Hynes Convention Center Sale and Redevelopment

There will be a public hearing on the legislation to authorize the sale and expansion plans on Monday, January 27, 2020 from 01:00 PM-04:00 PM in State House Room A-1.

On September 16, 2019 the Baker Administration announced plans to close and sell the Hynes Convention Center and to use the proceeds from the sale to expand the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) in South Boston. The administration asserts that shifting all business to a single, larger facility will be a net positive for the convention business. The sale of the Hynes would potentially open up 5.8 acres in the heart of Back Bay for redevelopment.

The conversation about expanding the BCEC dates back several years.  In 2014 the legislature voted to authorize the borrowing of $1 billion for expansion. In 2015, Governor Baker announced that his administration would not move ahead with that plan, suggesting that the idea of expansion needed more analysis. In March of 2018, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) Board approved a contract with Populous Architects to conduct a master plan study of the BCEC. The outcome of that process, is the new 2019 BCEC improvement and expansion plan, which was presented to the board on September 16, 2019.

According to the presentation, the Hynes needs $25-30 million in systems upgrades over the next two years, and $200 million in other capital needs over the next 10. The Hynes was constructed in 1963, and substantially renovated in 1988.  It operates roughly on par with similarly sized venues, it is actively used for events 44% of the time.  The presentation argues that the two-venue arrangement is inefficient, and in recent years the Hynes has operated at a loss. The presentation states that the sale of the Hynes would provide capital for the expansion and improvement of the BCEC.

On October 21, 2019, legislation was filed in the House and the Senate to authorize the sale and expansion plan. The bills were referred to the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.  A public hearing on these bills is scheduled for January 27, 2020.

In December, the MCCA announced that it had selected a broker, Colliers International, to market and sell the Hynes. There are 5.8 acres of land under the Hynes, which includes a significant amount of air rights development over the Massachusetts Turnpike.

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24 Comments

  1. I can’t make it to the public hearing, but thank you for holding discussion for this topic. Redevelopment in Boston seems to be synonymous with unaffordable, luxury housing, which we 100% do not need more of.

    I don’t have a solution for Hynes operating at a loss, or not being used to its fullest capacity, but conventions held in Back Bay versus the Seaport/South Boston, breaks up traffic and supports small businesses on Newbury Street and sales in the Prudential Center/Copley Place.

  2. I think this is a terrible idea! Businesses in the area rely on these conventions and you are just opening up to private development which will out price everyone in town. And you will never build something for the people, but for the wealthy and that is a crime. No Baker, you can’t have this. And your popularity has hit a bottom with your misogynist racist comment red congresswoman Presley. I get you think you aren’t in the wrong, but quick comments like that show truth in spontaneity.
    Good luck getting re elected.
    No republican can be trusted these days.
    Deborah Raptopoulos
    404 Beacon street. #2 Boston 02115

  3. The sale of the Hynes Convention Center should not take place. Various profit and non-profit organizations use the Center throughout the year for meetings and gatherings. The loss of the Hynes Convention Center as a meeting place in a conveniently located venue in the Back Bay would be socially and economically devastating to the nearby hotels and small and large business enterprises who rely on this venue for periodic events held at the Center for their business revenue. You will see more restaurant and retail closures and a loss of jobs with the diminished business resulting from the closure and sale of the Hynes. Also, what would be built there in its place? The City does not need anymore luxury condos or apartments to be used as investment tools or monetary shelters. Parties who host these events and attended these events have said they prefer the convenience of the Hynes with its walk-able proximity to transit and other amenities and very much dislike the monstrous inconvenient and out of the way location of the BCEC in South Boston. The Hynes should not be sold and should remain.

  4. I agree with Nicky that this redevelopment would have a negative impact on the small retail businesses on Newbury Street and the shops at the Prudential Center as well as the hotels in the area that are dependent on convention revenue.

  5. I completely agree with Nicky. We, the working professionals (but not excessively wealthy), are priced out of what has been our home for 15+ years. Surely shops and hotels in the area will be negatively impacted as well.

  6. I completely agree. We will be substituting supporting businesses with private development that will only make affordability in Boston more scarce.

  7. I am unable to attend the hearing. What seems to be lost in the conversation is the unique opportunity presented by maintaining a smaller convention venue in the Back Bay. Conferences, including the Boston Marathon gathering show visitors of Boston they would not see from the convention site which sits outside the heart of Boston. In addition, the Governor does not seem to be taking into consideration the lost revenue in the restaurant industry in the Back Bay area, but also the hotel industry. The move is a foolhardy giveaway to the BRE which has already proven itself to be a shill of the high-end real estate and construction industries. One also needs to ask whether our utility systems, parks and recreation areas, mass transit, highway systems etc. can even absorb the level of growth that is taking place in a sustainable manner?

    One must also look at the role the Mayor is playing in this deal. Does he view Hynes Auditorium as just another piece of property on the Monopoly board to be sold off to consolidate holdings of the real estate industry? The skyline of the Fenway and Back Bay have already been decimated by the reckless development strategies of the BRE, they should not be given the Hynes Auditorium.

  8. That is a very valuable property. Seems to me the state could be more creative in getting this property updated and utilized for various retail and financially beneficial ways, probably in partnership with a private concern.

    1. I am concerned that without continuation of the Hynes as a Convention Center it will adversely affect the business community. I agree with what the other residents have mentioned and want to reiterate that the State is being foolish in not supporting refurbishing this property to make it more vital for both the city and state. One concern I have is any renovation or expansion causing more shadows and blocking out light for the residents on Newbury Street and Commonwealth Avenue in that area of Back Bay. As some of us enjoy sitting out at cafes and restaurants in sunshine. In the winter the sun is critical for melting the snow and creating a pleasing ambience.

  9. I live close to the Hynes. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the hearing. Our neighborhood surely does not need more luxury, super-expensive housing. Surely, the Hynes can be used more creatively — creative art spaces? a school? a tourist center? music? Let’s try to be more creative and less “commercial”.. Let’s make this part of the city vibrant!
    Eleanor Jaffe

  10. After careful consideration, I believe the sale would prove to negatively affect the businesses and vitality of Back Bay on too great a scale; perhaps sliding that area and some of the neighboring businesses back into the depressed condition with which we were faced in the not so distant past.
    If we could depend on a partial development of this valuable real estate: the retention of a MIDSIZED conference center and some AFFORDABLE housing, a a small theatre or entertainment venue (among some others’ ideas), this would be optimal. Please consider constructive answers to this happy challenge. Make it an opportunity versus a fight; recognize the importance of neighborhoods, tradition and history. A teacher, I cannot attend the hearing; I wish you luck with our neighborhood message!

  11. I agree with all the previous comments. The “highest and best use” of this property is not for extremely expensive residential and investment property and I am not confident in the proponents motives (follow the money). I would like to hear from Kenzie Bok, our new District 8 Councilor, who has strong views on
    redevelopment.

  12. My 2 cents:

    The Hynes operating at only 44% occupancy and requiring $25-$35 million in the near future and some $300 million over the next 10 years makes no financial sense … unless perhaps the associated revenues to the neighboring businesses and their associated tax revenues are taken into account. I stress “perhaps”.

    The architectural profession points out that a repurposed building avoids the CO2 emissions inevitably associated with the extraction, transportation and construction associated with a new building. So perhaps repurposing the Hynes could make better sense than the opportunities associates with a sale. But a sale would bring with it new issues to consider.

    Opening up 5.8 acres of land for development seems a sound financial alternative, but two important questions arise. Perhaps both could be addressed by conditions attached to the sale:

    As Nicky has already pointed out (see first comment above), Boston does not need more high-end residential development. What the city needs is more affordable housing, and theses two could become part of the conditions of sale. For example, funds contributed by the new parcel’s developer could finance a city and state revision of planning, zoning and building codes which would be aimed at higher occupancy rates of unrelated persons in repurposed existing houses currently restricting the much-needed residential density of our cities and towns.
    The combination of this parcel with the now-defunct 1000 Boylston project would offer the opportunity to heal the open wound which the turnpike extension created in the urban fabric. However, such a large project will predictably attract high buildings, which will be vigorously opposed by NABB. Holding an auction for the Hynes parcel which is conditioned on meeting the current zoning and building restrictions of floor area ratios (FAR) and is conditioned on committing to a net zero energy project which excludes the use of any carbon-based energy supply (gas or oil) could make this a win-win idea for the state, the city and the neighboring residents.

  13. Hello Will and hello all,

    I have long had an idea and thought I would present it here. (I have already contacted Boston Lyric Opera as well as Mayor Walsh’s office presenting this suggestion). Boston Lyric Opera Company has been talking about a permanent home …. a real opera house, which Boston should have) for a very long time. It seems to me that the Hynes could be transformed into that opera house. The loading docks are present. The parking options are numerous. The access to public transportation are in place and the current venue could accommodate a reception hall, a cocktail bar (as in Symphony Hall) and so much more. While building an opera house from the ground up may be a huge financial burden, the cost of rehabilitating the Hynes could, perhaps, we feasible. Might this be something to at least present as an option?
    Thank you all for listening.

  14. Has anyone in the Baker administration reached out to the owners of the attached hotels for their feedback on the potential loss of future bottom-line revenue if the Hynes was gone? What about feedback from hotel general managers, sales/marketing leaders as well as the finance directors? Also, has anyone reached out to the annual or repeat groups that currently use the Hynes for their feedback? Boston Properties? I’m betting the Sheraton, Marriott, Westin, Back Bay Hilton and perhaps the Mandarin, to a much smaller degree, will see significant future revenue shortfalls. None of the hotels surrounding the Hynes have the ideal amount of space to accommodate mid-size exhibit show requirements nor a 2,000+ person general session, coupled with space for food and beverage functions. The thought that one size will fit all (BCEC) is not necessarily accurate as many groups that prefer the Hynes due to location and convenience won’t find the BCEC as a viable alternative and will opt to find another city to accommodate their business. Boston may lose more convention and meeting business than it will gain by simply increasing the size of the BCEC. Even when the Omni opens, the hotel package in the Seaport is not nearly as compact as it is with the Hynes “package”, coupled with all the retail options and general vitality of the Back Bay. While it appears that certain design changes at the Hynes could enhance the facility or portions of it can be re-purposed, I think it would be unfortunate in the long run for the Back Bay neighborhood to lose this meeting and exhibit facility.

  15. The Hynes Convention Center is next to hotels and shopping and therefore accrues benefits to local businesses, so it seems patently clear that the Hynes is important to the sustainability of such businesses. I have heard the same from businesses and restaurants in the area. There is recurring revenue generated from the effective functioning of the Hynes and in economic terms, a multiplier effect results from utilizing the Hynes facility in its current form. People, tourists and guests spend money on business and then those businesses spend money and so on. So, this is an economic argument that occurs from the recurring revenue and multiplier effect from operating the Hynes effectively.

    There is also a social benefit to the Hynes. It acts as a gathering place for the public. This is priceless. How might one ever replace such a space in the middle of the city? What is the value of this gathering area?

    There is the obvious question of how the Hynes is being marketed as an event space? Are adequate resources and talent being directed towards marketing the property to attract conventions and events? If the facility needs upgrading that is often the cost of doing business. How much of this work has been deferred?

    To sell the public realm for private benefit always concerns me.
    What is the case for maintaining such a property? Baker should make that case, too.

  16. Allow me to comment on your quote in The Boston Sun article, which appeared in the paper, Thursday, January 23, 2020. I enthusiastically support and share your concerns about the potential loss of the Hynes and the affect it will have on Back Bay businesses, specifically the attached hotels and retail operations not just within the Prudential Center complex but the entire Back Bay neighborhood.

    In my 25 year career in the hotel business, primarily at the Boston Marriott Copley Place (although now retired), I was responsible for promoting and selling the Hynes (as well as the BCEC) to associations based in the DC/MD/VA geographical territories as well as the national and local corporate community, which required large hotel blocks of rooms and extensive meeting space. In my sales role, selling the Back Bay hotel “package”, which included the Hynes as the site for exhibits and/or General Sessions that could not be accommodated at the connecting hotels, was often the linchpin to securing the business for Boston. For customers looking at Boston as a destination to hold their meeting or conventions, the Hynes /Sheraton/Marriott/Westin package (including the Back Bay Hilton and sometimes the Mandarin) is unbeatable. The primary advantage to a lot of groups was that everything could be accommodated under one roof. There was no need to provide shuttle service to/from the hotels and the Hynes. The tightness of the package was a major draw, as we competed with other cities on this business. Having Prudential Center and Copley Place malls with various restaurant and shopping options plus other amenities was a great advantage. I can tell you that both malls were VERY happy when convention attendees were in the building. The economic impact is hard to measure, but it is vital. This extends over to the businesses along Boylston and Newbury Streets and even into the South End and Fenway.

    The advantage Boston has is that currently, there are two options for conventions. The BCEC is obviously an important component for the larger conventions that require significantly more exhibit space than the Hynes could handle, but there are many mid-size groups and other associations that do not require as much but need the meeting rooms that the surrounding hotels provide within close access to one another. As quoted by Representative Jay Livingstone in a Boston Guardian article last year, “It seems like there would be a significant negative impact on the businesses, which impacts the residents as well”.

    When Jim Rooney was Executive Director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, he was more of a champion of embracing two centers because Boston had two options for groups that wanted to bring their business here. David Gibbons and the current MCCA board seem to be less enthusiastic. As much as the BCEC is a spectacular facility, it is not necessarily the best choice or fit for every group. The BCEC would turn away business because the “fit” was not ideal, but there was an alternative in the Hynes.

    I do think the Baker Administration is being a bit shortsighted in the decision to sell the Hynes without guaranteeing that some component of meeting and exhibit space remains. Boston is still short on venues that can accommodate large groups. Note that another popular venue for functions, Fidelity’s Commonwealth Hall at the World Trade Center, is also disappearing, leaving Boston with one less venue for various local and national groups to utilize. Tourism, coupled with the meeting and convention business that Boston enjoys is very important to the health of the city and the entire Commonwealth. I’m hoping you can continue to be a voice of saving the Hynes in part. It really would be a significant loss to the economy of the Back Bay.

    I would encourage you at some point reach out to the sales directors and general managers at the hotels, specifically those attached to the Hynes, and have them outline the potential loss of future revenue on the table. This translates into a vast amount of lost hotel tax revenue for the city.

    Convention centers by nature have “dark periods” whereby set-up and tear-down is taking place before and/or after a group comes and goes. There are times that the area around the BCEC looks like a ghost town. Not so much at the Hynes due to the location in the city.

    I sincerely hope that the Hynes in some form remains. If some type of structure can be built on top, so be it, but I think losing the facility would be detrimental to the surrounding area.

  17. Theres something truly repellent about a a quasi-public agency acting like a corporation picking up and leaving a small town, never mind the consequences. If the convention center leaves its current location, then 80% of the space should be devoted to affordable housing, a twenty-first century venue for the arts, and other uses that address the unmet needs of the city. Private development with its focus on luxury and needs of the very wealthy cannot be relied upon. As much as community members have appreciated the scrupulous way in which the city’s IDP is being applied currently, the benefits aren’t trickling down nearly fast enough.

  18. Thank you for holding this hearing. I’ll be out of town and won’t be able to attend. I completely agree with the comments of my neighbors; consolidation of convention facilities in the Seaport would detrimentally impact local businesses near the Hynes. This is an opportunity to rethink the marketing and utility of the Hynes, not replace it with another massive private development.

  19. This is a poor idea, to say the least. It will devestate the the local business. Make Boston less attractive for conventions because the Hynes is very convenient to shops, historic Boston and restaurants. The Seaport is cols, distant, inconvenoient and STERILE.
    Baker’s administration is trying to rescue the Seaport. It is unoopular to convention attendees because it is in the middle of nowhere.
    ‘Redevelopment’ will destroy the neighbourhood of Back Bay & Fenway. BAD, bad, bad

    1. I fully agree with the comments above. The Hynes plays a vital role in attracting foot traffic that supports restaurants and retail revenue in the Back Bay. Losing this asset will have a negative economic impact on the neighborhood and the city. The seaport area is a poor substitute for the vibrancy of Back Bay for convention goers looking for nearby restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options.

  20. I cannot attend this afternoon’s meeting and wanted to voice my agreement with those who have come out against this foolish and ill-conceived idea of Gov. Baker’s. If the Hynes is sold off to private interests and redeveloped as yet another overpriced condo building filled with absentee owners looking to park their money in the US, we will lose not only convention space but will also see a devastating impact on the commercial aspects of the neighborhood–hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. And this during the retail apocalypse. Do we want to see the Prudential and Copley malls looking like Newbury Street? Not to mention the long-term empty restaurant space on Boylston Street in the Mandarin building that went out of business several years ago, or the Turner Fisheries space in the Copley Mall that’s been vacant for years. I generally like Gov. Baker, but I think he’s totally wrong on this one, and I wonder how many Back Bay residents will vote against him in the next election if this recommendation is implemented. Not that that ever influenced a politician’s decisions.

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