Boston’s Real Estate Market: Fenway’s Boom

The Boston-based building spree is nothing new—but the rapid pace of its current acceleration of construction projects has now reached historic proportions. Earlier this year, The Boston Globe dubbed the current transformation of real estate in Boston as one of the city’s “great ages of development,” whose “enormity, pace, and geographic sweep are redefining the skyline faster than any period since the early Industrial Age.”

Boston Neighborhoods: Fenway

One of the neighborhoods experiencing the most growth is the Fenway. Home to Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox, as well as to many of the city’s top cultural institutions like the Museum of Fine Arts and Symphony Hall, this central thoroughfare encircling the Back Bay Fens green space is becoming unrecognizable from its earlier incarnation. Just a few years back, Fenway’s Boylston Street was lined mainly with gas stations and fast-food franchises; today, towering luxury apartment buildings and trendy new restaurants are notable additions that have completely changed the neighborhood’s flavor.

Recent Zoning Changes

Boston real estate agent David Bates notes that the biggest reason for Fenway’s boom is the area’s recent zoning changes. “The single-story buildings on Fenway’s Boylston Street received a change in zoning a few years back and as a result, many of these buildings, like the former McDonalds, are being replaced by low-rise buildings,” said Bates. “This zoning change made it possible to put up larger, more exciting luxury apartment buildings with concierges and buildings with new and exciting retail, like Target,” said Bates. “What would you rather have, a McDonalds and parking lot or an 18-story luxury apartment building that has retail, restaurants, and a community center?”

Boston’s Luxury Real Estate: The Viridian

Fenway Triangle Trilogy kicked off the boom in luxury apartments, followed by 1330 Boylston. Construction began on The Viridian in January 2013 and the stunning upscale residence opened this May, with some units offering views directly into Fenway Park; not far down Boylston Street is Van Ness, another new development soon to begin serving residents. A flurry of posh new restaurants and retail shops—including the first Target in downtown Boston—have followed on the heels of these openings, increasing the area’s offerings and desirability for residents.

A Support to Boston’s Medical Community

According to Bates, the redevelopment of Fenway is not only good for people who live there, but for the medical community and students. Recently, the state of Massachusetts added a commuter rail in the Fenway, Yawkey Station, which helps many doctors, nurses, and researchers get to the nearby Longwood Medical Area. “I think growth of Fenway helps the medical community most, and the excellence of medical research and care is an important part of Boston’s economy and identity,” said Bates. “Fenway is also walking distance to numerous Boston colleges and universities. Fenway evolving also helps improve the quality of life of many students, and higher education is another internationally recognized strength of Boston.”

A Tight Market

As the neighborhood gets hotter, it becomes more difficult to get a foot in the door in Fenway. Bates notes that while the housing stock is dominated by rentals, in the part of Fenway that is “West of the Fens,” it has become increasingly difficult to find for-sale condominiums in recent years. “When they do come up, small one bedrooms around 550-650 square feet have been going in the high threes and low fours,” said Bates.

New Opportunities in Boston’s Real Estate Market

But the flurry of new luxury residences that have taken root on Boylston offer an opportunity for some prospective buyers that was previously missing. “It’s almost impossible to get a mid-rise building in the surrounding neighborhoods of Back Bay or South End or even Brookline,” said Bates. “The zoning changes in Fenway, however, opened up the opportunity to get several of these buildings into the Fenway.”

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