Newbury Street parking, apt to fetch millions, offers rare development opportunity
The longtime owners of the only surface parking lot in the heart of the Back Bay have put the property up for sale, a rare opportunity for new construction at a key spot on one of the city’s swankiest streets.
The parcel covers about one-third of an acre at the corner of Newbury and Dartmouth streets, a block from Copley Square and smack in the middle of the high-end shopping strip. The lot is probably worth tens of millions of dollars, real estate industry officials say, although it’s difficult to find a comparable site.
What gets built there would depend on the new owner and a neighborhood review process, but it’s a chance to build something unique that invigorates the blocks around it, said Meg Mainzer-Cohen, executive director of the Back Bay Association, a business group.
“I cannot think of another empty parcel like it,” she said. “It’s really an important opportunity for both a developer and for Newbury Street as a whole.”
The lot has been owned for generations by the same family, said Ben Sayles, a director at the real estate firm HFF, which is handling the sale. He expects the listing to draw wide interest from developers and investors.
A mix of uses — with “best of best” retail on the lower floors and condos, a hotel, or high-end office space above — would probably make sense, Sayles said. Any new building would have to be approved by the Back Bay Architectural Commission and win the typical city approvals.
Several Newbury Street buildings have upgraded their upper-floor office space or converted it to condominiums in recent years as the street has become more of a mixed-use destination. At the same time, retailers have faced challenges as other, perhaps hipper, corners of the city draw high-end stores, and brick-and-mortar retail in general struggles to cope with online competition.
That makes the chance to build something new and notable even more valuable, Mainzer-Cohen said. It could be a destination store that also drives traffic to its neighbors, she said.
“It can be modern,” she said. “Think about the Apple Store on Boylston. There’s an opportunity to do something very special, framed in historical context.”
Other high-profile properties on Newbury Street have changed hands lately. A major landlord, Urban Meritage, paid $26 million in 2017 to buy 7 Newbury St. Late last year, North Carolina-based Asana Partners bought 28 Back Bay buildings — most of them storefronts on Newbury Street — from the retail firm Jamestown. The price was just under $300 million total.
There also are major developments coming to either end of the street. The owners of the Taj hotel are getting ready to unveil plans for a makeover of the ground floor retail space at the hotel (previously the Ritz-Carlton) at the corner of Newbury and Arlington streets. And Samuels & Associates is proposing a $350 million mixed-use complex above the Massachusetts Turnpike at the corner with Massachusetts Avenue.
The sales process for the parking lot is just beginning, Sayles said. He hopes to have a buyer by summer. Once the deal goes through, the last parking lot on Newbury Street is likely to be no more.