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Fenway Park area project eyes $4 million tax break

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BOSTON (AP) — The City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a proposed tax deal for an ambitious $550 million housing, office and retail complex envisioned for land across from Fenway Park and partly over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Meredith Management proposes four mixed-use residential and retail buildings and a parking garage covering 4.5 acres around the Yawkey Commuter Rail Station that the Newton-based company recently renovated for the MBTA.

The Fenway Center project would be located directly across from the Boston Red Sox's storied ballpark and straddle one of the state's primary jobs centers, the nearby Longwood Medical area, home to Harvard Medical School and some of New England's major hospitals.

Meredith Management President John Rosenthal, among a handful of people who testified at City Hall on Monday, said the project would be the first built in Boston over the eight-lane Massachusetts Turnpike since the Copley Place shopping mall in the 1980s. He said it's a costly and complicated endeavor that requires building a roughly $40 million deck over the turnpike to support a parking garage and other structures.

The company is seeking roughly $4.6 million in property tax savings over six years. Rosenthal said the project would generate about 1,800 construction jobs, 126 permanent jobs and more than $5 million in annual property taxes.

The proposed tax deal, already endorsed by Mayor Martin Walsh and the city's redevelopment agency, also requires state approval.

It calls for a three-year property tax exemption, starting in the 2016 budget year. The developer would then pay an increasing share of property taxes until it reaches full tax payment in fiscal 2022. The project also will pay the state $226 million over 99 years to lease land it owns in the 4.5-acre site.

Labor unions representing carpenters and other building trades strongly endorsed the project on Monday. But some area residents questioned whether the tax deal was necessary.

"Simple common sense tells you that claiming that a project that will generate over $3 billion in profits lives or dies at the hands of a $4.6 million tax break is ludicrous on its face," Steve Wintermeier said.

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