The cost of the station is a relatively small piece of the $500 million, 15-acre real estate development planned by NB Development Corporation, a real estate company owned by New Balance. But the partnership between the company and the state, whose transportation officials supervised and approved the design of the station, is significant.
New Balance has its roots in the Boston area. As the company grew from six people making 30 pairs of shoes a day to the 5,000 it now employs globally, it expanded into real estate, said Matt LeBretton, a company spokesman.
The company is outgrowing its current headquarters, and is nearly finished with the first big piece of its Boston Landing project: a new, 225,000-square-foot building that slightly resembles a hightop sneaker. The company hopes to move into the new building next month. It plans to open an ice-skating rink that will serve as a practice facility for the Boston Bruins by September 2016, alongside a 190,000-square-foot office building that NB Development will lease to other tenants. The company also plans to build an apartment complex with 275 units, a track and field complex, and a boutique hotel. Along the way, it will add 80,000 square feet of retail space, which will include a New Balance experience store.
New Balance wasn't always on the hook for the transit station. Indeed, when it floated the idea of building a hotel, track and field arena, and hockey rink by its current offices, residents complained about the lack of transit in the area.
"We need a commuter rail station. The MBTA does not want to talk about this. At all," wrote Tom Crowley, a blogger for Allston Brighton Newsflash, in a March 2012 post about the New Balance plans. "The state is going to get a lot of revenue from this development. Some of it needs be used to build a better transit system, here."
By May, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and New Balance had co-signed a letter of intent that stated that New Balance would pay for the permitting, design, and construction of the new commuter rail stop.
As cities and states continue to struggle with budget issues, experts say that the practice of private companies working with public entities on transit and transportation projects will—for better or for worse—become more common. Already in Boston, Harvard and Boston universities had agreed to help fund a separate commuter rail station, though BU pulled out, as The Boston Globe reported earlier this year.
"The idea for moving to these partnerships is that you ... not have the public sector on the hook for all of the design, building, operating, and maintaining things into the future," said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, where he has studied public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects.