Along Boylston Street in the Fenway, a wave of new development including high-rise buildings, new restaurants, and a booming nightlife scene – not just after a Red Sox game – has put the neighborhood on the map.
Now, two major projects are coming to fruition on the corner of Boylston and Ipswich Streets, namely Boston Arts Academy and a new hotel.
In order to learn how the new hotel will interact with what will become a newly renovated Boston Arts Academy, an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meeting was held by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) at the Fenway Community Center last week.
The proposed project will have an approximately 184-room hotel with a ground floor restaurant. The project will replace the existing Shell gas station that sits on about 21,000 square feet of land.
The hotel will include about 105,000 square feet of building area and will be eight stories with a maximum height of 90 feet. There will be about 82 parking spaces in a below-grade garage.
The project is within the zoning compliant height, and will serve as a transition between the smaller residential buildings to the east of the site and the recent, taller developments to the west.
A hotel of up to and including 200 rooms is an allowed use at the project site. A restaurant use is also allowed within the applicable zoning sub-district.
The project includes improving the street landscape and pedestrian environment. The sidewalk will be widened on Ipswich Street, which coordinates with the transportation plan of Boston Arts Academy and improves pedestrian circulation at a busy corner.
New street trees will help soften what is currently a concrete and asphalt landscape.
Howard Stein Hudson (HSH) conducted an evaluation of the transportation impacts of the project in the Fenway neighborhood. The project site currently consists of a Shell gas station, service center, convenience store, and a public parking lot with a capacity of about 78 spaces. The parking is also marketed to and used by patrons attending baseball games and other events at nearby Fenway Park.
The project team said they have no plans of offering parking for game-day use other than for their guests.
Home games at Fenway Park occur about 50 weekdays per year or about 20 percent of weekdays. The games are usually in the evening, but some start in the afternoon. Before and after baseball games, pedestrian activity in the area increases and traffic delays can be longer.
“Game days are a nightmare,” said Don Wiest, attorney for development team. “The entire neighborhood is on lockdown.”
Members of the IAG noted that Fenway Park is increasingly having other activities as well that cause similar amounts of traffic, such as concerts.
Elizabeth Peart, project manager from Howard Stein Hudson, explained that the traffic study focuses only on days when a major event is not happening at Fenway Park, saying that is the norm for traffic studies in order to figure out the big picture.
“Currently the site is a gas station and a parking lot and it gets a lot of vehicular trips – about 100 per hour (50 during the morning peak hour and 50 during the evening peak hour),” said Peart. “There are a lot of trips to the station. We are expecting with the hotel it will be lessened to 25 vehicular trips, with a reduction of 70 vehicle trips during high traffic peak hours in day.”
One IAG member didn’t believe this would make much difference. The majority of cars who need gas will now have to visit the Sunoco gas station across the street, which will be the only remaining gas station in the area. When they exit, there is no light to help aid those cars back into the busy intersection.
IAG members had some concerns over the 55 bus that takes the turn from Boylston Street onto Ipswich Street, saying the elongated corners of the sidewalk might make it more difficult for the bus to navigate the intersection.
“I’m concerned with the turn radius of the bus, which already has difficulty turning there,” said IAG member Lauren Dewey Platt. “I have concerns over idling cars next to the pull out curb-cut that could block the bus.”
The developers said it is expected to have 15 vehicles coming an hour to the hotel and at any given point there will be nine cars outside of the garage in valet parking – leaving plenty of room for cars to park for a few minutes and keep the traffic moving.
“People do illegal things all the time and I want to know what it would be like if there is a car there,” said Dewey Platt.
IAG members said that the developers should work with the City to develop an overall transportation plan for Boylston Street, which is often blocked up and filled with traffic even during off-game days.
“We need to get together with other people in the neighborhood and with the Boston Transportation Department and make a plan on the whole street,” said Kristen Mobilia. “Right now, it has gotten really bad in terms of EMTs and fire trucks havging trouble getting through.”
A shadow study looked at how new shadow will affect nearby places. The study showcased four days throughout the year – March 21, June 21, Sept. 21 and Dec. 21 – and four time periods throughout the day: 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
According to the environmental review, new shadow will be cast onto the Fenway Victory Gardens during only two of the time period’s studies (June 21 at 6 p.m. and Sept. 21 at 6 p.m.). No new shadow will be cast onto other open spaces, including Fenway Park or nearby bus stops.
“I understand this project is within zoning, and at first, I was very excited that it was zoning- compliant project, but then I saw the shadow studies, and my heart sunk a little,” said IAG member Marie Fukuda.
The Fenway Victory Gardens are maintained by a group of volunteers, and the shadow would be cast on the main entrance to the garden plots.
Fukuda asked for a more in-depth shadow study to better understand what the effect will really be and what can be done to mitigate it.
“I find it a bit hypercritical that there will be no new shadow on Fenway Park,” said Dewey Platt. “It is funny to me because this neighborhood doesn’t have a good relationship with Fenway Park.”
The full list of IAG members are as follows:
Lauren Dewey Platt, Alex Sawczynec, Marc Pelletier, David Eppstein, Tom Bakalars, David Patel, Marie Fukuda, Eduardo Gonzalez, and Ruth Khowais.
The comment period ends on Feb. 2, and can be filed online at bostonplans.org. There will also be a public hearing on this matter on Jan. 29 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Fenway Community Center.