Weiner Ventures Scales Back Mass Pike Project
After getting air rights for a large-scale residential project, real estate developer Weiner Ventures LLC made grand plans to build a 689,000 SF structure with a mix of condominiums and apartments (totaling 342 units), combined with retail space and over 300 parking spaces, over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston's prestigious Back Bay. Initially, the plan was to create a 33-floor condominium tower and a 17-story apartment tower over a retail center. The project was supposed to reach 586 ft. at its highest point and occupy four parcels of land.
Weiner Ventures made a deal to have Prudential Insurance Co., which owns a parcel of land next to the development site, own the apartment tower. The developer envisioned its project transforming the surrounding area from vacant land to a center of retail and residential activity. Ultimately, it would complement the spirit of innovation and growth that has been transforming the greater Boston area in recent years. In addition to bringing more housing opportunities for the Back Bay's expanding population, the project would symbolize the first successful air rights development over the Mass Turnpike since the establishment of the Copley Place in the 1980s. It would, says managing partner Adam Weiner, be a chance for Weiner Ventures to "do something awesome."
The developer's enthusiasm, however, was not reciprocated by all. At a Boston Planning and Development Agency public meeting in March of 2017, neighbors and residents voiced opposition to the towers' height and physical design. Although Back Bay is modernizing, it is also one of Boston's most historic neighborhoods. The neighborhood takes pride in its unique architecture and historic structures, including the Trinity Church, which dates back to the 1800s, and the Boston Public Library. The public opined that the proposed towers would clash with the neighborhood's fundamental design for several reasons. For one, they would rise far above existing structures in the vicinity, raising fear that the new buildings would literally overshadow some of Back Bay's most iconic places. The towers would also require a dynamic, futuristic architectural design to compensate for the limited amount of ground space available for a foundation. Locals worried that the building would clash with the quaint brick and Victorian homes lining Back Bay's streets.
Since three of the four plots for the proposed project sites come with air rights, Weiner Ventures could legally build in the vertical space above the land without interference. But instead, they took the neighbors' concerns into consideration and scaled back the project's plans. The latest plan presented to the Boston Planning and Development Agency includes the following modifications:
- Eliminating the apartment tower, which would have had 182 units and covered 212,000 SF
- Expanding the retail space from 35,000 SF to 45,000 SF
- Lowering the height of the condominium tower by 82 ft. This cuts six stories from the building's height, making it 27 stories high and 544 ft. tall
- Reducing the number of parking spaces from over 300 to 175
Prudential was supposed to own the apartment tower, but now that the tower has been eliminated from the project plan, they have agreed to let Weiner Ventures use that land for the remaining parts of the project.
If residents show support for the modified project, it will be a big step towards modernizing Back Bay while retaining its unique character.