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Newton, Massachusetts

Star Market

This supermarket is suspended 25 feet above an interstate highway. 

Driving down the interstate outside of Boston, you’ll spot a supermarket that is normal in every respect—besides the fact that it is suspended by columns directly above the highway.

The gray concrete building would look completely unremarkable surrounded by a parking lot, but instead it juts out over I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, with cars driving 75 miles per hour beneath the feet of shoppers. 

Star Market, one of the oldest local supermarket chains in the northeast, expanded to Newtonville in 1948. Just as this expansion was taking place, however, the interstate highway system was also expanding, pushing into the Boston area. In this era of expanding highways and building infrastructure with only cars in mind, preserving neighborhoods and routing roads sensitively in order to keep communities intact was not a major concern for developers. (Boston later undertook the Big Dig to bury I-93, which had cut the city’s center in half.)

The turnpike was intended to be routed through Star Market’s parking lot space, but the owners objected. They were instead granted “air rights” to build in the space above the highway in 1963, and thus what was considered a “space age” supermarket at the time was born. 

At the time, others in Newtonville were hopeful that air rights would be granted all along the highway, solving the space problems posed by freeway expansion. This vision never came to fruition, however, so this space age supermarket hovering over the highway remains an anomaly.