Fenway Center phase-one rendering

First phase of Fenway Center takes shape

In addition to Fenway Park, the Citgo sign, and other landmarks, motorists driving along the Mass Pike near Kenmore Square have a new sight to behold: the Fenway Center. Perched alongside the interstate, it’s pretty hard to miss the 15- and 9-story towers that began to go vertical in early 2019. But the buildings only represent the first phase of the proposed $600 million multi-use complex. If the developers can secure air rights and funding, a second phase would include an additional three buildings to be constructed on a deck that would span across the turnpike.

“It’s an enormous project that would transform the neighborhood,” says Barry Keady, Local 12 business agent. “We are potentially looking at six to eight years of work for our members.”

The two towers now under construction will include 312 apartments, including some affordable units. There will also be street-level retail shops and two below-grade garage floors with 200 parking spaces. The site used to occupy surface parking lots.

“It’s an interesting location,” says Barry Gehron, chief engineer for the project’s phase-one general contractor, John Moriarty & Associates. “We are directly adjacent to a train station,” he says referring to the new Yawkey Commuter Rail Station. Part of the development included construction of a deck and a pedestrian walkway over the station. With the MBTA’s Kenmore Square and Fenway stations just around the corner, Fenway Center is the epitome of smart growth, transit-oriented development.

“Also, you’ve got Boston University, the hospitals, and of course, Fenway Park on our doorstep,” Gehron adds. “There’s a lot going on around here.”

GBPCA member J.C. Cannistraro had 31 Local 12 plumbers on site at the project earlier in the summer. According to Brian Curley, plumbing foreman for the job, the contractor expects to have around 45 mechanics at its height.

Fenway Center job site

Barry Keady, Local 12 business agent, and Brian Curley, plumbing foreman for J.C. Cannistraro, at the Fenway Center job site.

As with many construction projects in the city, Curley says there is virtually no yard for contractors to unload or store supplies. But Fenway Center may be more challenging than most job sites for deliveries. There is a constant flow of commuters at the train station, and the area has a steady stream of pedestrians in general. And then there is the Red Sox.

“Day games, especially ones due to last minute schedule changes, can be extremely challenging,” says Curley as he points to the baseball schedule that is prominently tacked onto the board next to his desk. “We can’t walk, never mind drive to make deliveries. And parking can be especially tough for workers here when the Sox are playing.

Of course, the project is called Fenway Center, so the popular park kind of comes with the territory. Curley, who says that coordinating deliveries is a big part of his job, has learned to work around the Sox schedule.

It’s interesting to note not only how Cannistraro makes deliveries, but also what is being delivered to the site. The contractor recently retrofitted an old machine shop in the Seaport District and created a 157,000-square-foot fabrication shop it calls The FID. As is standard for most large construction projects, Cannistraro is fabricating many of the piping units and other systems in advance and then delivering them to the job site when they are needed. But not everything is coming from The FID.

“Prefab may not be the best solution for every job, every time,” explains Curley, challenging the industries’ new “norm.” In some cases, due to site logistics and schedule limitations, he is going the conventional route,having pipe and fittings delivered by a supply house directly to the Fenway Center. His crew then does what is known as “stick building,” or building the systems in-place onsite. Instead of taking the stock, building it, packaging it, scheduling it for transport, and delivering it to the site, as is the case with prefabrication, Curley says he only has to handle the material once when his crew builds systems.

The ceiling of the second floor of the podium, which connects the two towers, contains a gaggle of overhead piping—3,200 feet of it according to Curley. From there, it’s a straight shot up to the apartment units. The project includes four large storm water retention tanks.

Among the buildings’ amenities will be a rooftop pool with cabanas. There will also be a dog walking area on the roof with drains underneath as well as a dog washing station on the second floor of one of the towers.

“They are doing a great job,” Gehron says of Cannistraro. “It’s always a teamwork effort,” he adds, noting that the contractor is handling fire protection, HVAC, and sheet metal for the project as well as plumbing. By combining all of the trades under one roof, it’s easier for Moriarty, the general contractor, to communicate and coordinate the project with Cannistraro. “We’re happy to be partnered with them,” says Gehron.

Should the second phase proceed, plans call for a 27-story tower that would include additional apartments along with office space. There would also be a seven-story residential building and a seven-story parking garage. As envisioned, the entire project would yield a total of 550 residential units, 170,000 square feet for offices, 90,000 square feet of retail space, and 1,290 parking spaces. It would also include 30,000 square feet of parks and green spaces.

“We certainly hope the Fenway Center continues to move forward,” Local 12’s Keady says. “With all of the activity taking place in the city and beyond, it’s an exciting time for the region’s construction industry. And this is one of the premier projects.”

According to the Fenway Center’s phased occupancy plan, one of the towers will open at the end of January 2020. Construction will continue on the second tower, which will add to the egress and other challenges that Cannistraro and the other trades on site will face. The lower half of the second tower will open in April followed by the entire building’s opening in May.