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7 Boston-area neighborhoods everyone should be watching

Allston, Roxbury, Fort Point, and a handful of other enclaves are poised for particularly noticeable change in 2020

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Change will undoubtedly remain a constant in the Boston area in 2020, but some areas will change more than others due to new development, transit tweaks, and other alterations.

These seven neighborhoods—including five in Boston and one each in Cambridge and Somerville—are likeliest to see the most such change, for better or worse.


Allston

An aerial view of a large construction site, with one building up, and a city skyline in the background. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston officials green-lighted a flurry of a development in Allston toward the end of 2019. This included the six-building Allston Square, which is due to have 100 rental units and 244 condos as well as nearly 13,000 square feet of retail, and the four-building Allston Yards, which will have up to 868 condos and apartments as well as 350,000 square feet of office space.

Then there’s the Harvard-related development (some of which is pictured above). The school in December picked Manhattan-based real estate giant Tishman Speyer to oversee the development of a 14-acre parcel that could be just the tip of the Allston iceberg for Harvard.

East Boston

Aerial rendering of a development with several buildings by a coastline. The HYM Investment Group

East Boston entered 2020 as a microcosm of the larger regional building boom. The neighborhood has slapped on so much development during the past two years, much of it residential, that some locals have pushed for a development moratorium in the neighborhood.

That aside, the real reason to eye Eastie is the potential at Suffolk Downs. The 161-acre former racetrack could end up hosting thousands of homes as well as hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space—and right off the Blue Line (see rendering above). Much of the site lies in Eastie (the rest in Revere), and therefore has the potential to further transform the neighborhood. Key decisions on Suffolk Downs are coming in 2020.

Union Square

A biker going down a bike lane while a pedestrian walking two dogs walks behind him. Boston Globe via Getty Images

There is a direct connection between the Green Line stop that is expected to open in this Somerville enclave within the next 24 months and the pace of new development in the neighborhood. And there is another straight line from that new development to the ongoing debate about how Union Square should end up looking and feeling post-boom.

Chief among the development is a 15.7-acre project due to produce 2.4 million new square feet. The project—the master planning of which the city awarded to a Chicago-based developer—is expected to be 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential, with more than 3.5 acres of open space. It also includes a 175,000-square-foot lab building.

East Cambridge

People boarding a subway trolley. Boston Globe/Contributor

Speaking of new Green Line stops, Lechmere Station in East Cambridge is closing in the spring to make way for the T route’s extension through the neighborhood and into Somerville. It will reopen, bigger and better, across the street in early 2021.

Also, the 43-acre Cambridge Crossing, with its approximately 2,400 new housing units and its 100,000 square feet of retail, continues to unfold. And now the CambridgeSide mall appears ready for a major makeover that is supposed to include new housing.

Meanwhile, it’s worth keeping an eye on East Cambridge because it borders Kendall Square, the region’s undisputed tech capital. The former offers a more affordable residential option for workers in the latter.

Roxbury

Two people walking along a park hemmed in by a wrought-iron fence, and there’s snow on the ground. Boston Globe via Getty Images

One of the biggest projects in Boston proper could manifest itself this year in the neighborhood’’s recently renamed Nubian Square area: The city expects to launch another round of bidding for the 7.5-acre site know as Parcel P-3. The site was supposed to host a 1.2 million-square-foot mixed-use development called Tremont Crossing. But that fell apart in 2019 after years of financing troubles.

To give an idea of just how much development Parcel P-3 could host, Tremont Crossing was due to include 727 apartments as well as a new Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists as well as a BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Other development in Roxbury includes the pending move of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology from the South End to the 55,000-square-foot former site of the Harrison Supply Company, also in the Nubian area; and Northeastern University is eyeing a surface parking lot at 840 Columbus Avenue for a new dormitory.

At the same time as all of this, the city is working on a redesign of Blue Hill Avenue, which runs through Roxbury, in order to improve bus service, safety, and public space.

The South End

An aerial view of four new buildings amid an urban landscape that includes highways and a harbor. The Abbey Group

The pace of development-driven change in the South End, especially in the area toward where the Mass. Pike meets I-93, has been head-spinning since the Great Recession, adding millions of square feet of residential and commercial space and upending the streetscape and vibe of much of the neighborhood.

And it’s continuing with projects such as the Exchange South End, a 1.6 million-square-foot, four-building technology and life sciences hub carved from the recently demolished Boston Flower Exchange site; the three-building Smith apartment complex on East Dedham Street; and the 101-unit Quinn condo on Harrison Avenue.

Fort Point

Aerial view of an empty lot with trucks on it and other vehicles, and the lot is next to a harbor. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Two major developments are percolating in the slender Seaport neighbor. Construction could start this year on a life sciences campus of up to 650,000 square feet at much of the former would-be site of General Electric’s headquarters along Necco Street (the site is pictured above). GE, for its part, has started moving its headquarters to what’s left.

And several acres of parking lot that once belonged to Gillette parent Procter & Gamble is slated to become another life sciences hub of up to 400,000 square feet. That same development is also due to include similar amounts of housing and conventional office space. Both projects are also due to add privately owned public spaces.

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