19-Story Residential Building Proposed ForHuntington Avenue Raises Height Concerns

A 19-story residential building proposed for Huntington Avenue would bring much-desired housing to the Fenway, although the plan has also sparked some concern regarding how its height might impact the abutting Museum of Fine Arts, among other neighboring sites.

Representatives for Sam Salter, the project proponent and owner of the property at 409 Huntington Ave., were on hand for a Nov. 16 virtual meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning & Development Agency to outline their proposal for the approximately 223-foot-tall building, which would contain 157 one and two-bedroom dwelling units and up to 2,300 square feet of street-level retail space along Huntington Avenue. The project site is located between the MFA  and a residence hall owned by Northeastern University and adjacent to Forsyth Park. The new building would replace an existing five-story apartment building containing 57 market-rate units, which were occupied by grad students and have typically had a one-year turnover rate, according to BPDA Project Manager Mike Sinatra.

Beyond the project’s proposed community benefits, which include improving the currently underdeveloped pocket park at the end of the site at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Forsyth Way, the proponent has also pledged to make a $1 million donation to the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology to place 12 current students with contractors for paid “externships” on the general-contractor and construction teams, said Josh Zakim, a project consultant.

Despite the promised community benefits and pressing need for more housing in the neighborhood, the expected impacts of the new building’s height turned out to be a sticking point for some meeting-goers.

“The height is too high, especially with its location next to the MFA,” said Kathy McBride of the Fenway. “[Casting] shadow on the Kelleher Rose Garden is unacceptable, and we shouldn’t allow this encroachment on public parks.”

Likewise, Kelly Brilliant, also of the Fenway, voiced her concern with the new building height’s potential impact on the MFA, while expressing her disappointment that the proponent hadn’t reached out to the Fenway Alliance or the Fenway Cultural District regarding their proposal.

Eric  Woods, Chief Operating Officer of the MFA, said he was concerned not only about the potential impact of the new building’s height on the museum itself, but also the potential impact on the Forsyth Dental building (which the MFA owns) and on the greenspace between the two buildings.

Fenway resident Tim Horn applauded the project for bringing more housing to the Fenway and urged the proponent to keep any affordable units associated with the development on site.

(The proposed project is expected to generate $10-11 million in IDP [Inclusionary Development Policy] contributions for affordable housing, or 20 to 27 on-site combination units, or some combination thereof, according to the proponent.)

Horn requested that the proponent also provide the public with an additional shadow study of the project’s expected impact between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon. (Sinatra also requested the additional shadow study, which he said he would post on the BPDA’s website for the project.)

Rich Giordano of the Fenway praised the project for bringing new housing to a neighborhood that has seen 8 million square feet of new lab space proposed over the last two years.

“Where are people going to live when we have 20,000 to 30,000 more people coming into the Fenway?” asked Giordano.

The city’s public comment period for the project closes on Dec. 2; to submit a comment, visit the BPDA’s project website at https://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/409-huntington-avenue, or email Michael Sinatra of the BPDA at [email protected].

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