British-based development company Scape has changed its proposed plan for 1252-1270 Boylston St. after originally proposing a wildly unpopular plan to build an independent dormitory building on the property. The developer is now proposing market-rate housing on the site.
The original proposal was disliked for many reasons, a major one being that the area is not zoned for dormitories, and those who worked to create that zoning felt that their work was being undermined by the developer’s proposal to erect one on Boylston Street.
“Article 66 of the Fenway neighborhood zoning legislation forbids the creation of student dormitories on Boylston Street, and we strongly support the existing zoning standards,” said Elizabeth Bertolozzi, President of the Fenway Garden Society, which would be impacted by the project as it is very close to the Fenway Victory Gardens.
Andrew Flynn, Founder and CEO of Scape North America, filed a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR) with the Boston Planning and Development Agency on Oct. 7 indicating the change in project. “As specialists in innovative urban living, the Proponent is excited to address a broader and deeper portion of the metropolitan housing spectrum, with a particular focus on delivering high-quality, well-located and attainably priced residential housing for the workforce,” Flynn stated in the DPIR.
The proposal now includes 477 units of residential housing units with retail, and use of the building for short-term rentals will be prohibited, as the minimum lease term will be one year. The units will be a mx of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three bedroom units and will come fully furnished, the developer said.
“Throughout this past April, May, June, July, August and September, the Proponent continued to engage with all stakeholders regarding 1252-1270 Boylston. Over the course of these six months, the Proponent sought to diligently listen, deeply understand and thoughtfully respond – in a sincere and significant manner – to the guidance provided by the Fenway neighborhood,” the DPIR states. “Over the past six months, stakeholders across the Fenway consistently identified (via meetings, discussions, comment letters, correspondence, etc. with the Proponent) housing stability as the fundamental challenge facing the neighborhood and indicated that an integrated solution – anchored upon production of housing units and affordability – is needed to effectively address this critical issue.”
The letter states that additional feedback from the Fenway community included concern that the housing crisis will be made worse by the influx of commercial office space coming to the neighborhood. “Accordingly, over the past six months, the Fenway neighborhood stakeholders directed the Proponent to consider major changes to the Project and pursue solution-oriented measures to address this increasing housing deficit,” according to the DPIR.
The DPIR states that the new proposal includes a “significant reduction in height,” with the southwestern corner reduced by 30 feet, the southeastern corner reduced by 18 feet, and all northern elements reduced by 13 feet. Additionally there is a reduction in Floor Area ration from 7.0 to 6.7, and a signal upgrade at the corner of Boylston and Ipswich streets.
A significant concern with the original proposal came from the supporters and attendees of Ramrod/Machine, an LGBTQ+ friendly nightclub, and the Gold Dust Orphans, who perform at the club. The site of this project is currently home to the nightclub, and supporters were very adamant at the last public meeting that they do not want to lose this space.
“In recognition of 1252-1270 Boylston St.’s important heritage and affiliation with the LGBTQ community, the Proponent will be delivering the ‘Boylston Black Box’, a not-for-profit LGBTQ-centric venue for the performing arts. Based on feedback received from the neighborhood stakeholders and LGBTQ performance groups, the Proponent has further deepened its commitment to this important component of the Project,” the DPIR states.
The venue will increase the theater from approximately 6,000 square feet to about 10,000 square feet, increase the capacity from 120 seats to 156 seats, create additional dedicated community space, actor space, and support space, a mezzanine space, dedicated loading access, and an increase in size and scope of the ground-floor marquee entrance, according to the DPIR.
Another large portion of the new proposal is a component of affordable housing. Per the Inclusionary Development Policy, the developer is required to provide 18 percent offside affordable housing within a half mile of the project. Scape said in the DPIR that they are willing to provide 20 percent (220 affordable units) at The Ipswich, a building located at Two Charlesgate West, which the developer has gained control of. The DPIR states that 165 of the units will be “institutional residences” in partnership with a Fenway institution, and will also include retail space.
“This unprecedented production of affordable housing units will have an immediate, major, positive impact as only 212 IDP affordable housing units have been delivered in the neighborhood over the past 20 years since the launch of IDP in 2000; the Proponent would single-handedly increase this inventory by over 100 percent,” according to the DPIR.
Additionally, they have also attained control of 819 Beacon St., on which the developer will partner with Boston Children’s Hospital to create 50 residential units for families of patients, and will be operated on a not-for-profit basis in a building called The Beacon. The building is proposed to have a total of 445 residential units and 215 below-grade parking spaces.
Both of the properties are subject to Large Project Review under Article 80B of the Boston Zoning Code, and the developer will file a Letter of Intent with the BDPA for both of these properties by the end of the year.
There is no word yet on the BPDA website about a public meeting regarding the new proposal, but the comment period for the new proposal will end on Nov. 22.