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New Fenway Food Hall Promises ‘Best Of The City’

Food is one of the strongest sectors in the retail industry, and Fenway’s biggest developer has that in mind as it embarks on a redevelopment of one of its largest neighborhood properties.

Rendering of Time Out Market in Boston

Samuels & Associates revealed at Bisnow’s National Retail Series event in April it was putting a food hall in the former home of a Best Buy at its Landmark Center, now known as 401 Park Drive. The developer announced this week London-based Time Out Group will be the operator behind the Fenway project’s food hall venture.

“We looked at a lot of different models and food hall operators,” Samuels & Associates Executive Vice President Peter Sougarides said. “I think going to Lisbon and seeing it firsthand got us excited and comfortable that this is one of the greatest operators in the world.”

Lisbon’s Time Out Market saw 3.1 million visitors in 2016 and is one of the Portuguese capital city's top attractions. The company’s Boston concept will open in Q2 2019 at 401 Park Drive, where work is already underway to repurpose the old Best Buy space into a food hall. The concept will eventually house 16 food vendors, a cooking academy and a retail shop across nearly 22K SF. 

Rendering of 201 Brookline Ave.

Originally built as a Sears warehouse in 1929, 401 Park Drive closed in 1988. It was renovated by The Abbey Group and reopened in 2000 as a mixed-use development. Samuels & Associates bought the 950K SF property in 2011 and, despite the modernization and recently announced plans to add more lab space to the complex, Sougarides said there is still significant work ahead to build out the space to Time Out’s specifications.

“The last renovation was done 20 years ago by the previous owner,” he said. “When you look at the useful life in fit-out and build-out, you’re at the end of it. We’re basically demolishing and starting from scratch.”

Construction workers are exposing concrete inside and cutting major holes to open the space to create a two-story atrium, Sougarides said. A one-acre park, steps away from Time Out’s future al fresco dining area, will be completed by next summer.

“It changes the face and food scene for Fenway and the city,” he said.

Time Out Market in Lisbon

Time Out Market in Boston will be the London-based Time Out Group’s second U.S. venture, after a Miami branch opens in 2018. Time Out Market CEO Didier Souillat told Bisnow it is the first food and cultural market wholly based on editorial curation. The market — and what is sold in it — is decided by editors of the local Time Out magazine, which Boston does not have, but Souillat said is on the way. The digital publisher of the soon-to-launch Boston food periodical will operate from offices at 401 Park Drive, and a print edition will publish quarterly.

“We will be working with the team on the magazine, and chefs will be announced nine months before we start opening,” Souillat said. “They have to be from Boston and have at least four or five stars from Time Out.”

Food halls are extremely popular across the country, but they have been a relatively recent development in Boston. The 40-vendor Boston Public Market opened near Haymarket in 2015, and Mario Batali opened a 45K SF Eataly in a renovated portion of the Prudential Center in November 2016. Eataly, which is just a mile away from the future Time Out Market, will likely be the bigger of the two competitors since they will draw from the same neighborhoods. Souillat said he admires the company but adds they are two very different concepts. 

“I feel great when I see them growing. Eataly is about the best of Italy,” he said. “We’re very different. We’re the best of the city.”