Bay Village Gets Motor Mart Update and New Church Street Proposal

Developer Boston Global Investors came back to the community Monday night with an update regarding the Motor Mart garage project.

John Hynes, CEO and managing partner of Boston Global Investors, said at a Bay Village Neighborhood Association meeting that they received comments and feedback from the abutters of the garage, the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, One Charles, and Four Seasons, and said that they have put a lot of those suggestions into this most recent design. They will be leaving the eastern half of the garage alone, and redoing the retail on the first floor of the western half.

As previously reported in the Boston Sun, the Stuart Street garage will have a residential tower situated on top. “Our best thinking was to keep the tower as slender as possible,” said Hynes.

The new design is 20 feet taller, the tower floors are more slender, and the low-rise portion, which was referred to as the “arm” of the project, has been moved back to the middle of the garage, according to Hynes.

Hynes also said that the BPDA signed off on this design last week. Boston Global Investors is going to start the environmental impact report and the permitting process will formally begin on July 1, Hynes said.

Phil Casey, an architect with CBT Architects, provided the community with a before and after presentation so they could see how this plan differs from the original.

The prior residential project was 290 feet tall, and the currently proposed project stands at 310 feet, said Casey. The four-story residential wing will go from four stories, down to three, two, and one story towards One Charles. The mechanical space will be enclosed there as well, so as mitigation for the lost square footage, two extra floors were proposed for the residential tower, bringing it to 310 feet.

The base of the building as viewed over Statler Park will be apartment units around the perimeter of the garage, Hynes said. The first portion of the tower up to the 20th floor will be apartments, and then where it recedes will be eight floors of condominiums. The top is where the mechanical equipment will be housed.

A big piece of the new proposal is that a supermarket is also now being considered for the basement floor, with a streetfront lobby presence which will activate Columbus Avenue, as well as the Church Street extension, Casey said.

“There was a pretty obvious need, we felt, for an urban market to appear in this location,” Hynes said. “We talked to the owners about making a commitment at this stage of the game to reach back to some of the grocers who have contacted them.”

“It is a commitment to us, we’re going to start form the top down to get the best quality, highest rent we can, which isn’t going to be much, we already know that,” Hynes said.

He said it is unknown how much space the demand will require, but there have been a few markets that have expressed interest in the space.

The new scheme shows the market taking up two-thirds of the basement space, and another portion could be used for a pharmacy, Hynes said.

“We’re looking at it first from your perspective, this would be a nice gift back to the community, said Hynes.” “We’re going to try to do this, on the other hand, it’s too early to get [a grocer] because we don’t know what we’re dealing with yet. But it’s designed into the building.”

The garage today has a little over 900 parking spaces, Hynes said. He said that 500 would be removed during construction, and there will be a ring around the perimeter that will lose parking for the new units. There will be 750 parking spaces after construction. Hynes reassured the community that there would be enough parking for residents, and said that the garage rarely hits capacity currently.

A question was raised about what the developer is looking for from the community. “Ideally, we look for endorsement and support,” Hynes said. “But certainly eliminate the opposition.”

The developers say they hope to get in and out of the design review process by Oct. 1 and get to the BPDA board by November or closer to the end of the year.

Another much smaller scale project was also presented at the meeting. Zoning attorney Marc LaCasse introduced a proposed project for commercial and residential use at 67 and 69 Church St. to the community for the first time.

“We have not filed anything yet,” LaCasse said. He also said this project would not involve the Article 80 process and that it was purely a zoning project.

Architect Anthony Piermarini led the presentation, and said that the first floor of this property is intended to be developed for commercial/restaurant with five residential units, two residential units each on the second and third floors, and one unit on the fourth floor. The building currently stands at two stories, so the proposal is to add two stories on top.

They are also proposing to add a half-story on top of the fourth floor to be used as additional living space, and would be set back from all sides of the property, Piermarini said.

He said they’re looking at rowhouse patterning where regulating lines relate the bottom of the building to the top. “We’re trying to respect those proportions,” Piermarini said.

Currently, restaurant Erbaluce occupies 69 Church St. The architects said they would like to keep a restaurant space there, and Erbaluce is welcome to return if they wish.

Piermarini said they met twice with a historic commission. “The intent is to restore the character of the first floor of the building,” he said. He also said that the space used to be an office space and a pizza restaurant. It also housed a showroom and film archives. “It was always a commercial use,” Piermarini said.

He also said that this project is “going to require relief with regards to the height restrictions.” The building is zoned for 35 feet, but with the proposed addition, it would stand at 56 feet, said Piermarini. Without the half story, it would be 43 feet.

Bay Village neighborhood Association Vice President Sarah Herlihy expressed concern about the proposed height of the building, citing Piedmont Park Square’s 40 ft height as a victory for the architects and developers.

“You are one of the most conscientious about learning what our neighborhood looks like and I really appreciate that, but you won at 40 and I for one am going to have to be sold very, very hard on why you need to go to 56, or even 43,” Herlihy said.

Piermarini said that they are aiming to “complement and relate” to historic aspects in the neighborhood, rather than compete with them.

“This is the beginning of the process,” Piermarini said. “We’re trying to be respectful of the heights.”

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