Fallon Co. teams up with two black-owned companies to redevelop key Wentworth lots
Wentworth Institute of Technology trades lacrosse balls for labs and soccer goals for centrifuges, with an ambitious plan to build a life sciences complex on the site of its main athletic field along Huntington Avenue.
The project’s development team, known as the Huntington Development Group, submitted detailed plans for the 640,000-square-foot, two-building complex to the Boston Planning & Development Agency on Monday. The $1 billion development, known as 500 Huntington, will include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and up to 410 underground parking spaces.
For Wentworth, it is the first piece of the 80-plus acre university campus to be made available for commercial development through a long-term leasehold. For Huntington, a group in which black companies own half the equity, the deal could be a jumping-off point for more work in a city where diversity is an increasingly important factor in development and permits. And for the Longwood area, the project represents an opportunity to revitalize a windswept section of Huntington Avenue across from the Museum of Fine Arts that is currently shielded from the public.
The Huntington development partnership consists of The Fallon Co., a developer best known for its work on building the Seaport’s Fan Pier; Owens Companies, a commercial moving company and one of the oldest black-owned businesses in New England; and Waldwin Development, led by prominent black businessman and Dunkin franchisee Clayton Turnbull.
“There’s a lot at stake, and it’s not just about money,” Turnbull said. “It’s going to be a great thing for the city and the neighborhoods.”
The 500 Huntington project is designed to be roughly the same size as an office complex approved for the site about a decade ago. Those plans eventually fell through, but Wentworth President Mark Thompson said he revived the idea of developing the field when he became president in 2019 after quickly realizing it wasn’t the best use of the high-profile three acres given its location The large campus was a busy thoroughfare off the Green Line and a short walk from the heart of Longwood’s medical and academic districts. Wentworth plans to relocate the softball, lacrosse and soccer sports facilities to a different location on nearby Parker Street to be built over a new single-story parking garage.
Thompson offered the Huntington Avenue property, and four development teams competed for the price. Almost a year ago, the college chose the Huntington Development Partnership. It’s the first time Fallon, Owens and Waldwin have won a deal in town together, although Fallon had already teamed up with Owens on a lab project in Charlestown. Fallon’s connections with Wentworth were helpful – chairman Joe Fallon received his bachelor’s degree there, and chief executive Michael Fallon received a master’s degree in construction management from the school. Thompson was also impressed with the diversity of the development team and its connections to the community.
“They were most explicit in terms of understanding the importance we place on diversity, equity and inclusion… not just in the partnership itself, but in the [other] Companies that will be involved in design and development,” Thompson said. “I’m just really excited to have partners who will create what I believe will be a state-of-the-art facility. …I am very excited about the value it will bring to our students and also to the community.”
Huntington Development’s partners said their relationship has grown organically, through long-standing friendships, as opposed to a group that simply came together to capitalize on the increased emphasis on diversity in Boston’s development sector. Examples include the “masport model,” which rewards various teams bidding for public land; Harvard’s diversity priorities for its Allston development; and the BPDA’s recent decision to require diversity and inclusion plans for all major developments. “Our business is built on relationships,” said Ed Owens Jr., president of the Owens Cos. “It just so happened that diversity emerged from it.”
Turnbull added that the shift in mindset at Boston should help Huntington Development seek permits for this and other projects. “We know…this is a model that others would like to have,” Turnbull said.
The three partners are aware of industry concerns about a spate of laboratory construction in Boston. But Michael Fallon said he’s not concerned, in part because of the property’s prime location on a T-line near Longwood’s cluster of research hospitals and other academic institutions.
And they hope 500 Huntington’s is just the beginning of a long-term relationship.
“I’d be very surprised if we didn’t announce another project in the next year or two,” said Michael Fallon. “If you work with institutions [like Wentworth]that’s a great pedigree.”
Jon Chesto can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.