The first meeting of the Impact Advisory Group for the planned redevelopment of the existing campus of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) in the South End was held virtually Monday, Oct. 19, kicking off the city’s community process for the project.
Boston-based developer Related Beal is proposing a mixed-use complex for the site that includes a senior care facility with 204 market-rate units and 18 new units of affordable housing; the “adaptive reuse” of the Franklin Union building to 76,000 square feet of commercial space, including ground-floor retail and accessory uses; 6,150 square feet of new retail space; 12,750 square feet of new open space – a 22-percent increase from existing conditions; and a 4,550 square-foot community center.
Rob Clocker, a senior associate with the Boston architectural firm Hacin and Associates, said besides preserving the historic Franklin Union building, the project would also maintain the facades of three buildings along Appleton Street.
Additionally, the project would preserve 6-6A Appleton St., which has been excluded from the city’s Article 80 review process for large scale developments, Clocker added, but the 1980 auto-repair addition would be demolished.
As proposed, the senior care facility’s height facing Berkeley Street is 105 feet, and, with additional amenities, it would reach 145 feet in a setback area that Clocker described as “more of a rooftop.”
In response to a suggestion from IAG member Chris Corey that the height should be reduced, especially in light of the feedback the developer received from the South End Landmark District Commission during an Aug. 24 advisory board review, Clocker said this would essentially be a nonstarter as a reduction in height would result in the loss of “important programming.”
Stephen Fox of the IAG requested more information on what would become of the new commercial space at the Franklin Union Building.
“It could be anything from an office to a hotel,” Fox said. “We need that defined for us…because if it’s going to be a hotel it opens up a whole well of new issues.”
Alex Provost of Related Beal responded that the space is now being considered for office use, and “if anything changes, the IAG will be the first to hear of it.”
The BFIT will continue to occupy the South End site, Cloker said, until the private college’s plans to relocate to Nubian Square in Roxbury have been finalized.
Besides Corey and Fox, the IAG, which advises the Boston Planning and Development Agency on potential impacts and appropriate mitigation for proposed large-scale projects, also includes Elizabeth Morgan, Mark Liu, Stacy Koeppel, Jennifer Epstein, Deborah Backus, Eve Ward and Ani Kadilli.
The BPDA will hold a virtual public meeting on the proposal on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m.; register in advance at bit.ly/BFITseA801.
The city is accepting public comments on the Public Notification Form (PNF) for the proposal until Nov. 13 at http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/41-berkeley-street, or email them directly to Dana Whiteside, BPDA project manager, at [email protected].