Will Columbus Center Ever Be Built

Much noise had been made back in Q4 of 2007 about the beginning of “construction” at Columbus Center. We’re now told that the job site activity was preconstruction (namely site preparation such as painting stripes on pavement, testing dirt, pulling old shrubs, adding fences, etc.), and actual construction has not yet begun.

It appears that Columbus Center is a project more than 13 years in the making, and with costs continuing to rise, the original $300 million price tag for the mixed-use condo, hotel, public park, and parking garage project has nearly tripled.

The fate of Columbus Center has not deterred other developments in the immediate vicinity from pushing ahead – 285 Columbus Lofts, the Bryant on Columbus, the Clarendon Back Bay, and the Brooke House Residences, all of which are in various phases of actual buildout, have significant inventory already sold and/or under agreement.

The property owner of the Columbus Center parcels is the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), and as landlord, MTA recently gave the project owners until January 15, 2008 to borrow $500 million or else risk eviction. Of significant note for condo buyers at Columbus Center is the potential that residents themselves will be responsible for the infrastructure below them.

Potential condo and parking buyers at Columbus Center could be financially and legally responsible for the subterranean tunnels that enclose the 7 rail lanes (CSX freight, Amtrak, MBTA commuter rail, subway) and the 7 turnpike road lanes along the interstate transportation corridor. Neither the developer nor the government has records showing the 99-year cost of these responsibilities, but they potentially include periodic inspection by tunnel-bridge structural engineers for at least 99 years, tunnel maintenance for at least 99 years, tunnel upgrades dictated by Massachusetts Turnpike Authority for at least 99 years, and premiums for 99 years of developers error/omission insurance and owners liability insurance.

So will it ever be built? It’s hard to say if Columbus Center will be constructed as we currently know it today. It’s evident that something will be built over the turnpike eventually, as there’s nowhere else to go in Boston. The potential development of Columbus Center is exciting, as it would offer residents a final product that would significantly beautify the area, however, a lengthy construction process, and the negatives associated with a project of such scale would be felt (see Temporary Downgrade of Boston Condos).

For further information on the layout of the Columbus Center development, see the Columbus Center address information file (PDF).