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Best new Boston-area development of 2017? Vote!

Polls open 48 hours

It’s time to award annual superlatives for Boston-area neighborhoods, trends, design, and real estate.

And we’ll need your help: Which was the best new development either proposed, advanced, or approved (or all three) during the past 12 months? To get things started, we whittled down a cast of very deserving candidates to a final five.

Here they are. You pick the winner.

Back Bay Station towers

A group of tall buildings with a pedestrian plaza in the foreground. Rendering via Pelli Clarke Pelli/Boston Properties

↑ The Boston Planning and Development Agency in mid-November signed off on developer Boston Properties’ plans to build 1.26 million square feet of housing, offices, and retail over and around Back Bay Station.

The vote capped well over a year of wrangling over the project, in particular the shadows it would likely cast. One of its three new towers is expected to reach 364 feet.

Boston Properties reached a deal with opponents concerned about the shadows just before the November 16 vote. The developer will pay $3 million to opponents such as the Old South Church to mitigate the impact and a further $3 million to an affordable housing fund that Boston runs.

The project is envisioned as a kind of transformative gateway connecting Back Bay and the South End; and includes improvements to the station itself.

Dudley library branch renovation

Renderings via Utile

↑ Renovation work officially commenced in late October that is expected to transform the Boston Public Library’s 39-year-old Dudley branch in Roxbury from a kind of fortress-like concrete monolith into a more open, light-filled pavilion.

The $14.7 million, 27,000-square-foot project, which Boston-based Utile Architecture & Planning has designed, will feature glass walls and a new entrance overlooking a plaza.

The aim, according to Utile, is “to create a more welcoming, accessible, and contemporary library experience for the Dudley Square community.”

The branch is closed now until the spring of 2020 to accommodate the work.

M.I.T.’s Volpe Center redevelopment

An aerial view of a large park plaza with trees. There is a path adjacent to the plaza with people. There are building surrounding the park and path. Rendering via Elkus Manfredi

↑ The Cambridge City Council in late October approved M.I.T.’s petition to rezone the Volpe transportation hub that the university bought from the federal government for $750 million.

The Kendall Square location is considered one of the nation’s choicest development sites and M.I.T. is dreaming big there. Current plans, per the university, include:

  • approximately 1.7 million square feet of commercial space, including retail
  • around 1,400 housing units, representing 40 percent of the development and including 280 permanently subsidized affordable units and 20 middle-income units
  • a minimum of 5 percent innovation space for entrepreneurship and incubator activity
  • approximately 2.5 acres of open space on the M.I.T.-owned land, which is a minimum of 25 percent of the site (4 acres of the 14-acre site will include a revamped transportation center)
  • buildings as high as 500 feet, which would mean the site would host Cambridge’s tallest building

M.I.T. still needs the requisite permits to build so big on the Volpe site—but the City Council’s imprimatur means the school can build so big.

Cambridge Crossing

Rendering via DivcoWest

↑ Construction is underway on this 4.5 million-square-foot development within the 45-acre NorthPoint site where Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston converge.

San Francisco-based developer DivcoWest—which bought the acreage, the largest buildable parcel in Cambridge, in 2015—officially broke ground on a 430,000-square-foot science-and-tech hub there in late October. (The developer is billing the project as a direct competitor of an increasingly expensive Kendall Square.)

When it’s all built out, what DivcoWest this fall dubbed Cambridge Crossing—or CX for short—will include 2.1 million square feet of tech and office space in five buildings and as many as 2,400 condos and apartments (as well as 2,500 residences already in the footprint).

There will also be 11 acres of open space, and the project will be near the relocated Lechmere stop that’s part of the Green Line extension.

The plans are currently moving through the approval processes in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston, so a definitive timeline is not yet set.

Exchange South End

An aerial view of Exchange South End in Boston. There is a wide street flanked by various buildings. Rendering via the Abbey Group

↑ Developer the Abbey Group in late September filed formal plans to redevelop the 5.6-acre former site of the Boston Flower Exchange off Albany Street in the South End.

The Abbey Group bought the site in 2016, and wants to start construction in fall 2018. It’s been dubbed Exchange South End and, among other aspects, would include:

  • nearly 1.6 million square feet and four new buildings
  • 1,481,350 square feet of commercial, technology, and life science research space
  • 42,500 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • 30,000 square feet of civic and business-incubator space
  • a 30,000-square-foot, publicly accessible park.

The project is under review. Stay tuned.


Which should win development of the year?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Back Bay Station towers by Boston Properties
    (118 votes)
  • 38%
    Dudley branch by the Boston Public Library
    (219 votes)
  • 20%
    Volpe Center redevelopment by M.I.T.
    (118 votes)
  • 6%
    Cambridge Crossing by DivcoWest
    (35 votes)
  • 14%
    Exchange South End by the Abbey Group
    (81 votes)
571 votes total Vote Now