Not one, but two major air-rights projects are taking shape over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston just a half mile apart, including the deck seen here that was recently completed for a project currently known as Parcel 12 and for the Fenway Center (not photographed) near Fenway Park. Photo courtesy Samuels & Associates
After a nearly four-decade drought, not one but two major air-rights projects are taking shape over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston.
National life sciences developer IQHQ and local development partner John Rosenthal are pushing ahead with plans for one of the largest life sciences campuses ever built in Boston.
Construction crews are driving home H-Piles and putting the infrastructure in place needed to raise the massive air-rights on which the $1 billion Fenway Center project will be built.
Crews are driving H-Piles and putting the infrastructure in place needed to raise the massive deck on which the $1 billion Fenway Center project will be built. Photo by Justin Nardella courtesy of IQHQ *Click on the image for greater detail
Meanwhile, just a half mile east down the Turnpike in the Back Bay, developer Samuels & Associates recently marked the completion of its own air-rights deck over the highway with a “bridging event.”
The deck, which includes 520 tons of steel, will now serve as centerpiece for a $700 million project known as Parcel 12 that will include two high-rises, one office, the other a hotel, with a central plaza and retail space in between.
“Any time you get an opportunity to work on a project that is this complex and has this many stakeholders, it is really a once in a career type of opportunity,” said Jeff Gouveia, EVP and general manager of Suffolk Northeast for Suffolk Construction, the general contractor on the Samuels project. “It is a one-of-a-kind project in a really dynamic environment.”
The Parcel 12 project features two high-rises. An office building that will be the new home for Cambridge-based CarGurus is taking shape on one side of the deck, while a Citizen M hotel is rising on the other side. Rendering courtesy Samuels & Associates *Click on the image for greater detail
While aimed at different parts of the real estate market, both big Boston air-rights projects share similar challenges when it comes to the construction of megaprojects over one of the busiest stretches of highway in New England.
Samuels’ newly minted air-rights deck stretches across eight Turnpike lanes, plus the commuter rail, while also abutting MBTA tracks.
Building the deck required a number of temporary lane closures in order to install pilons and do other foundation work, providing a short window of time in which to bring in materials and get work done, said Jonathan Elliott, vice president of construction at Samuels.
For example, when it came to building the deck’s frame, crews had to work within an extremely tight timeframe. Rolling roadblocks on the Turnpike provided construction crews with a 15-minute window to raise each beam off its flatbed truck, lower it into position, and then bolt it in place.
The Fenway Center’s deck over the Massachusetts Turnpike will support the weight of a two-tower, nearly 1 million sq ft life sciences campus. Rendering courtesy IQHQ *Click on the image for greater detail
The beams ranged in weight from 30,000 lb to as much as 65,000 lb, Elliott said.
As impressive as those numbers are, the highway deck will not have to bear the full load of the project, just a one-story retail building and plaza on the deck itself.
The Parcel 12 project features two high-rises. An office building that will be the new home for Cambridge-based CarGurus is taking shape on one side of the deck, while a Citizen M hotel is rising on the other side.
Both high-rises have foundations that are firmly one terra firma next to the highway, as well as on strips of land between the railroad and highway and within the highway median itself. The foundations of both towers go down to bedrock, according to the construction team.
To prevent vibrations from commuter rail and other trains running up through the office tower, polymeric bearings have been installed between the sandwich plates at the columns supporting the project.
Key subs working with Suffolk include Regis Steel and G&C Concrete.
Like the Samuels project, Fenway Center has required lane closures, which began in April with the shutdown of one lane on each direction of the highway. There are also additional late night lane closures as the foundation work continues, and which will continue as the deck itself begins to take shape next year, according to a press release issued by the developer.
Construction crews have installed H-piles and drilled mini-piles on either side of the Pike, with JF White, the general contractor, doing the H-Piles and utilities, while Phoenix Foundations drilled the mini piles.
Both H-Piles and mini-piles will soon be installed between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway itself, according to the development team.
The deck for Parcel 12 includes 520 tons of steel across eight Turnpike lanes, plus the commuter rail, while also abutting MBTA tracks. Photo courtesy Samuels & Associates *Click on the image for greater detail
Overall, the deck for Fenway Center, at a sprawling two acres, is a comparatively more extensive undertaking than the Parcel 12 deck Samuels recently completed over the Turnpike in the Back Bay.
The deck for the project will have to support the weight of a two-tower, nearly 1 million sq ft life sciences campus.
The deck will be made up of a 7-inch pre-cast slab topped by a 5-inch cast-in-place slab. The lab complex has been designed to not to exceed 8,000 micro inches per second, or half that experienced by a typical office building, said David Surette, a senior vice president at the national developer of lab and research space IQHQ.
The lower vibrations, in turn, are part of the larger pitch IQHQ will be making to prospective life sciences tenants. The campus is designed specifically to meet the industry’s needs, with plans to have key infrastructure in place, including air handling units, generators, as well as “designated space for tenant mechanical equipment, pH neutralization, RODI, or other functionality that will be required by tenants,” according to Surette.
Fenway Center’s deck has required lane closures, which began in April with the shutdown of one lane on each direction of the highway. There are also additional late night lane closures as the foundation work continues, and which will continue as the deck itself begins to take shape next year. Photo by Justin Nardella courtesy of IQHQ *Click on the image for greater detail
“Life sciences developers typically do a relatively cold shell,” Surette said. “We try make our buildings warm shells. It is going to be more ready to go, and they can get their scientists on the benches faster.”
Meanwhile, both projects have been years in the making, having had to slog through intensive state and city reviews while shifting to meet the demands of the market.
Rosenthal first proposed the Fenway Center air-rights project two decades ago, with hopes of reconnecting Fenway Park and Kenmore Square by decking over the Turnpike.
But the local developer struggled to nail down financing for the original proposal, which called for building an apartment tower on the deck over the highway.
Rosenthal was finally able get the project moving by teaming up with California-based IQHQ a couple years ago, switching the format to life sciences.
The sector is a hot one, with tens of millions of millions of square feet of new lab and research space in the works across the Boston area. In addition, life sciences companies also pay some of the highest rents around, with lab space more profitable than either offices or apartments.
Like Fenway Center, building the deck for Parcel 12 required a number of temporary lane closures in order to install pilons and do other foundation work. Photo courtesy Samuels & Associates *Click on the image for greater detail
That switch–and IQHQ’s commitment to pay the $200 million it will take to build the deck for Fenway Center–led to the start of work last year.
While the life sciences campus won’t open until 2025, it is already attracting interest from potential tenants in the nearby Longwood Medical Area as well.
“Fenway is a really hot market,” Surette said.
Samuels’ Parcel 12 project has also been in the making for a long time as well, with the project first proposed a decade ago.
Negotiations with neighborhood, city and state officials led to changes, including the decision to relocate an on-ramp to the Pike to improve the safety of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians along a hectic and dangerous stretch of Massachusetts Avenue.
“We are well into the steel erection,” said Abe Menzin, principal and executive vice president of development at Samuels & Associates. “Now that the deck is complete, the steel can go to the sky.”
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