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Back Bay’s 1000 Boylston Street a no-go over the Massachusetts Turnpike

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Developer abandons plans for that rarest of Boston real estate feats: a tower over the busy, busy Pike

A rendering of a tower over the Mass. Pike. Rendering via Weiner Ventures

Boston-based developer Weiner Ventures has nixed plans to build a tower over the Massachusetts Turnpike where Massachusetts Avenue meets Boylston Street.

The developer had originally proposed building two buildings at what it called 1000 Boylston Street using air rights over the interstate. One would have been 566 feet and 39 stories, the other 283 feet and 24 stories.

Weiner scaled back those plans, however, and the Boston Planning and Development Agency in March 2018 approved a proposal for one of those towers: a 484-footer stretching 27 floors and including 108 condos atop two floors of retail and restaurant space as well as two levels of parking.

It would have represented a rare real estate feat in Boston—building over the Mass. Pike. Such a move presents logistical and financial headaches the likes of which even other larger-scale projects rarely encounter. Alas, the challenges proved too much for Weiner, which on August 16 announced it was no longer working on the 1000 Boylston plan—though the air rights dream shall never die apparently.

“A combination of factors led us to this decision,” Weiner said in a statement that the Boston Business Journal published. “While disappointing to have to make such a decision, we believe it is the correct one, and still paves the way for other future air rights projects to come to fruition.”

There hasn’t been a major air rights project over the Mass. Pike since the completion of Copley Place in the early 1980s. Though, a day before Weiner announced the end of 1000 Boylston in its present form, developer Samuel & Associates received BPDA approval for an air-rights tower over the Pike where Newbury and Boylston streets meet.

That project would include about 325,000 square feet of office space, 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 150,000 square feet of residential or hotel uses. Samuels & Associates hopes to start construction in 2020.

Boston certainly needs the housing in particular (and the office space too); and there are not too many places left in the city to build on a large scale. Besides, there’s precedent where Samuels & Associates plans to build and where Weiner wanted to. The so-called High Spine—that run of tall, spindly buildings that roughly follows the Pike—was born of a plan hatched in the early 1960s to add some bulk to the city’s real estate offerings.

Nevertheless, the logistical and financial challenges of today—especially should a recession hit soon rather than later—remain. Stay tuned.