CAC Meeting Held for Lab/Office Space Proposed for 109 Brookline Ave.

The community process regarding the proposed 250,000 square foot building for office and lab space at 109 Brookline Ave. in the Fenway is now underway.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on May 17, where the fifteen members of the CAC, which is made up of “various community stakeholders, representing neighborhood residents, business owners, community organizations and advocacy groups, planning, design and real estate professionals, and others,” according to the BPDA, discussed this project.

The CAC is in charge of looking at multiple projects going on in the area, including the Fenway Development Project, Phase 3 of the Landmark Center project, and this project at 109 Brookline Ave, the BPDA said.

“While each project will be evaluated individually, the CAC will work with the BPDA to collectively address potential impacts on mobility, connectivity, inclusivity, community resource needs, and open space in a coordinated manner,” according to a slide presented at the meeting.

BPDA Project Manager Edward Carmody explained the timeline of the project thus far, saying that a Letter of Intent was filed with the BPDA on March 8 of this year. A Project Notification form was filed with the BPDA on April 30, triggering the Article 80 process and the 30 day comment period. A public meeting will be held on May 25, where the public will have a chance to make comments and ask questions about the proposal. The comment period ends on June 1.

The proposed building is “intended for office, laboratory, research and development, ground-floor retail, and below-grade parking,” according to the BPDA. “The proposed project would connect to the existing building at 20 Overland Street.”

Architect Chris Haynes spoke about the building and the proposed design, saying that there would be various public realm improvements made as part of this project, including a protected bike lane on Overland St. as well as a pocket park on Brookline Ave. in front of the proposed building. There will also be an “enhanced sidewalk public experience” that will be in conjunction with a multi-use path that will be an extension of the Emerald Necklace.

Haynes said that the project team has a “focus on architecture that creates visual impact,” and the project aims to achieve a minimum of LEED Gold status and will use sustainable materials.

The ground floor will consist of retail space with the lab office use on top of that. The main entrance will be off of Brookline Ave. The roof will feature an enclosed mechanical penthouse.

There are about 230 parking spaces proposed for underground.

Miyoung Kim talked about the proposed pocket park on Brookline Ave., which would be “situated in a notch in the building,” and would offer different seating options like tables and chairs and various other “moveable” and “fixed” seats.

The park will also feature permeable pavers and bike racks.

CAC member Mia Jean-Sicard had some concerns about the proposed parking. She said it “seems like a lot fo parking for an area that is in between a commuter rail, many bus lines, and two blocks away on either side from the T. I don’t know what the solution to that is, but it’s a lot of parking spaces.”

She added that “the Fenway is seriously lacking a dog park.”

Carmody asked the CAC members what they think would be beneficial to see for the pocket park space.

CAC member Sandeep Karnik said that “it would be wonderful to see the pocket park enlarged and set further back.” He said that it is anticipated that many people would want to use a space like this before or after a Red Sox game, and maybe opening up the park further would allow for more people to use it, as well as also potentially expanding it to Overland St.

“This corner is going to be a very strategic corner,” he said, and a “great area for congregation.”

Karnik also talked about rideshare services like Uber that will likely “create a ton of congestion on this road.”

CAC member David Read agreed that the pocket park should be larger, and potentially even be located on Overland St. “The park is great,” he said.

“The actual lane people need to travel in is closed off by other accessory uses,” said CAC member Tim Horn. He spoke about the proposed benches along the sidewalk area in front of the building.

“Having the benches in between the trees on the street side,” Horn said, “impedes people from being able to bump out; get out of the way. The pedestrian flow is key on this side.”

CAC member Mallory Rohrig wondered who the intended user is for the pocket park.

Kim said that there is no one group of people it is meant for, but rather the day of the week and the time of day will dictate who uses the park.

She said that the park has to be designed “for flexibility.” Additionally, “we always think about ADA accessibility,” she said, and both tenants of the building and the general public will be welcome to use this space.

“It’s for everyone,” she said. She also said that “landscapes in Boston” are typically widely used because they are usually on the smaller side and provide a sort of “intimacy.”

CAC member Dolores Boogdanian said that she doesn’t feel that Brookline Ave. is the best place to locate the pocket park. She said that the street is “busy” and “noisy” and is not the kind of environment where people can relax in a park.

Kenneth Fisher, a member of the project team, said that the “intent [of the park[ was to give some relief on Brookline Ave.”

Other comments and concerns from CAC members were about things like how many new employees would be coming to and from these facilities being built in the area, as well as the traffic congestion they might cause, and parking, among other things.

“This is the first of many meetings,” Carmody said, adding that he had taken copious notes based on the comments made at this meeting, which he will take back to the BPDA.

The full video from this meeting can be found at bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/109-brookline-avenue, and a public meeting will be held on May 25 for the general public to hear about the proposal and ask questions and make comments to help shape the project moving forward.

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