ULI Boston/New England Blog

The New Gateway to Boston’s Historic Downtown

For perhaps the first time since wrecking balls demolished the tenements and shops of Boston’s West End, the neighborhood is again teeming with a renewed sense of energy. Cranes, trains and constant foot traffic define a newly reimagined gateway neighborhood at the intersection of the North End, West End, and Bulfinch Triangle.

By 2020, the addition of more than two and a half million square feet of new development promises to reshape the neighborhood with the inclusion of retail, office and hospitality developments. It will also include market-rate and middle-class housing, which will contribute to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s goal of creating 56,000 new units by 2030. Growth has been so explosive that the city is developing a North Station Area Mobility Action Plan to account for the thousands of commuters, residents, visitors and arena-goers that ebb and flow in and out of the area daily.

Recently ULI Boston/New England’s Young Leaders Group conducted a walking tour of the neighborhood to learn how the new mix of residential, retail and lifestyle developments is making the West End a highly desirable place to work, live and play. Here are some of the sites toured:

Avalon North Station, a development of AvalonBay Communities, forms a notable addition to Boston’s evolving skyline as the city’s newest, tallest and largest apartment tower. Standing at 38 stories, the building has 503 luxury apartment residences with studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom configurations. Along with its soon-to-be- constructed neighbors, this mixed-use residential development creates a new gateway into the city when approaching from the Cambridge and Charleston across the Zakim Bridge.

The HUB on Causeway, a development from Delaware North and Boston Properties, is a multi-phased project at the site of the old Boston Garden. Three towers will rise from a podium and feature premium entertainment venues, retail, dining, loft-style office space, hotels and residences. A multi-story steel and glass atrium, reminiscent of the West End’s original railway stations, will form the project’s central hub. It will provide a new public connection between the city and the neighborhood – complete with an improved, continuous pedestrian experience along Causeway St. and a new entrance to the TD Garden.

Bulfinch Crossing, a development from HYM Investment Management. This 2.9-million-square-foot, multi-phased development will replace the existing behemoth that is the Government Center Garage with a pedestrian-friendly streetscape, a public plaza and six mixed-use buildings on two blocks, all spread across approximately 4.8 acres. Bulfinch Crossing will create six new high- and mid-rise buildings that contain over 1 million square feet of office space and 800 residential units. The development’s website also notes plans for a net zero energy public square.

Lovejoy Wharf, from Related Beal, has undergone a transformative redevelopment with the new Converse headquarters and Lovejoy Wharf Condos, which replaced the broken-down and long-abandoned waterfront structure. Its modest – yet substantial – counterpart, The Beverly, will be the first 100 percent affordable and workforce housing development built in downtown Boston in over 25 years, and will feature 239 mixed-income apartment residences, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and ground-floor retail.

One Canal, a newly opened mixed-use residential building from Trinity Financial, features 310 rental apartments, including 20 affordable units, and approximately 21,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

As part of its North Station Area Mobility Action Plan, the city is collaborating with eight private partners, including each of the property owners/developers who were a part of this tour, to advance multimodal transportation improvements in the North Station area.

The West End has historically been a neighborhood of change. Its re-emergence as a highly desirable community is a terrific example of inclusionary thinking, thoughtful planning and financial commitment. Now it’s time for its future residents and workers to enjoy the benefits that this great urban space will surely provide.


Alexandra Phillips is a project manager in Stantec’s Real Estate Services Group and co-chair of ULI Boston/ New England’s Young Leaders Group.


Chloe Louise Bouscaren is a marketing manager at global architecture and design firm NBBJ and a ULI member.


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