Boston's Big Dig gets bigger

Current projects include high-rises and convention center

January 01, 2001 |

If you're looking for concentrated construction activity-either above or below ground-head for Boston.

The Central Artery/Tunnel project, popularly known as "The Big Dig," has no equal in the underground category. Half the length of this 7 1/2-mile, eight-to-10-lane roadway will be buried. The $14 billion project, which is vexing motorists because of frequent reroutings to accommodate construction, is projected for completion in late 2004.

Above-ground construction activity is more than holding its own. The most visible examples are several new high-rises that are currently under construction in the area.

Millennium Place consists of two 37-story towers across the street from each other that will be occupied this year. One is a steel-framed tower that will include a 19-screen theater and a Ritz-Carlton hotel, topped by residential condominiums. Its concrete-framed neighbor will house condominium apartments.

Architects for Millennium Place are New York City-based Gary Edward Handel+Associates and Boston-based Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc. (CBT). Bovis Lend Lease is construction manager. The $317 million development is helping to displace the adult book store environment of the former "combat zone." The façade, marquee and lobby of an adjacent 1930s movie theater also are being restored.

In the Back Bay area west of the Financial District, Boston Properties is developing a 36-story office tower, 111 Huntington, also designed by CBT. The project was originally designed for Prudential in the 1980s but abandoned when the real estate market plummeted. Boston Properties resurrected the project, partially because it had already received approvals. The project was subject to scrutiny by 22 agencies.

Also in the Back Bay, construction has begun on an 11-story office building designed by Somerville, Mass.-based architect Arrowstreet that is being constructed by Suffolk Construction Co.

In the Financial District, construction has begun on the 36-story One Lincoln Street, designed by Jung/Brannen Associates, with Beacon Skanska as construction manager. A likeness of the completed building is reproduced on a 90-ft.-by-50-ft. mesh banner that hangs from a neighboring building. As the 1-million-sq.-ft. tower rises, construction crews expect to move the banner to the steel skeleton and advance it upward as the framing moves higher.

New space is essentially leased

The office buildings under construction are essentially fully leased, according to Doug Hause, a broker with Spaulding & Slye/Collins. Asking rates for some class A space have been as high as $100 per square foot. Hause noted that the impact of scaling back by some high-tech firms had yet to be reflected. When that happens, he expects achieved rents to decline about 10 percent.

Elsewhere, major public projects continue. Construction is under way on the new $700 million Boston Convention Center. The first phase, totaling 600,000 square feet, is scheduled for completion in late 2003. A second phase of 400,000 square feet is anticipated. The architect is a joint venture of New York City-based Rafael Vinoly Architects and HNTB, which is based in Kansas City. The contractor is a joint venture of Clark Construction, Huber Hunt & Nichols and Berry Construction.

Features of the convention facility will include a roof that cantilevers 65 feet over an adjoining street, and an exposed structure expressed by clusters of three diagonal columns. The space can be divided into three individual halls by two movable walls.

At Logan International Airport, a $386 million terminal replacement for Delta Air Lines, designed by A/E Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum in St. Louis, is being constructed by a joint venture of Beacon Skanska and Atlanta-based Beers Inc.

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