For decades, Bulfinch Triangle has been a place Bostonians pass through on their way to somewhere else. The weekday tides of workers flowing in and out of North Station. The thousands surging into the streets for games at the Garden. Commuters riding on the old Central Artery or the elevated Green Line, before the Big Dig put them underground and opened Causeway Street to the sun.
But this formerly industrial section of the city is increasingly becoming the connective tissue between neighborhoods long split by roads and rails and streets at odd angles. Instead of a place to go through, it’s becoming a place to go to. And perhaps nothing symbolizes that shift quite like the supermarket that’s opening there Friday.
The new Star Market is two stories: a ground-floor convenience store with a Starbucks, and a subterranean shopping center. Nearby residents are practically giddy about having a place to buy their bread and milk.
“We’re thrilled; we haven’t had an affordable grocery store in the neighborhood for I don’t know how long,” said Jan Breschard Wilson, president of the West End Civic Association.
And the Star Market is just one piece of the enormous Hub on Causeway complex, a $1.1 billion development that rises above North Station, where the old Boston Garden once stood. Along with a roughly 60,000-square-foot expansion of TD Garden, the project boasts a 38-story apartment tower and an equally tall office building still under construction, a food hall, a movie theater, a European-style boutique hotel, a giant sports bar, and a 1,500-person concert venue complete with a taco and tequila joint headlined by the bleach-tipped-hair celebrity chef Guy Fieri.
Nearly all of it is set to open this fall and winter, promising to further transform this pocket of the city, an area that — beyond the 1995 opening of what was then the FleetCenter — was for decades largely overlooked. Amid the handsome brick buildings fronting on Causeway Street, the Hub almost feels like a giant spaceship that has landed in the neighborhood. The question on many people’s mind is: Does it come in peace?
Knitting all of this newness into a 19th-century neighborhood is a delicate task, said Bryan Koop, executive vice president at Boston Properties, the developer that partnered with the Garden’s owner, Delaware North, to build the complex. From architectural touches that play off of the adjacent facades to nods to the old Garden’s sports lore, the designers were careful to honor the site’s past, Koop said.
“For a lot of Bostonians, it’s really hallowed ground,” he said. “But it was also once an industrial neighborhood. Causeway Street was a dam. The Mill Pond was about commerce. We wanted to blend into that.”
Still, there’s no getting around the fact the Hub’s scope is enormous.
Two towers — they rank among the taller buildings constructed in Boston in recent years — rise from the base, which is itself a seven-story kaleidoscope of restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues. Thousands of people will live and work there. Thousands more will come for food and events and more.
No doubt, it will bring a jolt of energy to a neighborhood that’s quiet but for game or concert nights, said Kishore Varanasi, director of urban design at the architecture firm CBT, which moved to Canal Street almost 20 years ago.
“This has gone from a really difficult part of town to being something special,” he said. “You have this new high-end stuff, and you still have this gritty, historic architecture.”
Still, Varanasi said, there are things the neighborhood could use that the Hub on Causeway can’t provide, like space for parks.
And he worries that rising rents will push out small companies that have found a place in the old brick buildings of Bulfinch Triangle.
“How do they continue to survive here and provide the mix that makes this such an interesting place?” he said.
It’s a question the area’s established restaurants and sports bars, which have long relied on TD Garden crowds, are also asking.
Jim Taggart, general manager of the Fours, a sports bar, has watched the neighborhood evolve from a “really shady, dirty area” under the old elevated train line to one with modern luxury apartments.
But the proximity of wealthy neighbors hasn’t yet fattened his coffers, he said. “I know there’s an attempt to turn this back into a neighborhood, but that hasn’t happened,” Taggart said. For many new residents, he said, “neighborhood bars like this aren’t really their place.”
Taggart is optimistic the Hub on Causeway’s more everday amenities, such as the grocery store, will be “the things that make a neighborhood a neighborhood.”
He believes his regulars won’t defect, but he worries that hundreds of additional seats in new restaurants will eat away at his profits. Anticipating that competition, Taggart has been looking to bring in new revenue. There has been an uptick in DoorDash delivery orders, and the Fours will soon unveil new vegan options — including the popular Impossible Burger — in an effort to attract a younger crowd.
Chris Muller, a professor at the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration, said Taggart and other business owners in the area have reason to be concerned.
“There’s going to be a big sucking sound, and that’s going to be patrons moving across the street” into the Hub on Causeway, he said.
The combination of a massive entertainment complex and a major transit center means people won’t feel a need to leave those buildings, Muller said. He also believes the Hub on Causeway will affect commerce in other parts of the city.
“It’s going to take away from the Seaport,” Muller predicted. “You have an enormous amount of people traveling through North Station, and if the winter is really severe this could be the entertainment complex that takes over.”
Indeed, the North Station area — close by downtown, the North End and the West End, even Charlestown and East Cambridge — is situated to become a destination.
“The completion of the Big Dig [in 2007] completely unlocked so many opportunities,” said Kim Sherman Stamler, president of Related Beal, which built both the Lovejoy Wharf complex and the Beverly apartment building, not far from the Hub on Causeway. “There’s great infrastructure for continued growth.”
That’s what Charlie Jacobs sees, too. He’s the chief executive of Delaware North’s Boston holdings and the third generation of his family to run the Bruins and the Garden — the place is in his blood. Jacobs is old enough to remember when Causeway Street sat in “the shadow of the Green Line” and the Central Artery sealed it off from the North End.
He’s looking forward to Causeway being a street that helps knits the city together.
“We think people who live in communities all around us will come here,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
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Tim Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Janelle Nanos can be reached at email@example.com.