SELDC Approves Minor Changes to 321 Harrison Design; EBNA Discusses New Lab Use for the Building

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) met virtually on March 2, where Commissioners approved modifications to the previously approved design of the building at 321 Harrison Ave. that includes the installation of new mechanical equipment on the roof, the construction of a new pedestrian bridge, and the enlargement of a canopy.

The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association also heard from members of the team for this building at its meeting on March 3.

Salvatore Zinno, Vice President of Development at BioMed Realty Trust, said that BioMed is “super excited to be able to plant a larger flag here in Boston.” The original intended use for the building was office space, but the proposal is now to use it as a life science building with a Bio Safety Level of Two, which Zinno said is “similar to what happens in most healthcare facilities, but just on a commercial level.”

He added, “what everyone would see, feel, and hear would be very similar to an office.”

Joe Imperato of BioMed Realty explained at the SELDC hearing that BioMed is a “life science real estate company” that has around 6 million square feet of such office space in Boston and Cambridge, and “maintains everything to the highest standards” of safety and cleanliness.

As far as traffic impacts, Zinno said that “lab in general has lower occupancy; lower head count,” and there will be fewer people per square foot than a traditional office space.

Though the building has yet to be leased, he said there would be approximately 700 employees for a lab space like this. He said there is no change to the previously approved parking plan.

“We’ve already seen significant interest in the building,” Zinno said.

Erin Doherty of Epsilon Associates said at the SELDC hearing that the SELDC had originally approved this project in 2016, and explained that construction has since begun and will be finished later on this year. The building at 321 Harrison is being built on top of the existing garage at the location.

Doherty said that BioMed Realty now owns the building, which is within the landmark district protection area.

She said that the “exterior building design remains largely unchanged,” and “minor changes related to the building’s new use are not expected to be visible” from the landmark district. She said that the “project team has worked to make the changes to be within the guidelines of the protection area.”

Mark Spaulding of SMMA said that the team has been working with the Boston Planning and Development Agency regarding the design of the building, and their feedback has been incorporated into the proposal.

He explained the revised design of the bridge, which includes metal paneling to match the facade on Harrison Ave., as well as cross bracing and glass sides. According to a slide presented, the “canopy extension mimics the similar folding geometry of the main facade.”

The minimal changes were shown from various angles through images that can be viewed on the SELDC public hearing notice page for March 3, where more detail is also provided.

He then talked about the approved roof plan and the enclosed penthouse, above which was a screen wall that enclosed the cooling tower and other equipment. He said the idea is to “expand the penthouse towards Harrison Ave.” and extend the roof screen to enclose the larger units needed for the laboratory space.

“I think this has no impact on the district and the changes are minimal,” said Commissioner John Freeman.

The SELDC voted to approve the proposal as presented.

“It’s great to see what that’s going to look like, especially along Harrison Ave.,” said Commissioner Catherine Hunt, “so thank you.”

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