Over the past 10 years, while the Red Sox were busy garnering three World Series wins, Boston’s Fenway neighborhood went from a funky backwater — known mostly for a few big box institutions like the MFA and, of course, Fenway Park — to arguably the biggest contender to steal the Innovation District’s thunder as hottest up-and-coming neighborhood.
Faces of Fenway — a new photo campaign for which documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn captures images and video of Fenway residents and locales — debuted this past weekend, projecting some of Dunn's giant images across the walls of various neighborhood businesses. The accompanying promo video (watch at thefenway.com) pitches The Fenway as a neighborhood of young entrepreneurs and startups, avant-garde artists and street musicians, hip restaurants and, well, baseball. Apart from the baseball angle, it sounds a lot like the Innovation District’s hard sell of the last few years.
“We’re not competing,” says Geoff Kahl, regional portfolio manager of Samuels & Associates, which is behind the Faces of Fenway campaign. “The film highlights what already exists here. This is an old neighborhood with brownstones as well as brand new buildings. The film shows young residents and those who have lived here for 40 years. The Seaport is in development, but we already have grocery stores, and an established neighborhood with a lot of history.”
Over the next few years, The Fenway will gain thousands of new homes. Samuels & Associates boosted Fenway's transformation with two luxury apartment buildings, Trilogy and 1330 Boylston, which opened in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The Newbury Street-based company has three more mixed-use projects already on the cards: the Van Ness building (at Boylston and Van Ness), The Point (at the top of Boylston) and the redevelopment of the Landmark Center.
“We’re very comfortable with this amount of new development,” says Geoff Kahl. “We saw from Trilogy and 1330 that the demand was there, and we’re now seeing it’s gone way up.”
Another neighborhood landmark, the Howard Johnson Inn at 1271 Boylston, is set to close at the end of the year. Developers have been chomping at the bit to get at that space for some time and Steven Samuels, chairman and principal of Samuels and Associates, and Adam Weiner (Mandarin Oriental developer), have reportedly inked the deal. “We don’t know if that will be a hotel, or residences, or what yet,” says Kahl. Details should emerge in the new year but it seems safe to say that the loss of the old HoJo to make room for shiny new residential buildings is a telling sign of things to come.