Prudential Center

Urban Renewal

The Prudential Center is today one of the largest retail areas in the city of Boston. It is a 52 story building, with 2.6 million square feet of office space, and 495,229 square feet of retail space. The tower was designed by architect Charles Luckman, who is for some reason disrespected by several architectural critics for his work on the Prudential Center. The project started in 1960 and was finished in 1964. At the time it was the largest building in the world, and today it is the second tallest building in Boston after the Hancock.

Now the Prudential is a permanent part of Boston’s skyline. Bostonians look up at it with pride and couldn’t picture the shape of their city without it. However, when the Prudential was first completed it received a lot of criticism from architectural critics. Several critics categorized it as an architectural “fail”, and at the time it honestly was. It was the only building in the city of Boston of that stature, so naturally it stuck out like a sore thumb. But what people don’t understand about the Prudential is that it was the spark of Urban Renewal in Boston. Urban Renewal was a government ideology aimed to bring people out of the suburbs and back into the city. At the time people didn’t want to live in the city because they felt that it had nothing to offer for them. It was much more comfortable for people to settle down in the suburbs and start their families there. However, this had a detrimental effect on Boston, because without people the city can’t generate income, and leaves the city with a large homeless population. So the aim of Urban Renewal was to get people back to Boston in order to put the city back on track, and that’s where projects like the Prudential Center came into play.
The Prudential Tower brought great economic gain to the city of Boston, something that the city had been lacking before, due to the amount of people moving to the suburbs. However, the Prudential Center brought urbanization to Boston through its economic growth. The Prudential Insurance Company was investing in the city of Boston, and this encouraged other companies to do the same, and in the end created great economic growth for the city. Some say that the size and design of the Prudential Tower attributed to its financial success, because it gave people the idea that Prudential Insurance was a very reputable company, and naturally they invested money in them, and this was essential to urban renewal. This is proven by Brian M. Sirman in his review of Elihu Rubin’s, “Insuring the City: The Prudential Center and the Postwar Urban Landscape”, when he writes, “The Prudential Center represented an important show of corporate confidence in the city’s future and no doubt catalyzed similar projects by reassuring business leaders who might otherwise have been skittish about constructing a new building in Boston.” (2).This quote from Sirman proves how the size and appeal of the Prudential Tower influenced the city’s economic success. Once other companies saw the size and glamour of the Prudential Center that decided to bud similar buildings in Boston as well. The size and glamour of the tower made it seem powerful, and that’s what caught the eyes of other businesses looking to invest in Boston. The Prudential Tower paved the way for Boston through its economic growth, by generating revenue itself, and by influencing other companies to come to Boston to build, grow, and thrive.

Images

Architectural rendering of Prudential Center

Architectural rendering of Prudential Center

Mayor John F. Collins records, Collection #0244.001, City of Boston Archives, Boston | Source: Mayor John F. Collins records, Collection #0244.001 | Creator: Prudential Insurance Company of America View File Details Page

Prudential Center Tower

Prudential Center Tower

Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USA-Boston-Prudential_Center1a.jpg | Creator: By Ingfbruno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons View File Details Page

Prudential Center Tower

Prudential Center Tower

Source: http://www.yahglobal.com/boston/shopping/mini-site/5969/the-shops-at-prudential-center.html View File Details Page

Access Information:

See official website for hours and additional information.

Street Address:

800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA [map]

Official Website:

http://www.prudentialcenter.com

Cite this Page:

Katlyn Nguyen, Patrick Thompson, Christian Giuliano, “Prudential Center,” Boston History, accessed December 18, 2017, http://explorebostonhistory.org/items/show/3.

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