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Boston sports, health district set for along Pike

New Balance HQ to anchor Brighton project

Boston’s next mega-development broke ground Monday in Brighton, where sports apparel giant New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. started construction of a world headquarters complex with a hotel, stores, and a massive athletic facility.

The $500 million project, to be called Boston Landing, will create a new cluster of buildings at the western edge of the city, where New Balance’s headquarters will be part of a broader sports and health district along the Massachusetts Turnpike.

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“Washington could take a cue from what’s been accomplished here in Boston,” the company’s chairman, Jim S. Davis, said Monday, citing economic development that is rapidly transforming large parts of the city.

Boston Landing is the latest of several major projects to move forward in recent months. Developers are building thousands of new homes, office buildings, grocery stores, and hotels in neighborhoods across the city.

Just last week, work began on a 17-story office building in the South Boston Innovation District and another developer started construction of a towering redevelopment of the former Filene’s property in Downtown Crossing.

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The groundbreaking ceremonies for these projects have served as something of a farewell tour for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has sought to emphasize Boston’s growth as he prepares to leave office after 20 years in City Hall.

At some events, Menino has defended his administration against mayoral candidates and others who have called for reforms to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city’s primary economic development agency. Some have criticized the BRA’s development review process, arguing that it doesn’t adequately address the concerns of ordinary citizens.

Elkus Manfredi Architects designed a six-story headquarters for New Balance.

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“If we had any more process in the city of Boston, we wouldn’t get anything done,” Menino said Monday, adding that developers must address the concerns of neighborhood groups and multiple city agencies before their projects can proceed.

The New Balance development has been on the drawing board for several years. A Lowe’s home improvement store had been planned for part of the property, but that project encountered local opposition and the developer eventually sold the site to New Brighton Landing LLC, a real estate entity owned by Davis.

Last September, New Brighton Landing won BRA approval for a sweeping development of the 14-acre site, situated next to New Balance’s current offices and the WGBH building. The overall project includes 950,000 square feet of offices, several stores and restaurants, a 175-room hotel, a commuter rail station, and a 250,000-square-foot sports complex.

Contractors have already started work on a six-story headquarters for New Balance. That building, designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects, will take 18 to 24 months to complete. Executives with New Brighton Landing hope to quickly follow with the sports complex, hotel, and two to three additional office buildings to be marketed to health, technology, and research tenants.

New Brighton Landing is still in the process of obtaining permits for the commuter rail station, which will include a single platform, centered between the eastbound and westbound tracks of the Framingham-Worcester line.

Davis said Monday that the sports complex will be the property’s main attraction. It will have a 200-meter indoor track fitted with hydraulic lifts so it can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of activities. Davis said the track is designed to be one of the fastest in the country, aiming to attract elite runners trying to set speed records. The complex will also include professional-caliber training facilities for baseball and hockey, including an NHL-sized rink.

The Boston Bruins have been exploring plans to open a practice facility at the complex, but a New Balance spokesman declined to discuss tenant negotiations Monday. The Bruins currently train at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington.

The Boston Landing sports complex is expected to have a membership-based fitness center, be accessible to the public, and host community events. Several lawmakers and other community leaders applauded the project Monday, saying it will create thousands of jobs and enliven a drab stretch of property along the turnpike.

“This is going to be a transformative project for the entire region,” said State Representative Michael Moran, whose district includes Allston and Brighton “The jobs and economic development here will spur growth in other industries as well.”

Casey Ross can be reached at casey.ross@globe.com.
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