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Paul McMorrow

A curveball at Fenway Center

No developer has managed to build anything atop the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston since Copley Place was built in the early 1980s. A mega-development outside Kenmore Square has the potential to change that record, and open up long sweeps of the Pike for redevelopment. For its work in unlocking acres of previously un-developable real estate, the Fenway Center project has invited a typically brutal Boston reward — it has an abutter throwing up roadblocks and nursing petty grievances in court.

Fenway Center sits across the street from Fenway Park, and down the street from the Longwood Medical Area. It should be incredibly valuable real estate but for the two acres of railroad tracks and Turnpike roadway running straight through it. The Turnpike makes this real estate literally worthless, since the cost of building over the road normally swallows any profit to be made. Still, when an air-rights project like the Prudential Center or Copley Place manages to get built, it becomes a development that changes the face of its neighborhood. That’s why the past 30 years of air-rights deals have been littered with big dreams and spectacular failures.

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