Air Rights (writ-large) Thread

vanshnookenraggen

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That was a great little primer on why air-rights are so difficult to build. Even lavish tax subsidies aren't enough.
 

Matthew

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I liked the technical aspect but I think there's something not quite right about it, given that Gateway Center and Copley Place were both constructed over an operating turnpike. The thesis I found didn't seem to find the engineering challenges to be overwhelming, but it was more about the financial, legal and real estate aspect of air rights development.
 

FK4

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I wonder: and I'm sure people here know or can suppose better than me: what would be the cost of decking over more portions of the SW corridor between Mass Ave and Forest Hills? I find it disappointing that there doesn't seem to be any advocacy group or anything that calls for the state to make it a goal to cover up more of the tracks. It's especially disheartening seeing the Northeastern engineering/science building plans, with those skinny curved bridges that are touted as something daring that will really knit the neighborhoods together... but why dont they just deck the whole line? There's been none of that since they constructed it in the 70s... very disappointing.
 

The EGE

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The Southwest Corridor may be limited by air quality - if you've been in Back Bay at rush hour you'll understand that the old MBTA diesels aren't very clean. Too much decking, and you don't have the airflow to make the tunnels habitable.

That said, the new locomotives are EPA Tier 4 which means the air they put out is cleaner than the air they put in. They're headed mostly to the northside right now but as the T looks into buying more (and/or heads in the direction of dual-modes for some of the NEC-based lines) there's the possibility that air quality will be a nonissue.
 

FK4

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Could be, but then the whole segment through the south end is covered. Also, they don't necessarily need to deck over the entire line, I just wish that additional decking could be done over time to boost the amount of park space. I know it's expensive to construct buildings on air rights, but I'm just wondering about a park with some grass... That must be significantly cheaper.
 

bigeman312

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Could be, but then the whole segment through the south end is covered. Also, they don't necessarily need to deck over the entire line, I just wish that additional decking could be done over time to boost the amount of park space. I know it's expensive to construct buildings on air rights, but I'm just wondering about a park with some grass... That must be significantly cheaper.
Another way to look at it: it yields a significantly lower ROI.
 

FK4

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Another way to look at it: it yields a significantly lower ROI.
In this case, though, I'm not talking about investment - the city should make decking more parts of the sw corridor a priority, through public and private money, the latter obtained via development incentives in adjacent neighborhoods. IE, making Northeastern deck the segment east of Ruggles, or help pay for decking, as a carrot or stick to allow them to build new developments in the area.
 

JeffDowntown

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In this case, though, I'm not talking about investment - the city should make decking more parts of the sw corridor a priority, through public and private money, the latter obtained via development incentives in adjacent neighborhoods. IE, making Northeastern deck the segment east of Ruggles, or help pay for decking, as a carrot or stick to allow them to build new developments in the area.
If they cannot make decking over the Pike in Back Bay, South End, Fenway a reality, then it is hard to believe they can make decking over the Southwest Corridor a reality.

The Pike decking creates "land" that is far more valuable.
 

bigeman312

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In this case, though, I'm not talking about investment - the city should make decking more parts of the sw corridor a priority, through public and private money, the latter obtained via development incentives in adjacent neighborhoods. IE, making Northeastern deck the segment east of Ruggles, or help pay for decking, as a carrot or stick to allow them to build new developments in the area.
Yes are talking about investment. There is a limited amount of money, public or private, and spending that money is an opportunity cost and an investment. Building a deck for a high-rise development in a built-out, dense, expensive neighborhood would be a far better use of funds than building a deck for a park surrounded by under-developed parcels.
 

datadyne007

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Yes are talking about investment. There is a limited amount of money, public or private, and spending that money is an opportunity cost and an investment. Building a deck for a high-rise development in a built-out, dense, expensive neighborhood would be a far better use of funds than building a deck for a park surrounded by under-developed parcels.
We studied the SWC extensively in studio during my senior year of arch school. The idea we ended up concluding was that decking the SWC with a linear park could actually spur development on both sides and provide a really nice new neighborhood within a neighborhood. I absolutely believe there are benefits for decking the corridor. The parcels themselves wouldn't generate revenue, but the economic development they would spur would be invaluable. Right now, no one really wants to build anything along that area because of the giant trench that tears through the area. The key to activating the SWC is covering the trench, reconnecting the street grid, and encouraging development along it, rather than on top.
 

FK4

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We studied the SWC extensively in studio during my senior year of arch school. The idea we ended up concluding was that decking the SWC with a linear park could actually spur development on both sides and provide a really nice new neighborhood within a neighborhood. I absolutely believe there are benefits for decking the corridor. The parcels themselves wouldn't generate revenue, but the economic development they would spur would be invaluable. Right now, no one really wants to build anything along that area because of the giant trench that tears through the area. The key to activating the SWC is covering the trench, reconnecting the street grid, and encouraging development along it, rather than on top.
Right, especially from Jackson to Ruggles. The whole area is a wasteland, and the narrowest portion of the park. I just want to know, ballpark, how expensive it would be to create a new park the size of the one by the Boston Police HQ or by Stony Brook - the corridor is far more narrow than the Pike. Yes, it's an active rail corridor, but I honestly have no idea how much *some* more decking would cost.... for all I know, it might not be that much. Plus, in terms of investment, good luck making new parkland of any significant size anywhere else... they already blew it in the Seaport District.
 

Matthew

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If BPD HQ is anything to go by, decking won't help a bit. What a terrible location. BPD HQ is practically a reification of the "suburban mentality" embedded in our police force.
 

bigeman312

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We studied the SWC extensively in studio during my senior year of arch school. The idea we ended up concluding was that decking the SWC with a linear park could actually spur development on both sides and provide a really nice new neighborhood within a neighborhood. I absolutely believe there are benefits for decking the corridor. The parcels themselves wouldn't generate revenue, but the economic development they would spur would be invaluable. Right now, no one really wants to build anything along that area because of the giant trench that tears through the area. The key to activating the SWC is covering the trench, reconnecting the street grid, and encouraging development along it, rather than on top.
Awesome. I wasn't thinking broadly enough. I guess the effects of decking the trench on the surrounding parcels are a factor. With that being said, though, isn't the fact that nobody wants to build there because of the trench an indication that it isn't as high of a demand area to cover as, say, Chinatown/South End, where people are building in spite of the Mass Pike trench?
 

FK4

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Awesome. I wasn't thinking broadly enough. I guess the effects of decking the trench on the surrounding parcels are a factor. With that being said, though, isn't the fact that nobody wants to build there because of the trench an indication that it isn't as high of a demand area to cover as, say, Chinatown/South End, where people are building in spite of the Mass Pike trench?
True, but I think 1)next time Northeastern wants to build a tall building, it should at least be discussed that they contribute (at least) to a decking project by Melnea & Columbus.

Secondly, the area at Tremont/Columbus/Gurney/Station streets is one of the more vast swaths of undeveloped post urban renewal/i95 wreckage left... I think Wentworth owns some land is planning on relocating their field to that vicinity (a possible source of contributions) and also there are some parcels that are awaiting development. Mission Hill is heating up, it's right at a T stop, and it's close to LMA. So I think a persuasive case could be built to justify some decent housing in that area. What better way to sweeten the deal than having a nice park right in the middle of it?
 

datadyne007

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I was just watching this video from 1972. At 1:40 there is a shot from Top of the Hub of what would later become Copley Place. It's absolutely astounding that Copley Place was able to happen here. If Copley Place was possible here, then there's really no excuse for any future air rights development anywhere else. The transformation that CP brought to Huntington & Dartmouth is incredible, despite the fact that it's not quite as friendly at the street level as we'd like.
(Also of note: old Back Bay Station on Dartmouth)



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_SVoOwW4Yc
 

Matthew

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Well that answers a mystery that I've been pondering for about half a year: how the Prudential tunnel and the Huntington exit ramp are separated from the Framingham tracks.

P.S. the 70s were so fugly. yikes.
 

timsox6

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Yet another big South End development project got announced today and it made me think of how those four big air rights parcels (Parcels 20–23) are still sitting there in the South End, waiting for the day when they, too, will be redeveloped. Have there been any proposals, either historically or recently, regarding those sites? If not, do you think any is imminent or will we have to wait until every run-down and under-used lot in the South End is filled in before we turn our attention to those that require air rights?
 

FK4

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The OL side of Terrace Street is mostly undeveloped or underdeveloped land... I was wondering today if a project could ever done with public support to develop that side of the street from the few homes after cedar street and run all the way to the T station, and simultaneously deck over the tracks here. Any thoughts on this? Yes I know in some parts of the SWC the tracks aren't deep enough to simply put a roof on them but how doable would this be at this location?
 

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