MORE THAN GARDEN VARIETY
Rising in the footprint of Boston’s famed old arena, the Hub on Causeway will bring dining and entertainment to TD Garden’s new front door.
by Don Muret
TD Garden has seen a lot since its doors opened in 1995. The NHL’s Boston Bruins and NBA’s Celtics have each had a championship team. The big touring acts have visited, as well as the NCAA basketball tournament and Frozen Four, Wrestlemania and the Democratic National Convention.
But the Garden stands in a tight footprint within a foot of the historic Boston Garden site, atop North Station, a major transit hub. So for all it has to offer, it has never had a true front door.
It’s about to get that, and lots, lots more.
For now, TD Garden is engulfed in a construction zone, but the Hub on Causeway, a $1 billion mixed-use project in a partnership between Delaware North, owner of TD Garden and the Bruins, and Boston Properties, is taking shape, straddling the Boston arena. It’s transforming hallowed ground where the old Garden stood into a multitower complex filled with live entertainment, retail shops and restaurants, plus offices, apartments and a high-tech hotel.
The development falls in line with what many teams are doing these days: adding mixed-use elements to extend their reach outside the venue walls to generate revenue 365 days a year.
“It’s a phenomenon that’s changing quite a bit,” said Charlie Jacobs, CEO for Delaware North’s Boston Holdings, and the youngest of three sons who along their father, Chairman Jeremy Jacobs, run the family business out of Buffalo, N.Y. “The tribal atmosphere of not necessarily being inside the park but just being there, that’s what we’re trying to re-create here at the Garden.”
Two years after breaking ground, the first pieces of the massive development will open this fall, most notably a new main entrance for the home of the Bruins and Celtics, which thrills TD Garden President Amy Latimer (see story, page 14).
The grand entry, a 10,000-square-foot glass enclosure off Causeway Street, is scheduled to open in October. In addition, 530 new parking spaces will open in the North Station garage underground, plus a new tunnel connecting commuter retail space to the North Station subway stop. But that’s only the beginning.
The sexy stuff opens in late 2019, starting with Star Market grocery, plus a 15-screen movie complex, a small concert venue, and a steakhouse and a three-story sports bar, both run by Patina Restaurant Group. The Delaware North subsidiary operates Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse next to Madison Square Garden among its many properties. Separately, Rapid7, a software security firm, will take up about 150,000 square feet of new office space in relocating its headquarters from Cambridge, Mass.
The Hub’s second phase, to open over the next two years, covers the 272-room CitizenM hotel and a 38-story residential tower. The third phase, for which there is no timeline at this point, features an office tower with 600,000 square feet of leasable space.
The project has been 15 years in the making for Delaware North, which also owns concessionaire Sportservice. Over time, the development went through many iterations. Delaware North talked to several developers and even tried to take on the project itself, Jacobs said. But although the firm spends millions annually in construction at ballparks, airports and national parks, real estate development is not its core business, Jacobs said.
Ultimately, Delaware North found a strong local partner in Boston Properties, a real estate developer specializing in sustainability whose portfolio covers Atlantic Wharf, Boston’s first green skyscraper, and multiple LEED Gold office buildings among its large-scale commercial projects in town.
“Sustainability is what drives us as a company,” said Bryan Koop, Boston Properties’ executive vice president of the Boston region. “There’s nothing more sustainable than developing and putting density on top of a transportation hub.”
For Boston Properties, the Hub on Causeway stands out for its many destinations, as well as the site itself, which holds lasting memories for Bruins and Celtics fans and the multiple championships those teams won at old Boston Garden over its 67-year history.
Fenway Park aside, “to Bostonians, there’s nothing more important than this site in terms of sports,” Koop said.
Apart from the arena, North Station is the cog for the entire development with its subway system, regional bus station and railroad lines, and it is what drove Boston Properties to the location. The developer’s clients told Koop that without North Station, it would be difficult for them to recruit talent to work at the Hub, especially on the tech side.
“You can’t draw somebody to a location that you can’t get them to,” Koop said. “You’ve got to have it … which certainly mass transit does like nothing else.”
The neighborhood was also key. Boston Properties does a lot of business with firms searching for real estate tied to the “TAMI” sector, which refers to technology, advertising, media and information. In the developer’s discussions with those companies, neighborhoods such as New York’s Meatpacking District, situated on Manhattan’s far west side, came up as examples of where young professionals preferred to live and work.
“They would always bring up authenticity,” Koop said. “The neighborhoods weren’t sterile or master-planned and generic, like other sectors of the city. They wanted an area with a history of rich architecture. When I’d go visit with them about what they did at Meatpacking, it had a real cool vibe to it, that combination of the old with the opportunity of a new vision.”
In Boston, the neighborhood surrounding TD Garden has evolved over the past five years with new office space and apartment buildings, including one 286-unit complex across the street from the arena. Across Interstate 93, facing the arena’s east side, Converse opened its new global headquarters in 2015 as part of the Lovejoy Wharf project in the city’s North End district. In a few years, the Hub on Causeway will make the area even more dynamic, Jacobs said.
“It’s going to be a drastic change,” he said. “Where we’re located in the city, it’s not necessarily the North End or the West End. We’re combining the two communities together here.”
Apart from the trendy neighborhoods, the developer researched sports-related projects such as L.A. Live, Real Sports in Toronto and, in St. Louis, Ballpark Village across the street from Busch Stadium, where Sportservice runs the Cardinal Nation restaurant.
On his own, Koop studied the $164-million renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium, where he played football for Texas Christian University in the 1970s. As an alum, he toured the project, which was completed in 2012. He was struck by the way the Big 12 Conference school and architect HKS told the story of TCU’s history and culture through graphic displays and other design elements tied to the art-deco style architecture of the stadium and on campus.
“I pulled as much from TCU and the stadium as I did from the other places,” Koop said. “I loved the curation of the place, the almost tribal markings, the emblems … things like that.”
In Boston, the developer adapted the theme for branding the entrances to the Hub on Causeway. The podium, for example, the ground floor of the development with the restaurants and movie theater, will showcase the same light-colored brick that made up the exterior of Boston Garden, as well as its vertical lines and windows incorporated into the new structure. Brick pavers leading to the new front door of TD Garden will be designed to match features of the old arena such as the outline of the old ice floor and basketball’s foul lines.
“It’s the footprint of the old Boston Garden as it would be in that exact location,” Koop said. “We’re very focused on telling the story of Boston Garden, because it’s really important to the Jacobs family and Delaware North.”
Just as important are key anchors for the development, such as Star Market, a 103-year-old Boston brand. At 60,000 square feet, it will be the city’s biggest grocery, accessible to 50,000 daily commuters as well as the neighborhood. It’s desperately needed in a part of the city that’s gone for many years without a supermarket, Latimer said.
“Star Market is as synonymous with groceries in Boston as Dunkin’ Donuts is with coffee,” Koop said. “To have them at this location is phenomenal because we essentially had a food desert with something like 60,000 people that didn’t have access to a grocery store.”
The 1,500-capacity concert venue is a joint venture between Live Nation and Big Night Entertainment Group, a local firm that runs a dozen nightclubs in Greater Boston and Connecticut and whose investors include Red Sox owner Tom Werner. Big Night will run the facility. Live Nation will book the shows.
It’s similar to Live Nation’s role at the Coca-Cola Roxy, a theater at the Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development next to SunTrust Park. The ballpark, home of Major League Baseball’s Braves, and the development opened in 2017.
In the next two years, CitizenM, a Dutch brand, will open its first Boston hotel at the Hub, following two locations in New York, including Times Square. The hotel operates as a self-serve setup where guests use tablets to check in and control their room experience to set the temperature, lighting and wakeup calls.
Boston Properties officials thought CitizenM was the perfect match for the Hub because it’s not a “finicky brand,” Koop said. The company does continuous market checks to provide the lowest rate locally, and its focus is on providing a good night’s sleep, he said. CitizenM doesn’t typically have restaurants in its buildings, so there won’t be competition with Patina and other Hub eateries, which is one reason the developer signed a 99-year lease with the hotel chain.
“They really invented the micro-hotel concept in Europe and were the first to come up with it,” Koop said.
Five years from now, after the hotel opens, the Hub on Causeway will have put its stamp on TD Garden as a year-round destination, project officials said.
“It already had a little bit of a seed … but now, it’s really going to be the live entertainment neighborhood,” Koop said.