Several sources confirmed this week that the Abbey Group intends to purchase the large, key parcel of land on Albany Street known as the Flower Exchange and will move to develop it with biotech companies in the fashion of Cambridge’s Kendall Square and, perhaps, residential units – a fact that is expected to be announced publicly at a City Hall hearing today, May 26.
Neighborhood leaders and Sun sources indicated that the sale is expected to go through next month after the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) Board votes to approve the sale and change the zoning on June 9. The sale had been hung up by negotiations between the BRA – which formerly owned the land many years ago – and the seller, the owners of the Flower Exchange. The Flower Exchange has been located on the former BRA land since 1969, according to the BRA.
Blackstone/Franklin President Eric Huang said that neighborhood association is looking forward to potentially working with the Abbey Group in activating that now-vacant portion of the South End – which falls within the Blackstone/Franklin area.
“We are eager to learn about The Abbey Group’s plans for developing this expansive property near the heart of downtown,” he said. “We look forward to working with the developer to ensure that any proposal will provide uses that activate and enhance this part of the South End while ensuring harmony with the existing neighborhood.”
The Sun contacted the Abbey Group, but no one was able to comment immediately.
At the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) Tuesday night, some discussion was had about the purchase and what could come of it – even though the property is slightly out of that neighborhood boundary.
The property was re-zoned in 2012 during the Harrison/Albany planning effort that resulted in developments such as the Ink Block and others. It is zoned to accommodate towers up to 200 feet, or 19 stories tall, and while it and that general area was tabbed for institutional uses, residential uses are also contemplated for that area as a secondary development choice if a developer goes through the Planned Development Area (PDA) process.
“We have learned that the Flower Exchange will be purchased by the Abbey Group of Boston,” said George Stergios, president of WNSA, noting that the Exchange is slightly out of their neighborhood boundary. “They’ve done a lot of commercial and residential projects around the city. I think commercial/residential is about as good as we’re going to get. I think most people will say that the most it will do is block the highway. If they’re going to put housing there and some of it is affordable that would help alleviate some of the rising rents in the area. They seem like people we should be able to work with.”
Others in the room, such as WSANA member Michael Nelson, said any such high-rise development shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) had clearly identified the plan for the corridor.
Others said they are interested in hearing more about how the MBTA plans to accommodate increased passenger load on the Silver Line if thousands of new residents are brought into any such development.
“I’d like to know what kind of plan the MBTA has for our poor Silver Line to handle all the new residents that would be coming to that development,” said one WSANA member.
The Abbey Group is responsible for developing many mid-size projects in Boston, particularly in the Fenway where they re-developed the Landmark Center shopping area some years ago and recently developed 300-plus units of apartments in The Viridian Building near Fenway Park.
The Flower Exchange property made news recently when the BRA scheduled a vote for its Board regarding a zoning change from Light Industrial to more of a residential and commercial zoning. That was quickly stopped by neighborhood members and by the City Council.
In response to that, the Council is slated to have a public hearing on the Flower Exchange property with the BRA and the Abbey Group today, May 26, at 11 a.m.