Neighbors and abutters of the massive Exchange South End commercial project report having serious concerns that The Abbey Group might be trying to get out of permitting and building a critical connector road to I-93 within its Albany Street project – a connector that stands to keep thousands of employee com-muters off of local neighborhood streets.
That said, The Abbey Group confirmed they are committed to permitting and completing the access road once they have a cooperation agreement signed.
“Once a cooperation agreement is finalized with our abutters, we can then start the process to secure the needed permits from the city, state and federal au-thorities which will enable us to begin to execute the Frontage Road connec-tion,” said Audrey Epstein Reny, managing partner at The Abbey Group. “The Abbey Group’s intent and commitment is to complete the Frontage Road con-nection in as timely a way as possible.”
Abutter Boston University declined to comment on the matter, but Randi Lath-rop, representing Jacobson’s Flower Market, did comment in saying they would like to see the road built.
“Of course we would prefer that the road be built before Phases A and B are completed because of the large numbers of cars it will off-load and get of the South End,” she said. “Otherwise, all those cars will be on local streets…This road is definitely a key piece to their employees getting in during off-peak hours. It’s going to help Newmarket, Mass Ave, Boston University and Boston Medical Center. It should really off-load traffic off of Mass Ave and we believe that is really important. Without it, we think we’ll have gridlock on the local streets.”
The connector road that would allow direct access to the I-93 Frontage Road has been a major sticking point for years, and other have tried to permit it with little success. Few wanted to talk about what happened many years ago at the BMC Garage adjacent to Frontage Road, which nearly has a direct connection, but had the request denied all those years ago. The connection for Exchange South End is critical as it is estimated 5,000 to 7,000 employees will be work-ing at Exchange after it’s fully built out. Traffic studies showed without the connector road, loads and loads of traffic would access the site via neighbor-hood streets. That is why the connector has been a point of contention and one that is required to be permitted and completed under a state environmental regulator’s waiver that was approved last year – allowing the project to start before the road is permitted or finished. However, before the end of that Phase 1 process, the connector must be permitted and ready to go before any more can be built.
Member of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) have been skeptical of the traffic impacts for two years, and some have said they believe Abbey might build Phase 1 and then sell off the project before completing the connector road. There was no indication of that from The Abbey Group.
However, others have pointed to the fact that key agreements have not been signed with the neighborhood prior to the demolition and construction beginning last December.
Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) spokesperson Bonnie McGilpin said the agreements are still under review and the company is only working un-der a limited permit.
“For the Exchange South End, the work that has been done to date has been under demolition or excavation permits,” she wrote. “The project will not re-ceive a foundation permit until the Cooperation and Transportation Access Plan Agreement (TAPA) have been signed. Both are still under review by the BPDA.”
Lathrop and some members of the IAG said until those agreements are signed, they don’t believe the neighborhood can rest easy.
The Abbey Group, for its part, indicated in its statement that it is committed to the road and the project.