Exchange South End Commits in Total to I-93 Connection at EBNA

The Abbey Group re-affirmed their solid commitment to getting approval for the I-93/Frontage Road connector that will serve as the main access point to their 1.6 million square-foot commercial development on Albany Street – that coming at a meeting of the East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) on Tuesday.

Managing Partner Jason Epstein and Traffic Engineer Brian Beisel, of Howard Stein Hudson, said they have been approved to get the connection in later phases of their project (Phases 3 and 4), but they will make every effort to speed up that connection.

They said they are not abandoning the critical traffic mitigation for the project.

“We are absolutely committed to getting this Frontage Road connection to this project,” said Epstein. “We have worked with the state to get approval to move ahead on the first phase of the project while applying for Frontage Road…We are very much pursuing that connection. We will not get approval (for future phases) without the connection. We’re not trying to get out of doing this. It’s just a complex and lengthy process. We are committed to seeing it through.”

The connection to Frontage Road from Exchange South End (formerly the Boston Flower Exchange) is seen as absolutely necessary for the community as it would keep traffic mostly off of Albany Street and the adjoining Back Streets neighborhood. By allowing people to enter and exit primarily on Frontage Road and the highway, it would prevent the estimated 7,000 workers (at its full buildout) from accessing it via Albany Street – which already backs up in the morning and afternoon.

Beisel said the process is difficult and unprecedented for most projects because it requires extensive review from federal, state and local officials. A state environmental review approved them to move forward on about 600,000 square-feet of the project prior to getting the connector approvals.

However, Beisel said they are continuing to work diligently on that piece, and if it comes before the future phases, they will build it out in Phase 1.

“My hope is we would get that approval during the first phase and construct it with those first two buildings,” he said.

Beisel also said part of their mitigation is to fully reconstruct about one-third of the Albany corridor with protected bike lanes, a dedicated bus lane and other changes. The remaining part of the corridor will be finished to 25 percent design by the developer.

• The Quinn Moves Up

Matthew Collins from Related Beal was on hand Tuesday to update the community on the progress of The Quinn, which is under construction at the corner of Harrison and East Berkeley streets.

“We’ve poured concrete to the seventh floor and should be topping off the 15th-floor roof by Nov. 1,” he said. “We are trying to get the rentals open next August and finish the project in November. The exterior will start with pre-cast being hung around the building.”

There are 172 rentals in the building, 101 condos for sale, and 174 parking spaces under the building. There are also three retail spaces as well. They will begin marketing the condos at 460 Harrison Ave. around October of this year. They’ll begin marketing the rentals at 401 Harrison Ave. in February. The retail will begin to be marketed in about one year.

In December 2019, Collins said they expect to take down the crane. He didn’t expect the re-design of Harrison Avenue with the City to begin until December 2020 – a long-awaited reconstruction that was supposed to start when the Whole Foods opened at Ink Block.

• Modern Relik Opens in SoWa

A new luxury, chic furniture store is set to open in October on 485 Harrison Ave. in the SoWa Art + Design District. Owner Meg Kimball and Design Director John Dransfield were at the EBNA meeting to preview their new store and to ask for the neighborhood blessing to include a coffee shop/florist in the store as well.

“Modern Relik is a furniture store,” she said. “We’ve been in Waltham for five years and are really excited about moving into this neighborhood…We think it will bring a little bit of New York to the area. Both described the store as having unique pieces that are very “chic” and one of a kind.

It takes the place of Mohr + MacPherson, which closed up nearly two years ago.

Dransfield, a noted designer from New York of textiles and home goods, said the store will be very different because it has to be in this age of challenging retail environments.

“We need people to have a reason to get up and come out to a brick and mortar store,” she said. “So we’re creating an extraordinary experience at Modern Relik.”

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