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A booming boulevard? Wave of development coming to Morrissey

Morrissey Boulevard as seen from the rooftop of The Boston Globe.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Morrissey Boulevard may finally become a destination rather than a place people drive by on the way to somewhere else.

A high-end apartment building, with one-bedrooms starting at $2,400 per month, is set to open later this summer right by the JFK/UMass Red Line station. Auto magnate Herb Chambers is floating plans for a five-story Range Rover dealership at the old Channel 56 building down the street. And The Boston Globe last week announced it has reached a deal to sell its 16.5-acre campus, a huge plot that city planners have long eyed for housing and office space.

Throw in expansion plans, and perhaps a soccer stadium, at the nearby University of Massachusetts Boston campus, and this section of the city could soon be on the cusp of a building boom.


For an area with good highway and T access, just 3 miles south of downtown, it was inevitable that big projects would eventually show up, said Michael Corcoran, president of Corcoran Jennison Cos., a large developer that’s based in the neighborhood.

“It was going to get here sooner or later. It just took awhile,” said Corcoran, whose firm has Boston Redevelopment Authority approval for a 184-unit apartment building next to the site of the old Bayside Expo Center. “It’s really a fantastic location.”

But the rush of activity lately has neighbors growing a bit anxious, and the BRA wondering whether it’s time to revise six-year-old plans for the area that, to some, already feel out of date.

“There are some recent real estate transactions that could have an impact on how we approach the future of that area,” said BRA spokesman Nick Martin, who said agency staff will meet next week to consider if they should update the 2011 Columbia Point master plan. “It’s worth at least talking about what we might want to see there.”


The biggest piece of the puzzle is the Globe site. On Friday, the company announced it has a buyer under contract, but citing confidentiality agreements, chief executive Mike Sheehan would not disclose a name or price.

Several real estate industry sources, though, say the purchaser is Center Court Partners, a small development group with executives in Boston and New York. The year-old firm has proposed a condo tower on Tremont Street alongside the Boston Common and a luxury condo building on Beacon Hill and bought a South End office building in March. They’re paying at least $80 million, the sources say.

Center Court’s local partner, Dedham-based developer David Raftery, did not return messages seeking comment, nor did lead partner David Ridini in New York or an attorney they’ve worked with on other projects in Boston. A spokesman for the BRA, and leaders of the Columbia Point-Savin Hill Civic Association — typical first stops for anyone mulling a big development — say they’re in the dark as to Center Court’s plans.

“We haven't heard a thing,” said Eileen Fenton, who heads the civic association’s planning committee.

Neither has Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who told the Dorchester Reporter on Wednesday that he didn’t know the buyer’s identity or plans, and that he hoped to set up a meeting with Globe owner John Henry “to talk about what’s going on.” Sheehan said he informed Walsh of the sale Saturday, adding, “We’re more than happy to meet with the mayor.”


Walsh also said he supported revisiting the BRA’s 2011 Columbia Point plan amid the wave of development.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” he told the Reporter.

On the Globe site, that plan envisioned a series of low- and mid-rise apartment buildings, at least 1,000 units in all, with a park and perhaps some ground-floor retail. But some neighbors note that with an $80 million price tag, plus unknown costs to demolish the Globe building and clean up the ground beneath it, the new buyers may want to push development higher.

“That’s the only way they’re going to get their investment back,” said Peter McNamara, a longtime Savin Hill resident. “Size does matter with these things.”

Next door, Herb Chambers plans to build up on the site of the shuttered TV studio that used to house Channel 56. Last week, Chambers journeyed to Savin Hill to show the neighborhood group plans for a five-story Range Rover dealership there. Chambers declined comment through a spokesman, who said the car dealer likes the site’s drive-by traffic and its visibility from the Expressway.

Alongside that are a small office building, occupied by radio-station-operator Greater Media Inc., which was purchased by Beasley Broadcast Group on Tuesday but said it had no plans to move, and a Star Market. Both are owned by Synergy Investments and have long-term leases on their buildings, which are not being marketed for sale. A third parcel previously owned by Synergy is now the site of two apartment buildings nearing completion with 278 units.


Those buildings are set to open in September, with rents that reach $4,900 for a three-bedroom unit. Developers and marketers for the project didn’t return messages Wednesday, but others who’ve watched its launch say they hear leasing is off to a good start.

“It seems like everybody’s getting the rents they thought they’d get,” Corcoran said.

To Savin Hill resident Paul Nutting, the overall development is welcome, but it all feels a bit haphazard.

He worked on the Columbia Point master plan, which the BRA approved in 2011 with new streets between Morrissey Boulevard and the Expressway and development that started with tall buildings near the T and smaller ones approaching existing neighborhoods. But it was never written into city zoning.

And now the building boom is on, bypassing neighborhood residents.

The new apartment buildings, Nutting notes, don’t even have coffee shops in their lobbies, which would seem a no-brainer in a busy spot close to the T.

“We want amenities in this neighborhood — retail, restaurants,” he said. “What we don’t want, especially at the Globe site, is some sort of suburban-style development plopped down amid a sea of parking.”

Tim Logan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story gave the wrong location for an apartment building planned by Corcoran Jennison Companies in Dorchester. The building would be located on Mount Vernon Street, next to the former site of the Bayside Expo Center, which is owned by UMass-Boston.