The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a meeting regarding the Kenmore Hotel on Sept. 25, where the project proponents presented changes to the proposal since the last time a public meeting was held. The proposed hotel will have 29 stories and 391 rooms. The project calls for the demolition of the existing building at 560-574 Commonwealth Ave. and includes the construction of a new public street that will connect Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street to the hotel’s plaza.
BPDA Project Manager Tim Czerweinski kicked off the meeting by talking about Planned Development Areas (PDA), which he said must be an acre or more in size, and make a change to the zoning in an area. A PDA is proposed for this project. “We don’t just give out PDAs,” he said. He said there were about 120 PDS approved since 1996, and it could have been even before then. “A zoning change is a significant change,” he said, adding that a PDA is subject to a public hearing in front of the BPDA Board and open to public testimony. The change in zoning also has to go before the Zoning Commission, which is also subject to a public hearing, Czerweinski explained.
None of the architects, transportation planners, or landscape architects were present at the meeting, but Damien Chaviano of Mark Development and Jeff Speck, planner/urban designer, were on hand to present the proposal and answer questions.
There were several concerns put forth by the residents of the apartment building that abuts the proejct, including concerns about the wind study and how it will affect the balconies that face the building.
Chaviano said that there was a follow-up submitted to the city that confirmed “there are no adverse effects created vis a vis your balconies.” Czerweinski added that the project “doesn’t worsen traffic in the square.”
Speck talked about the proposal for the plaza, saying that the plaza on the north side will be separated into zones: drinking and dining for the restaurant, tables and chairs not part of the restaurant service, and there is 30 feet from the walking zone to the road that is “completely open to the public.” He said that the plaza also features benches, bollards, light stands, and public artwork.
Due to the wind study, Speck said they were asked to introduce a wind screen to the plaza in order to receive an “A” rating for wind. He said it has not been designed yet, but “we see it as another artwork opportunity. We want people to feel it’s an installation of public art and not a wind screen.”
The lighting on the plaza can be changed for different seasons, holidays, events, and more, which allows for more activation on the plaza. There was a comment that not everyone in the neighborhood wants areas to be constantly activated and drawing in large numbers of people. Chaviano said there will be ample time for residents to provide feedback on how they’d like to see the plaza area be used. Czerweinski said that there will be a cooperation agreement for programming and feedback can be collected through public meetings, online surveys, and comments submitted to the BPDA.
The hotel building itself is narrower at the bottom and gets wider at the top to allow for the large plaza . There is a restaurant on the ground floor that would “give real legitimacy to a sidewalk dining establishment,” Speck said, and would be power vented through the roof. There will also be a restaurant on the top floor with its own lounge and kitchen. The ground-level restaurant would offer three meals, according to Chaviano, and of the top-floor one “I suspect would be more of a lunch and dinner experience,” he said.
There were several concerns and questions about the traffic pattern in Kenmore Square from the new road that would be created, and how it would affect the parking garage of the residents in the nearby apartment building. The team explained the new traffic pattern and how it would work with the parking garage.
The comment period concluded on September 30, but the BPDA continues to listen to feedback from residents of the neighborhood about the proposed project.