East Berkeley Joins Chorus on Traffic Concerns at Exchange South End

The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) hosted the Abbey Group at its meeting on Tuesday, June 19, but the group didn’t show up to discuss their major project at the former Boston Flower Exchange.

Instead, long-time community member Randi Lathrop led a discussion about the project, which EBNA members seemed to be concerned about in relation to traffic.

President Ken Smith said he had invited the Abbey Group to present, but they did not show up and didn’t inform him that they were canceling.

Instead, the large crowd assembled for the meeting at the AC Hotel went forward with an ad hoc discussion about the proposed 1.4 million square foot project, which is likely the largest commercial project the South End will ever see.

Currently, the project entails four buildings and a large Albany Green open space in the middle. Via a zoning change for the Flower Exchange and the Jacobson’s property only, the developers were allowed to build higher by the highway, and make the buildings on Albany Street lower.

A 30,000 sq. ft. cultural space is also proposed, and discussions about what that will be are still going on. The Boston Lyric Opera has expressed an interest, but that is the only concrete proposal now.

One of the major concern for EBNA members was the fact that approximately 9,000 workers would be coming to the site, likely traveling through their neighborhood. With the Silver Line at capacity already and no reliable bus service, many wondered how that was going to work.

One of the key pieces was connecting the outer road for I-93 with the site so there would be a direct connection to the highway from the site. That would allow workers to leave the hospital garage that now exists and the Exchange site without traversing the neighborhood. That connection was built many years ago, but the state and federal government would never allow it to be finished. Now, however, that seems to have changed with the proposal.

However, the connector road is already jammed most afternoons and neighbors weren’t sure how much it would help.

“Jacobson’s is next door and if Jacobson’s gets developed in the future, I don’t know if we can double that,” said one neighbor. “That ramp to 93 is important, but it isn’t going to solve the matter.”

Lathrop said the developer has said they would like to advance the project to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Board for a vote in August.

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