IAG Weighs in on Proposed Kenmore Hotel

The Impact Advisory Group for the proposed Kenmore Hotel weighed in on the newest iteration of a project that would reconfigure the neighborhood’s streetscape Monday at the Boston University Kenmore Classroom Building.

Wellesley-based Mark Development intends to raze the existing Citizen’s Bank building at 560-574 Commonwealth Ave. and build a hotel in its place. The new building would be shifted to the east while its triangular design would resemble the Flatiron Building in New York City. This new reconfiguration would create a “fork intersection” that would connect Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, as well as provide space for a new, approximately half-acre public plaza. Studio Gang of New York City is the project architect while Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects will serve as its landscape architect.

Mark Development CEO Damien Chaviano said the massing of the proposed project has grown to 230,000 square feet from 161,000 square feet in the earlier iteration while the number of rooms has been increased from 382 to 389. The proposed height of the building has also been expanded from 24 stories (260 feet) to 27 stories (289 feet).

Jeff Speck, lead city planner for the project from Brookline-based Speck & Associates whom Chaviano described as the “visionary behind the plan,” said, “Kenmore Square is an important social hub, but also a traffic hub. We’re trying to get more people safely to a place that’s already overrun by traffic.”

Speck added that Kenmore Square is “primarily a place for vehicles” that doesn’t feel safe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The project would quadruple the existing public space on the site while reducing pavement by 12,500 square feet, Speck added.

Ralph Todisco, a project consultant for the international engineering firm Stantec, Inc. said, “We’re blessed because Kenmore Square is already a multi-modal destination.”

The project would create more crosswalks and shorten existing ones to make for more direct routes from Kenmore Square through the plaza, Todisco said, as well as add three new traffic signals at intersections in the area.

Todisco also said the left-hand turn from Commonwealth Avenue to Beacon Street at Deerfield Street wouldn’t be eliminated as a result of the project, and that the MBTA’s 57 bus line would be the only public transportation route affected by it.

And although the proposed project wouldn’t accommodate any on-site parking, Todisco said the New Road would provide access for unloading while three parking spots on Beacon Street would be reserved as valet spaces and another two spaces for drop-offs, taxis and ride-share services.

“We have no arrangement yet with any parking facility in the area, but we’re continuing to work on it,” Todisco added.

Emily Isenberg of Brookline-based Isenberg Projects discussed new opportunities that could arise from the creation of the plaza, such as providing a venue for public art, sculptures and “urban play.”

Said Isenberg, “If we don’t come up with solutions to get people to linger there, they won’t.”

IAG member Parker James said he believes there is an opportunity to connect the new plaza with Charlesgate Park – the long-neglected parcel abutting the Back Bay and Fenway and runs adjacent to Kenmore Square that is now undergoing a transformation under the auspices of the nonprofit Charlesgate Alliance, which he helped establish two years ago with fellow Fenway resident Pam Beale.

A public meeting on the matter took place May 8 on the BU campus, and another will be scheduled after the applicant files the findings from its supplementary wind study with the city, which is due May 22, said Tim Czerwienski, project manager for the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

Public comments on the proposal can be summited until July 6 to Czerwienski at [email protected] or via U.S. mail to his attention c/o the Boston Planning and Development Agency, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201.

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