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Non-traditional tower proposed for Back Bay station

Proposed tower at Back Bay train station in Boston

Boston Properties today submitted its plans for redeveloping Back Bay station, centering on a tower that would not look like any other tower in the city.

In a filing with the BRA, the company is proposing "a holistic and transformative transit-oriented redevelopment" for the Back Bay/South End Gateway Project that would include a 26-story office building, 600 residential units in two separate buildings - one 34 stories, the other 28 - and new retail and restaurant space. The company has air rights from the state to build atop the garage, station, train tracks and turnpike.

The company, which hopes to begin construction next year, would place the buildings atop the existing garage and station - with much of the garage getting completely rebuilt to allow for the towers. Boston Properties says it will continue to provide the roughly 2,000 spaces now available. It says it is also looking at possibly closing the westbound turnpike ramp that now runs underneath the station.

The company, which now manages the station, also committed to "a multimillion dollar renovation and restoration of the station concourse:"

Currently being designed by the Proponent and the consultant team and in consultation with the multiple rail services serving the Station, the planned renovation project will dramatically improve the customer experience by: improving air quality; restoring the architecture to its original condition; creating new and expanded waiting areas; introducing new lighting and temperature control measures to improve passenger comfort; clarifying signage and wayfinding components; improving access and egress to and from the Station; completely renovating the public restrooms; and creating additional retail amenities for transit customers and the neighborhood, all the while preserving the Station's original architectural expression.

In addition to changes in the station, Boston Properties is also proposing to renoovate the old New York, New Haven and Hartford "head house" across Columbus Avenue to provide new access to the commuter-rail and Amtrak platform.

The company says it will contribute roughly $5.5 million to the BRA for the creation of affordable-housing units elsewhere in the city - and $1.1 million to a city job fund.

Back Bay Station project-notification form (24.8M PDF)

The proposed view from Columbus Avenue:

The view from Columbus Avenue
Neighborhoods: 
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Comments

All I have to say...

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So many UHub commentators clearly missed their true callings.

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I don't know, I think we've arrived. We're even considering unionizing. Amalgamated Pissers and Moaners Local 42.

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If you had the awareness to say "Well, that won't work, but for $150/hr I'll tell you what will," you could just call yourself a consultant.

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          ( I've been building up my list of complaints. )

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future revised proposal looks....just like every other building downtown.

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This just looks ridiculous, especially for Boston, and especially for the Back Bay/South End neighborhood. The developer and that proposed apartment building belong in Miami.

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That design is totally out of place for Boston! It looks ludicrous!

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lascivious, salacious, outrageous!

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The company says it will contribute roughly $5.5 million to the BRA for the creation of affordable-housing units elsewhere in the city - and $1.1 million to a city job fund.

Of course we can't have people living in affordable units next to transit.. You know, the subway.. something those people living in such units would DEPEND on.

We can't have that, can we?

But we can build a huge parking deck next to a train station so people can live in their condo, have a place to park their car, and totally ignore that there's a major transportation hub at street level and just drive everywhere?

*smh*

PS - More Luxury Condos? and more "high end shopping" (because, you know, the Pru and Copley aren't enough) ......

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When your average job-blow working 50+ hours a week can't! Most hard working people are to poor to afford and not poor enough to qualify.

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Familiar with the area and the amount of low income housing in it.

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But I am.. I used to live on Columbus. And did so for six years. I know ALL about the low income housing in that area.

Also I said AFFORDABLE housing, not low income housing. Big difference there.

Because we need more 700-1.2mil condos or 4000/mo apartments in that neighborhood (snark) How about something the rest of us can afford?

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And while we're at it, where is the affordable housing in Nantucket, or on the beach in Cape Cod. I demand to live where I want to live!

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If real estate was not bubbled you could buy a nice house on Nantucket for $100,000, a small condo in the back bay for $100,000, or a big house in Roslindale for $100,000. There is nothing wrong with wanting price normalization as it would benefit everyone at all economic levels. Current owner occupants would not even lose money because when they sell their property their next purchase would be similarly discounted. The only losers would be property investors and such people are bottom feeding scum that deserve a loss.

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If by "bubbled" you mean "existing in a different universe from the one I am living in, where dollars are worth much more..." Honestly, if you think you should be able to buy a house in Roslindale in 2016 for 100K, it's you who are bubbled.

The average national cost for building a single-family house is about 300,000, half labor and half materials. Increase the labor cost drastically in Boston.

If you couldn't build one for that, you can't buy one for that. Depreciation could drop the price of an old house, but no amount of depreciation could get the price that low. There is no possible rational argument for the value of a whole house anywhere in Boston for 100,000. You probably couldn't even buy a tear-down for that; an empty lot is worth more than 100K.

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So the plot is "worth more than 100K", but you don't see any bubble. Don't you think there were similarly `valuable` plots in Detroit a few decades ago?

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Maybe house was the wrong word in that specific example. But...

In 2000 a Roslindale condo in a 2-3 family house [2-3 bedrooms] would cost approximately $100,000 - $150,000. The cumulative rate of inflation since 2000 is approximately 40%, making said house worth buying at $140,000 now. Mind you during this period wages have remained stagnant, so that makes even that rise harsh. But how much can you find units like that costing now? $350,000 - $450,000. That is a pretty nasty bubble. And you can't even say that someone who bought then and sells now wins, because they can't get any upgrade for their $350,000 without moving to some place like a bad neighborhood in Alabama.

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A house, a big house, or a condo? Pick one. It does make a difference.

It appears you have conceded that, no, the fact that a big house in Roslindale doesn't sell for 100,000 does not indicate a bubble. Good. You're back in reality then.

There may be a bubble, but it'd be way on top of that figure. Like the fact that a big house sells for 600K rather than 400K might be a bubble. Or a condo in a Roslindale triple decker selling for 300K instead of 150K may be a bubble.

But unless the local economy completely melts down - say, biotech, higher education, and hospitals all cease to operate in Boston - there is no way the purchase price of a house is going down to Detroit prices. The price isn't even going to drop below the cost to build said house unless Boston sees unprecedented economic hardship.

But you pays your money and you takes your chances.

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IMAGE( https://media.giphy.com/media/Rhhr8D5mKSX7O/giphy.gif )

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Oh so you want a set aside for a lucky few to win the lottery?

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Who in Gods name approved a building that ridiculous looking for BOSTON.

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Nobody has approved anything. They are just starting the public process.

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a link to the document. the fine folks on Morrisey boulevard are apparently incapable of that. thanks!

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In addition to changes in the station, Boston Properties is also proposing to renoovate the old New York, New Haven and Hartford "head house" across Columbus Avenue to provide new access to the commuter-rail and Amtrak platform.

I've never understood why those stairs are exit-only to begin with... all it would take is removing the turnstiles.

What would be more important though, IMO, is converting the Orange Line exit-only headhouse on the corner of Columbus and Clarendon into a full entrance. Just replace the turnstiles with a few faregates and a TVM or two.

It says it is also looking at possibly closing the westbound turnpike ramp that now runs underneath the station.

Awwww, but that would mean the end of this cool old sign! And this one too! But hopefully not this one...

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Anyone?

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looks a bit like the pile of books on my night-stand that I've been reading on and off.

or glass-block jenga.

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I kind of like the design, but it also kind of looks like somebody got bored at work and just wanted to see how far out he could pile binders before they tumbled over.

Also note that the other towers are your basic bland-as-can-be towers.

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It looks like a cake I baked. When I was like seven.

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I kind of dig the look. I also like imagining the many pigeons and hawks who will have excellent multiple places to hang out with all those different ledges.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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I like the design. It's different.

But the whole premise behind this is dumb.. more luxury stuff on top of a transit hub that most residents will completely ignore and not use.

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The two residential towers are fairly generic, but the office building is fantastic. Folks over at Archboston are having a love fest for it, and rightfully so. It's really unusual in an interesting way. The other thing that I really like are the improvements to the station itself.

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The "folks" over at ArchBoston are a collection of idealistic tools with no basis in reality. Come on, kid, this is pure shite.

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This building is too "different."

This building is not "different" enough.

Is there any building in Boston that people could actually like?

(Frankly, I don't mind this one.)

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Come on - everyone complains that all of the new construction in Boston is so boring, everything looks like it belongs in a Dallas office park. So someone comes along with something... Different, and they're still complaining. You just can't win.

What do people want? Stone and brick construction like the original Hancock building or the Boston Stock Exchange? No one builds like that anymore, not for new construction anyways. You can only make curtain walls of glass look so different.

I mean, it COULD look like a Gherkin or a giant Walkie Talkie. That would definitely be worse.

I'm just glad to see someone who wants to turn that craphole of a train station into something interesting. The great train stations in Europe and Asia are not just train stations - they're large complexes with shopping and housing. This part of this plan is a brilliant idea.

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When I first saw the design after you posted it, I showed it to a friend and said how great that looks compared to both the aesthetically bizarre attempts to be "edgy" with architecture that I've seen before that just come off as pretentious or undesirable spaces to want to occupy. I feel that way about the Gehry building (Stata Center) at MIT for example. Hell, that was so pretentious that MIT had to sue Gehry because the building ended up breaking in places due to the design. AND at the same time, it's not another cookie cutter piece of shit clogging up the view.

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Folks need to visit or check out online some of the 'ridiculous' looking buildings in bona fide 'world class' cities like London, Paris. They both have A LOT of 'ridiculous' looking buildings.

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A giant gherkin or something.

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Boston has small hands.

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IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/WTFXpmH.jpg)

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You get the gherkin, we get the green dong.

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Just hideous.

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I know it was a crappy place but there really is no coordination of bus routes in the area, and one of them is the key bus route.

I mean if this was a strategic shift thats fine, but it certainly downplays bus services downtown, and any locations those buses reach out to.

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This building is on the left side.

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From what I gathered reading the document, the earlier commenter is correct, the developer will propose moving the bus stop, once the project is under construction / completed.

There are apparently 3 buses that use the back circle - the #39 (referenced in the comment; it's pretty popular, at least w/ people who are too lazy to walk out of the Orange Line and down Clarendon about 200 feet); the #10 (haven't actually seen that there); and, the #170, which apparently runs early mornings and late afternoons (never seen it there).

It's disappointing that a subway / train station would lose bus access, but I don't see the moving of the station to be a deal-breaker, assuming something equal or better is proposed. I don't know if "just walk down to Copley Square" is "equal or better". It would make the #39 run faster, though, because it wouldn't have to do that awful route out of the station, hitting the light at Clarendon and Columbus, hitting the light at Columbus and Berkeley, hitting the light at Berkeley and Stuart, hitting the light at Berkeley and St James (and trying to maneuver that corner where cars/trucks are always parked in front of Tico), hitting the light at Clarendon and St James, waiting for people to cross between the Hancock and Trinity church to the stop in front of the Copley Plaza hotel.

So, yeah, maybe that is better?

There was a time when the #39 parked in front of Back Bay station, I seem to remember, perhaps when there was construction in the back? Or am I thinking of when Megabus and Bolt bus used the front?

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It's the only bus that uses the "busway" at Back Bay (the others use Dartmouth Street). And most passengers get off the 39 at Copley, either because it's their destination or to transfer to the Green Line. Then if it snows the 60-footers get stuck going up the little hill on Clarendon in to the busway anyway. Of course, the 39 provides almost completely redundant service from Heath Street to Back Bay since the E Line covers that, so it's often quite empty past the LMA.

The 39 sort of acts as two overlapping routes. One is from Copley to South Huntington/Hyde Square: people going beyond the end of the E Line transfer to the 39 for the trip. Not that many ride the full route from Copley to Centre/South streets—at least at rush hour—since it's quite a bit faster to take the Orange Line. But since Hyde Square is closer to downtown and further from the Orange Line stations, it serves that corridor. The second is from Northeastern and the LMA to Centre/South Streets in JP. Since this is further from the Orange Line, and a shorter bus ride, the bus is a better option than the Orange Line and the 39 makes more sense. And for people going from downtown to the LMA and Mission Hill, most will take the E Line.

If the E Line were ever extended to Hyde Square, it would allow some very interesting things to be done with the 39. First, it would obviate the need for the 39 to serve the Copley-Hyde Square market. The bus could run from Forest Hills and through JP but then rather than duplicating the E Line down Huntington it could instead be realigned to serve the heart of the LMA. From there, it could run north to Cambridge, providing a cross-town connection from JP/Mission Hill to Kendall or Central that doesn't exist today.

To do this, you could interline it with the 47. The 47 is a cobbled-together route that runs from Central to the LMA to Ruggles to Dudley to BMC to Broadway. Is anyone riding anywhere near that whole route? No, because if you're going from Cambridge to Broadway you take the Red Line, to BMC you take the 1 or CT1, and to Dudley you take the 1. Few 47 passengers ride through the LMA, so it could be split in to two, each serving the LMA. The northern half, from Central to the LMA could be combined with the 39 for a Forest Hills-LMA-Central service. The eastern portion, from LMA to Broadway via Ruggles and Dudley, could be extended east from Broadway to City Point, giving a one-seat ride for Southie residents who work in the LMA (or it could be scrapped altogether with much more frequent service on the CT3).

To bring this back to relevancy for this thread, this would remove the need for the 39 to travel to Back Bay, and obviate the need for the Back Bay Busway.

Now, if we could get them to electrify the Commuter Rail lines, they wouldn't have to worry about the constant smell of diesel, either …

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Few 47 passengers ride through the LMA

Really!? Have you ever even ridden it!? I used to regularly ride it from Ruggles over to BU or even Central and it was almost always PACKED.

I also dispute your assertion that inbound 39s empty out by Longwood. This is far from the truth. A lot of people take the 39 inbound from Mission Hill/Northeastern because it is often faster than the green line, and cheaper, and at the end you can transfer to the orange or B/C/D at Copley. It's usually very busy on that stretch of Huntington Ave.

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The 39 bus is one of those most popular and regularly used bus routes. It goes something like every 10-15 minutes on average. The E line used to run down in JP where the 39 now runs. You can't have a trolley there anymore because Centre street is already so congested. And the bus remains popular in that area, yet you talk about nixing that since a few commenters claim the bus is only used from Back Bay Station to Copley or to LMA? You can't come on here just making stuff up.

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I believe the 39 was extended from Copley to Back Bay because the latter had wheelchair access.

However, Copley got elevators in 2011.

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Wow, that is hideous.

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I can hear the condo owners at the Clarendon sharpening their knives as we speak.

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When a deal sounds to good to be true is usually is? I'd settle for holistic rest rooms in the station, where are they going to relocate the mole men who live under the station to?

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Ha, good question. Am I the only who remembers the nightmare Trinity went through when they demolished a supposed-foundation wall but then found the Copley Square Underground Homeless Encampment? My recollection is that 60+ vagrants were turned out from a long-forgotten, barely-accessible subterranean space.

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Can't find any on-line confirmation, but this looks a bit like what the local billboards are currently showing for the new building going up in the "Fenway Triangle," i.e, where Boylston and Brookline come together at Park Drive just beyond Fenway Park. Maybe not as boring and tacky as everything else going/gone up on Boylston, but I'm not sure it's any improvement.

--gpm

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That is The Pierce http://pierceboston.com/architecture

I can see a couple similar elements, but I don't think they look alike.

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In both cases, the most striking feature to me is the shift of floor blocks to create triangular glass stickouts (and, ugh, the other new Boylston Street buildings are just too much featureless glass boxes). Otherwise, I agree that there isn't much resemblance. I saw this here just after I had just seen the on-site Fenway building's presentation of the triangular stickouts.

--gpm

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If they are promising a new station concourse does that mean they're going to close down all of back bay station for years while building? Because that would be awful.

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Looks like we have a giant game of falling blocks.

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Although the tall towers look a bit generic the thing on top of the garage is terrific. Growing up here, the only thing that ever got built was either brick or cookie cutter glass boxes. Thank god someone is taking a risk on something new.

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We can (and, based on many of the comments, do) disagree on whether the proposal is a good one, but can we all agree on at least these things:

1. Back Bay Station needs to be fixed
2. It needs to be fixed soon (i.e., during this economic cycle); and
3. The only way that it will be fixed is in connection with development of the air rights by Boston Properties (or another), because there is no way that the T, the Commonwealth, or Amtrak can do it.

I am not advocating for letting Boston Properties or anyone else just build whatever, but really, something needs to be done about Back Bay Station and soon.

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Surprised its so short

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Is this just an attempt to "gain" real estate by building laterally ? We need fewer cavernous shadowy concrete wind tunnels not more. These places never seem to look as good as the stuff you see in Architecture Boston. Are we exporting our best material and keeping the dreck for ourselves ? Are local developers trying to save money by sifting through the paper recycling bin at Boston Architectural College ?

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