BPDA approves Boylston Street project, rental units, LGBTQ-centric theater

At its monthly board meeting the Boston Planning and Development Agency approved the mixed-use project at 1252-1257 Boylston St. in the Fenway. 

The BPDA approved project will bring 451 rental units that includes 68 income-restricted units, as well as a 10,000 square-foot LGBTQ-centric non-profit theater. 

The 15-story, 226,700 square-foot building will honor the site’s history and affiliation with the LGBTQ community. The development team has signed a Letter of Intent with The Theater Offensive (TTO) to develop a Black Box Theater on the ground floor as part of the development.

TTO is a 30-year social change organization that uses theater and the creative process to deconstruct oppressive practices and policies to liberate queer and trans people of color. Over the years TTO has presented liberating art by, for, and about queer and trans people of color that transcends artistic boundaries, celebrates cultural abundance, and dismantles oppression.

The 10,000 square-foot performing arts venue will include a 156-seat dedicated community space, flexible space, actor spaces, public spaces and support spaces. 

Donna Owens, Chair of the Board of Directors of TTO, said her group is excited to be part of the Boylston Street project. 

“In the summer of 2017, The Theater Offensive gathered staff, board, and community members to develop a new three-year organizational strategy,” said Owens. “In short order, we have realized a number of our strategy-driven goals. We are excited to support this partnership with Scape on the Black Box Theater, which will provide facilities stability for The Theater Offensive and other queer and trans organizations locally for the next 30 years and beyond. 

Owens added TTO plans to deliver an iconic, innovative and enduring space to advance its mission. 

“We intend to provide an accessible space for artistic experimentation, expression, and public discourse in service to the Fenway and greater Boston communities,” she said. “We also seek to honor the site’s historical importance to the Boston LGBTQ community. “

Producing Co-Executive Directors of TTO Harold Steward and Evelyn Francis said they were excited by the opportunity to establish a creative hub for our thought provoking programs, including educational programs, youth-centered leadership programs, community-led artistic experiences, and people-powered civic engagements. 

“We look forward to securing a permanent home for queer and trans artists and youth, who have long sought a place for belonging in the Boston area, through our programming in the Black Box Theater,” they said. 

The Boylston Black Box will also help ground and grow a permanent community within the Fenway. As an established and thriving organization TTO will aid in creating a sense of stability, by acting as a conduit for maintaining, growing and defining the culture of the Fenway.  

TTO is currently in a preliminary, planning phase of a capital campaign that will ultimately provide support for the building project, operations and endowment. 

“This Letter of Intent reflects months of thoughtful engagement between TTO, Scape, and the City of Boston,” said Owens. “This is the first significant step in this partnership, and we expect lots of work ahead to realize this opportunity. In the next few months, we expect to continue negotiations with Scape, sign a Letter of Acquisition, address public feedback, and outline the project’s feasibility. We look forward to updating you on progress in the future.

In its ruling the BPDA wrote, “The newly approved project will bring a number of community benefits to Fenway and the City of Boston as a whole, including transportation, landscape and streetscape improvements to cultivate pedestrian activity and enhance the public realm.”

There are no parking spaces associated with the project.

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