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As Ridership Increases so Does the Need for Retail

By RJ Long, TRA Project Manger

MBTA ridership hit an all-time record of 400 million trips this past fiscal year. The ULI Boston report, Hub and Spoke, predicts that ridership could grow to upwards of 500 million trips by 2021. Therefore the MBTA is planning for new stations, new trains and new ways to fund its operations. One source in particular, its retail portfolio, serves as an amenity to the riders and has growth potential. Everything from your morning coffee to your evening movie rental is only made more convenient when adding it to your commute. So what’s happening to help add more options in more places? A lot.

Over the past year the MBTA has restructured how it entertains offers from businesses, it has streamlined its public bid process with simpler & clearer documents, and it has begun utilizing modern leases with requirements similar to that of major malls.

The results: a kiosk program which will economically enhance dozens of smaller locations, a fixed retail program which is slated to overhaul fifteen existing locations system-wide, and the establishment of projects to develop underutilized real estate. While these programs and projects will offer a wide variety of benefits, none will have an impact quite like the revitalization of Back Bay Station.

After researching the opportunities at Back Bay Station a new master plan was implemented to create a concept similar to the MBTA’s best stations, South Station and North Station. The first items on the agenda are to make HVAC, lighting and beautification improvements to the commuter rail lobby. Upon completion, the Station will be ready for the retail improvements. The main concourse retail operations will be revamped and upwards of six “South Station style” kiosks will be added. This, in addition to the strategically positioned tables and chairs, will create a floor plan which can accommodate roughly 33,500 people coming and going. Furthermore, this layout provides a value added resource to both the retails and the riders. Up next, a portion of the underutilized sidewalk under the Dartmouth Street roof overhang will be repurposed as rentable square feet. This will be accomplished as individual businesses build out their space and their unique requirements are addressed. Overall, this transformation will not only create an atmosphere where retailers can succeed and the riders feel comfortable but it will raise the MBTA’s bottom line.

Market Aspects of TOD in Boston, the Region and the Nation

By William Lawrence Managing Director, Consulting Services

Article #1: The National Market Perspective

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is the place to be and the thing to build. This is not to say that it is for everyone, but it is where much of the development action is and where many of the baby boomers in the suburbs who can sell their homes or the recently minted college grads want to end up.

The national market data suggest that there are three dominant market types that are unfolding—the “24/7 cities,” the “Regional Cities,” and more or less, everything else.

The 24/7 Cities are the place to be —about a dozen of them that have the scale and diversity to create an enlivened downtown, punctuated by good or soon to be good transit of all types. These cities (call them the “Buzzing Dozen”) include New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Salt Lake, and Minneapolis). These cities are highly “walkable” with high density residential product served by retail and connected to employment by excellent transit service. They have received 50 percent of all private investment dollars in development projects in the country over the last three years. As an example in Boston’s Kenmore Square, at the confluence of 4 transit lines, a medical center and Boston University, private developers have announced four mixed use projects that are really “TODs” in the last four months and are funded with over 2 million square feet of office and retail, 800 residential units and 2200 parking spaces. Citywide, Boston has residential projects of over 3,000 units started or about to be—this Kenmore example is not an aberration. {…} 

There is a new star coming to Fenway. TOD becomes a neighbor

By: Francis DeCoste, TRA Chief Operating Officer

As spring emerges, Bostonians usually shift their attention on all the action going at Fenway. Although this year, with the performance of the home town team being less than stellar, a new star in the Fenway may steal the spotlight. At a recent Biznow gathering, developer John Rosenthal discussed plans for the start of construction of the 1.3 million square transit oriented development called the Fenway Center.

The project, located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, is a 4.5 acre assemblage which includes air rights over the Massachusetts Turnpike as well as ground up development on the surface parking lots between the Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue bridges. The development plan includes approximately 500 residences, offices, and a retail shopping center featuring a local grocery store.

Transportation is a major amenity for the Fenway Center. Located adjacent to the MBTA Yawkey Commuter Station, the MBTA Kenmore Square and Fenway Green Line Stations are just a block away. A component of the development includes what will be one of the largest private solar power plant in Massachusetts, which will provide a significant portion of the projects electricity and all the power needs of the new commuter rail station. Yawkey Station will become the first zero net energy commuter rail stations in the state. In addition, the Fenway Center will also feature over 30,000 SF of parks and green space, bicycle storage and share station, community space and a daycare center.

It has been a long time coming for the Fenway Center. But just like the Red Sox, good things are always worth the wait. Construction of the Fenway Center is expected to begin in mid 2012.

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