Development in Back Bay, Boston: The Highlights

An easy way to tell that a neighborhood is getting hotter is to look at its slate of real estate development. A glance at recent headlines about the large number of development projects in Boston’s Back Bay shows that this desirable section of the city—which incorporates the fashionable Newbury Street, Boylston Street, and Commonwealth Avenue—is rapidly elevating its status from “trendy” to “coveted.”

At-a-glance, here are some highlights of construction projects underway, new buildings going up, and significant renovations that exemplify the changing face of the Back Bay.

Eataly Signs Lease at the Prudential Center

It’s out with the old and in with the new at Boston’s Prudential Center, where the three-level Italian food complex Eataly will replace the Prudential food court in late 2016. The world-renowned “galleria of Italian gastronomy” from Mario Batali and partners will stretch 45,000 feet, and will include space in a newly constructed building. The Italian food emporium will feature a new entrance into a café from Boylston Street, a rooftop restaurant and brewery, multiple quick and full-service eateries, and a gourmet marketplace. The addition of Eataly is expected to draw other new stores to the Prudential as well.

17-Story Office Building Under Construction at Prudential Center

In other news at the Prudential Center complex, construction began last summer on a 17-story office building at 888 Boylston Street. The project will lure new shops to the plaza next to the Hynes Convention Center, which incorporates about 60,000 square feet for retail stores. Natixis Global Asset Management signed a lease to occupy up to 150,000 square feet of the total 422,000 square feet of space. The new building will be the fourth office tower in the complex, filling the last vacant parcel that had been available alongside Prudential Tower, 111 Huntington Ave., and 101 Huntington Ave. Project completion is scheduled for June 2016.

Four Seasons Hotel and Residential Building Coming to Back Bay

More construction is in progress not far down the road, where real estate developer Carpenter and Company is erecting a $700 million skyscraper bordering the Prudential Center and the Christian Science Plaza. The resulting 61-story building will become home to a Four Seasons Hotel as well as private residencies—and standing nearly 700 feet tall will become the tallest residential building in all of Boston. In fact, 1 Dalton will actually be the highest skyscraper built in New England since the early seventies, with only the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Center standing taller. The new Back Bay addition of the Four Seasons will be the second Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. Construction is scheduled to wrap up at the end of 2017. The private residencies are expected to be pricey, offering views from the upper levels of the Charles River, Back Bay, and Fenway.

New Residential Tower Planned for 30 Dalton Street

Another new neighbor to the Four Seasons at 1 Dalton will be the 30 Dalton Street Residencies, designed in collaboration by architects Cambridge Seven Associates and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, teaming with the Pritzker Realty Group. The residential tower will stand 26 stories high, featuring 218 luxury rental units. The lobby of 30 Dalton will face a new park on Dalton Street, which is being constructed in conjunction with the project. The address will also be home to ground-level retail space facing Belvedere Street.

Upgrades at Avalon at the Prudential

Last summer, the opening of Avalon Exeter became AvalonBay’s first luxury Back Bay Boston apartment development. Overall, the Prudential Center residential development added not only 1,000 apartments to the Back Bay, but also 1,300 feet of retail space. The 28-story development of Avalon Exeter itself offers 187 apartments. The addition of Avalon Exeter kicked off a series of upgrades at Avalon’s other towers, including Avalon at the Prudential Center (Gloucester Building) at 770 Boylston Street and Avalon at the Prudential Center (Boylston Building) at 780 Boylston Street. Avalon at the Prudential also recently created their new AVA brand, AVA Back Bay, at 790 Boylston Street.

“The Avalon—which has the best location in all of Boston—has undergone multiple renovations over the last two years, with wonderful results,” said Annette Clement, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Furnished Quarters in Massachusetts.   “The AVA building has had the entrance, lobby, hallways, and common areas redone, with the addition of a resident’s lounge and direct access into the Prudential Mall. Next they will begin renovating the apartment interiors.”

Clement added that Avalon’s other two towers at 770 and 780 Boylston are also being revamped with a renovated hallway and entrance area, as well as a new state-of-the-art fitness center, and the coming-soon addition of in-unit washers and dryers. “All of these renovations make Avalon an even more desirable address,” said Clement.

These highlights of recent Back Bay development represent the tip of the iceberg. As reported in Metro, people are clamoring for Back Bay addresses—the Avalon Exeter was 30 percent pre-leased before construction even started. “Homes in the Back Bay virtually sell themselves,” reported Metro in 2014. That observation holds even truer today, as the new residential and commercial additions bring a level of luxury and opulence to the neighborhood that has never been seen before.

Looking to Settle Down in Back Bay?

If you’d like a taste of Back Bay before making your final decision, why not try a temporary furnished apartment in the area?  This way, you get to explore your future neighborhood while also finalizing the last details of your move.  For more information about short-term apartments in Boston’s Back Bay, call Furnished Quarters at 888-907-4109.

Bryant on Columbus Condominiums

After the 25th condo at the Bryant Back Bay (formerly known as the Bryant on Columbus) sold on January 8, 2010, the luxury development on the border of the Back Bay and South End became 50% sold.  However, sales have halted since hitting that 50% threshold.

LINK (one of Boston’s two MLS systems) does currently show that two units are under agreement at the Bryant, and pending the close of these units, building occupancy will inch its way closer to the 60% sold mark.

Bryant Back Bay

The last condo to close at the Bryant Back Bay was a three-bedroom three-bathroom 5th floor 2,259 square foot unit that sold for $1,400,000 ($620 per square foot).  Condo sales statistics for the development include:

Bryant Back Condominiums Sold: 25
Average Sales Price: $1,475,920
Median Sales Price: $1,400,000
Average Price per Square Foot: $735

Sales velocity at the Bryant naturally picked up following the October 2009 limited run auction that took place in the development – the purpose of the auction was to jump start lagging sales in the building and to reestablish a price point that the market would absorb.  The flurry of sales following the auction has slowed substantially at this point.

Remove the auction, and the Bryant Back Bay is showing similar tendencies to the Penmark South End, a combination new construction and renovation 60-unit luxury condo development that has diligently pushed sales forward over the course of approximately 3 years, only recently achieving roughly 90% occupancy.

Penmark South End

The Bryant: Beginning to End Photos

October 2006 saw construction begin on the Bryant Back Bay (at that time, known as the Bryant on Columbus), and recently released is the first time series set of Bryant Back Bay construction photos that chronicles the building from ground-up construction to the 50-unit luxury condo development that it is today.

The north side of the block between Dartmouth and Clarendon now appears complete, with a significantly different feel from the blacktop parking lot that occupied the site before construction on the Bryant began in late 2006.

Bryant Construction Site Pre-2006

Bryant Back Bay November 2009

The Bryant: Why Auction, Why Now?

Touted as a boutique luxury condo development that offered more expansive floor plans than neighboring buildings, the Bryant Back Bay missed its stride with the buying market and has reverted to an auction event to generate new demand for the some 45 units remaining for sale in the building.

According to LINK (one of Boston’s two MLS systems), 5 unites at the Bryant Back Bay, a 50-unit high-end development on the border of the Back Bay and the South End, have been sold.  These units have an average sales price per square foot of $826, a figure significantly bolstered by the sale of a single penthouse unit at $1,479 per square foot.

On paper, the development has a tremendous amount going for itself.  From a convenient and desirable location to direct elevator access floor-through units.  When construction began in October 2006, the building generated a significant amount of anticipation for sprawling three, and sometimes four, bedroom condos in a new construction Back Bay / South End building.  Yet there were a number of factors that ultimately impacted the Bryant’s ability to drive sales velocity.

The Bryant is a ground-up new construction building, and not unexpectantly, the development pushed out the scheduled occupancy date five times, and in the end, missed its mark of opening by over a year.  Buyers, rightfully so, are hesitant to buy in earlier to a new development, oftentimes signing a purchase and sale agreement months before construction completes, however, if the occupancy date is continuously pushed out, Buyers become even more hesitant to place reservations in a building, tying up personal capital in deposits of anywhere from 5-10% of a unit’s purchase price.  One of the most notable concerns from Buyers was the proximity of the Bryant to the 131 Dartmouth building, and the potential impact it could have on views and light in the Bryant.  If you fast forward to the present, while 131 Dartmouth is immediately visible outside of the Bryant’s bedroom windows, 131 Dartmouth tapers away from the Bryant, and especially in the summer months, this spacing allows light to pour into the back half of units.  Nonetheless, Buyers weren’t able to gain this knowledge first-hand because a model unit was not developed inside the building until late in the Bryant’s sales cycle.  In lieu of a true model unit, potential Buyers visited the sales center adjacent to the Bryant to see a sample kitchen and bath, but unfortunately, could not get a true feel for lighting and flow of an actual unit in the building.

During the latter half of 2007, another luxury condo development, 285 Columbus Lofts, began construction (or more accurately, began redevelopment).  Unfortunately for the Bryant, 285 Columbus Lofts was two doors down the street, and while the two buildings differ on some levels, the property represented direct competition for the Bryant at a lower price point.  It was during the latter half of 2007 and early part of 2008 when the Bryant made its biggest slips.  While the Bryant began pushing out its occupancy date from Spring 2008 to August 2008, 285 Columbus Lofts actually moved their occupancy date up, from June 2008 to May 2008.  And the key here was that 285 Columbus Lofts delivered on their prediction.  This was the first condo development to be delivered on time or ahead of schedule in quite some time.  Price points at 285 Columbus Lofts were lower, and the development was quickly approaching sold out status when it opened its doors to residents in late May 2008.  Nothing should be taken away from 285 Columbus Lofts launching so quickly, and finishing ahead of schedule, but as it relates to the Bryant, 285 Columbus Lofts did have a leg up on the competition by doing a gut rehab project versus a ground up new building construction.

In the spring of 2009, the Bryant was rebranded from the ‘Bryant on Columbus’ to the ‘Bryant Back Bay’, and in conjunction with that, the developers, Vornado Realty Trust and Wasserman Real Estate Capital LLC, switched listing brokerages from Otis & Ahearn to Campion & Company.  The renaming of the development attempted to drive deeper association with the prestige of the Back Bay versus any connotations the development carried sitting on the border of the Back Bay and the South End.  Despite 3 additional units going under agreement relatively quickly following these changes, the shifts still left 90% of the building sitting vacant, and the developers decided to leverage an entirely different strategy to generate cash flow and take out existing debt, an auction.

Accelerated Marketing Partners, led by Jon Gollinger, announced on September 22, 2009 that they would take 10 of the available 45 units from the Bryant Back Bay and auction them off to the highest bidder during an October 17, 2009 auction event.  Gollinger’s thoughts are that rather than drag out the normal listing process, it’s much more effective to sell a bunch of units at once, figure out what the market is willing to pay, and then coordinate prices on any remaining units in the building.  This tactic, of auctioning only a small pool of remaining units in a building followed by trying to sell remaining units post-auction at auction prices (auction pricing without the auction) is a tactic that has been relatively effective for Nouvelle at Natick.  The Nouvelle development recently auctioned off 43 units, and in a week’s time, has sold 17 additional units at prices established at the auction (see Nouvelle at Natick Condo Auction Results).

There will be seven 3-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units auctioned at the Bryant on October 17th, with minimum bid prices ranging from $1,075,000 to $1,475,000 ($476 to $811 per square foot). The appraised value of the Bryant Back Bay condos will be left to lenders, but Buyers can look at average sales price per square foot for the past 6 months in the Back Bay of $746 and the South End of $577 as a very high-level starting point.

Given the legacy of the Bryant Back Bay project, an auction to at least kick start sales velocity for remaining units in the development appears to be the next logical option in the sales process, especially in light of success that the auction sales format has had on other downtown Boston, and metro-Boston, properties.

The Clarendon Brings Unique Living to Back Bay

If the Boston W Hotel construction site has done anything for the Boston skyline, it has shown Bostonians how quickly a 25+ story tower can be constructed, and the Clarendon Back Bay, a 33-story structure adjacent to the John Hancock Tower has been no exception to a speedy ascent.  Approximately 2 years ago, the Clarendon construction site was simply a large hole in the ground, and to see it today in its almost completed facade is a testament to the innovative construction techniques, including construction both up and down at the same time, used on the job site (see Clarendon Back Bay Plywood Siding).

The building, essentially the first and only large-scale tower condo development in the Back Bay, has come a long way since late 2007 and the early stages of construction (for early construction site photos, see The Clarendon Back Bay Says Me Too!, or look even further back with additional photos, see Clarendon Back Bay Condos Looking Up).

Similar to, but taking a slightly different tact than, the Mandarin Oriental and the Boston W, which both have luxury hotel rooms on their lower floors, the Clarendon Back Bay will have luxury rental apartments (a rental development called One Back Bay) on the first 14 floors of the building.  Accessed via a separate entrance on the Clarendon Street side of the development.  Apartments in the building will boast similar but separate amenities to the for-sale condos above and carry monthly rental prices of $2,695 for a studio to $7,500 for a two-bedroom two-bathroom.

The for-sale luxury condominiums (commonly known as the Clarendon Back Bay) has its separate entrance and lobby on the Stuart Street side of the building, specifically at 400 Stuart Street.  Both Boston MLS systems show units continuing to go under agreement at the luxury condo development, which will be housed on the upper floors of the building – thus, sales at the Clarendon appear strong.  Listings have been consistently advertised at an average of approximately $1,200 per square foot with listing prices ranging from $695,000 to over $4,000,000.

Post 390, the “urban tavern” restaurant which will anchor the corner of the building is currently slated to open in 22 days. The name is a play on the address (390 Stuart Street) and the Back Bay Post Office that once stood on the site. The restaurant, from the owners of Grill 23 & Bar and Harvest, will bring some additional interest and traffic to the building before the building above Post 390 receive occupancy.

Combined with the Back Bay Orange Line transit station (providing T, Commuter Rail, Amtrak, local bus, and regional bus (Mega Bus for instance)) just one block away, the Clarendon Back Bay development brings together a host of living options and amenities in a single package.

One Back Bay Rentals

Clarendon Back Bay

One Back Bay Rental Entrance

Clarendon Back Bay Condo Entrance

Clarendon Back Bay Condo Entrance

Clarendon Back Bay

Post 390 Restaurant Back Bay

Clarendon Back Bay

360 Newbury Two-Bedroom Uniquely Shines

Availability in several downtown Boston condo developments remains somewhat elusive, and in the Back Bay, that would include two-bedroom units in the Belvedere, Trinity Place, and at times, 360 Newbury. On August 17, 2009, a two-bedroom unit in 360 Newbury sold for $1,085,000 ($709 per square foot), it had been since February of 2008 that another two-bedroom unit had been available in the contemporary large-window high-ceiling building that sits at the southeast corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street.

It’s now down to a single condo available at the 54-unit 360 Newbury development, a 1,626 square foot two-bedroom unit that has a host of high-end upgrades, but that has been somewhat slow to sell possibly due to the custom upgrades and the upper echelon price per square foot into which the unit has been placed.

Unit 511 at 360 Newbury is currently listed for sale at $1,499,000 ($922 per square foot) and offers two-bedrooms two-bathrooms and boasts double exposure as a corner unit.  Arclinea cabinetry, Bosch, Miele, and Sub-Zero appliances adorn the kitchen, and a custom sculptural wood wall and custom foyer built-ins add uniqueness to the already award-winning 360 Newbury building architecture.

The custom upgrades abound, along with practical ones like electric window shades, but where unit 511 seems to be getting hung up is on the price point.  The three units that have sold in the building over the past 12 months have an average price per square foot of $741, while unit 511 is currently (after a price reduction in July) at $922.

Regardless of the exquisite upgrades and custom finishes in the unit, which do deserve a price premium over other units in the building, it’s no surprise that the sale of this particular unit is undergoing additional scrutiny by potential Buyers.

360 Newbury 511 360 Newbury 511

Meads of Commonwealth Back Bay Value

Several years ago, there was a stately redevelopment of the residences at 413-415 Commonwealth Avenue at the west end of the Back Bay.  The Meads of Commonwealth, originally constructed in 1890 as prestigious single family residences, were restored into 13 spacious and overflowing direct elevator access floor-through residences.

The Back Bay continues to become more populated with high-end luxury developments and remodels, yet with the latest price reductions that took place at the Meads this past week, several never before occupied units are being offered at extremely competitive price per square foot values.

Two units at the Meads of Commonwealth underwent price reductions of approximately 15%.  This move brought unit 1, a 2,820 square foot 3 bedroom 3.5 bathroom moved from $2,399,000 to $1,999,000 ($709 per square foot), which includes a single deeded garage parking space. Additionally, unit 6, a 1,835 square foot 2 bedroom 2.5 bathroom unit was reduced from $1,600,000 to $1,399,000 ($762 per square foot), however, it is not being advertised with a parking space.

According to MLSpin and LINK (Boston’s MLS systems), there have been no sales at the Meads in the past 12 months, yet, the previous 4 sales in the development were at an average price per square foot of $916.  The new price per square foot listing prices in the $700 range represent a significant move off of previously sold units in the building.  Units at the Meads have been advertised for sale for approximately 3 years, both during and after redevelopment.

Craftsmanship at the Meads is exquisite, and the flowing floor-through units offer an open feeling of living, oftentimes hard to find in a downtown condo. Perhaps the only amenity overlooked in this development is concierge services, yet the monthly HOA condo fees accurately reflect it, at levels under 35 cents per square foot.

Meads of Commonwealth

Meads of Commonwealth

New Custom Interior Mandarin Oriental Condo for Sale

One of the most interesting features of the luxury Mandarin Oriental condos overlooking Boylston Street and all of Back Bay is that the majority of the interiors have been custom built, with little to no “stock” finishes.  Oftentimes in large-scale condo developments, you have a handful of units that Buyers purchase early in the project lifecycle and custom build, while the Mandarin took the trend of custom buildouts to the extreme as almost every unit in the complex either has been heavily customized, or is a shell and awaits customization.

Unit 9C in the east tower recently hit the market for sale, and its custom finishes abound.  The 2,915 square foot 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom unit has over $1 million of finishes by New York City designer Foley and Cox, and boasts an upgraded Poggenpohl kitchen, Supai limestone flooring, and custom carpets.  Unit 9C at the Mandarin Oriental offers unobstructed views of the Back Bay and Cambridge in the distance..

Currently listed at $4.95 million ($1,698 per square foot), unit 9C joins 6 additional units for sale in the luxury Back Bay condo development – currently for sale Mandarin Oriental condos have an average listing sales price of $1,650 per square foot, with an average and median listing price in the building of $6,122,857 and $4,950,000 respectively.

Boston Mandarin Oriental 9C

Boston Mandarin Oriental 9C

Movement at Luxury Mandarin Oriental Condos

After a hiatus of approximately 3 months, and shortly after residents took occupancy of units late last year, the Mandarin Oriental recently saw another luxury condo resold.  Unit 11E in the east tower, a two bedroom two bathroom unit, sold for $2.5 million ($1,280 per square foot) on July 15, 2009.

In addition to the sale of 11E, unit 9D in the west tower yesterday underwent its third price adjustment after being listed in April for $3.95 million.  This latest price reduction brings the unit a full million dollars lower than the original asking price to $2.95 million, with a price per square foot value of $1,217, which is more in line with the average price per square foot for units that have sold in the building in the past six months ($1,111, a figure substantially brought down by resale of an unfinished shell that sold at $714 per square foot).

Currently available condos for sale at the Mandarin Oriental are priced from $2,625,000 to $16,990,000 and carry a minimum of two bedrooms and two bathrooms and at least one deeded garage parking space.

Mandarin Oriental Condos for Sale: 8
Average List Price: $6,132,500
Median List Price: $5,025,000
Average $/SF: $1,759
Average DOM: 270

Mandarin Oriental Boston Condos for Sale

CVS Replaces Restaurant at 285 Columbus Lofts

285 Columbus Lofts on the border of the Back Bay and South End opened to much success, and despite the development recently selling out, the ground floor commercial space has remained vacant since the inception of the building.  According to inside sources, the space remained empty as a suitable high-end restaurant was found.  Adding such a restaurant to the ground floor of the development would put it on par with such developments as Trinity Place, the Albert A. Pope Building, Folio, and Allele.  The residents of the building, and the local neighborhood are surprised to see that the pending restaurant signs have come down to make way for a CVS Pharmacy.


With the arrival of a new CVS Pharmacy, gone is the potential amenity of on demand gourmet meals for residents that accompanies condos with an onsite restaurant.  However, there are some condo owners who would prefer not to have food, and everything that comes with having a restaurant below you, in the building.  Certain condo developers purposefully construct buildings with the intention of not having food on the ground floor commercial space, take the Lofts at 36 A for instance, which intentionally limits the types of tenants that can occupy its ground floor commercial space.