Failure has dogged air-rights development in Boston for so long that any delay in a project slated to rise above the Massachusetts Turnpike has become evidence that building above the highway is a doomed enterprise. The last successful air-rights development, Copley Place, sprang up nearly three decades ago. The deals that have blown up since then have done so spectacularly, giving rise to the notion that Turnpike development is so difficult, and so expensive, that Boston may have already built its last building above the Pike.
Fenway Center should be the project that puts this notion to rest. It hasn’t been able to, because the $450 million mixed-use project slated for a stretch of highway between Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue has been tied up in a brutal court fight with a neighboring property owner. A state appeals court dismissed the lawsuit challenging Fenway Center. That court decision marks the turning point, not just for the Fenway development, but for air rights development in Boston in general.