckminster Hotel did not return a request for comment, and a spokeswoman with Mark Development said the preliminary stages of the development meant details of the project were restricted to the BPDA LOI.
The Mark Development hotel would be the taller tower and have 375 rooms on the site of a one-story Citizens Bank at the intersection of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue. Renderings of the project’s lower levels show a glass tower with ground-floor retail. The Buckminster tower across Beacon would be a 19-story, 388-room hotel, according to the letter of intent.
There has been a spate of development news coming from the neighborhood lately. In 2016, Related Beal acquired nine buildings along Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street for a reported $140M from Boston University. The portfolio, which includes the building that supports the neighborhood’s marquee Citgo sign, is expected to be redeveloped.
“Kenmore Square has long been home to a dynamic mix of visitors, students, and longtime Bostonians who are drawn to the neighborhood’s vibrancy,” Related Beal President Kimberly Sherman Stamler said in a statement. “We are eager to add to this legacy with a mix of uses, including retail and marquee office offerings.”
New office and retail would boost the neighborhood’s vitality and build up the pedestrian experience, strengthening Kenmore’s role as a connector between innovation centers like Cambridge and Longwood to financial hubs like Back Bay and the Financial District, Stamler said.
It is a logical redevelopment direction. Fenway/Kenmore is one of the tightest markets in the city, according to Colliers International director of research Aaron Jodka. At the end of Q1 2017, the office vacancy rate was only 2.9%.
Of the over 4.2M SF of total inventory in the neighborhood, most of it was in Fenway and the Longwood Medical Area, so any new office space Related Beal could provide would be a welcome addition to the submarket.
“You’re connecting different parts of the city, like Ink Block did in the South End,” Jodka said. “It makes sense from an office perspective.”