The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) met virtually on March 1, where discussion included the community safety report, a fire safety report, a business spotlight on Atlantico, and a presentation about the proposal at 80 East Berkeley St. to construct a 10-story office and laboratory/research building with retail on the ground floor.
Barbara Boylan, a project manager from The Druker Company, and Harry Collings, a consultant and community liaison for the project, were on hand to present information and answer questions from residents.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) public meeting regarding this project had been scheduled for Feb. 23, but has been rescheduled for March 14. Since that meeting was supposed to happen before this one, Boylan said that “tonight’s meeting is a good opportunity to present this overview,” and the team said that more details will be provided during that BPDA meeting.
Boylan then provided some background information on this proposal, saying that “following an extensive community process, the previously approved project received BPDA large project review approval and [Planned Development Area (PDA)] designation in 2013.”
In January of this year, the proponents filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) with the BPDA for “lapse of time and allowable use of life sciences/office.”
Boylan that all aspects of the building conform with the zoning requirements of the PDA, which include a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 6.5, a height of 150 feet, open space of greater than 20 percent, and a gross square footage of about 265,000 square feet.
There will be 200 parking spaces—89 of which will be public—in two levels of below-grade parking, and 25 percent of the spaces will have electric vehicle charging stations. All spaces will be EV-ready, however.
Boylan said that since the last approval, there have been no changes made to the height of the building, but previously, there were only 10 spaces proposed to have electric vehicle charging stations. Now, there are 50 proposed. She also said that bicycle parking has increased from 90 to 124 spaces.
She said the building will have a sustainable design, including net zero carbon. She also said that there have been “limited design modifications to the building” as well.
She said that with the increase in demand for life science space in Boston, this building will offer “new jobs at various income levels” and “contributes to the South End overall revitalization vision.”
Along Washington and East Berkeley Streets, there will be retail on the ground floor, as well as wider sidewalks around Shawmut Ave., Washington St., and East Berkeley St.
Harry Collings then talked about some of the economic and public benefits, though he said that the BPDA meeting “will have a lot more details” around this.
Collings said that the building will create 300 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs, as well as $25,000 in neighborhood contributions to each of the following organizations: Friends of Peters Park, Inc., Berkeley Community Gardens, and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, Inc. (IBA).
A question was raised about noise concerns from the lab, as well as foundation issues for neighboring buildings.
Boylan said that the noise study is available in the NPC, which can be found on the BPDA page for the project. “We will have more details about that at the public meeting,” she said. “I can say that the ambient noise in the neighborhood is higher than the baseline of what this project will be.” She also said that the mechanical systems will not constantly run, either.
Additionally, this building will have a steel frame, so there will be no drilling required, she said.
Boylan said that there is no start date yet for construction, but it is roughly estimated that it will take 24 months to construct.
Collings said that only companies with biosafety levels one and two will occupy this building. “We’re committed to it in writing never to do a level three or four,” Collings said, and further details about what this means will be provided at the upcoming BPDA meeting.
Another question was posed about why this is being built now with so many more people working from home.
“There is a tremendous need for life science” space, Collings said, adding that Kendall Square is getting low on space for these facilities.
“There is a real need in the country and we’re beginning to be the number one location for life science and these jobs,” he said of Boston.
Other residents spoke out in favor of the project, saying they can’t wait to see that area become activated, especially since this project has been in the works for nearly a decade.
Collings said that the project team feels “very confident” in their architecture and construction firms, and “the only thing we need is the NPC and then we’ll be finalizing the documents,” after which permits will be sought and construction can begin.
The BPDA public meeting regarding this project will be held on March 14 from 6-8pm on Zoom. Interested residents can register on the BPDA website at bit.ly/3AX4hvp.
Michael Serpa of Atlántico came before the EBNA to talk a little bit about the restaurant, which is located at 600 Harrison Ave.
Serpa said that Atlántico is one of the few South End restaurants that is open for lunch. The restaurant is a Spanish and Portuguese restaurant that is “seafood focused” and offers brunch, lunch, and dinner, tapas-style.
He said that the Van Gogh exhibit has brought a lot of people to the restaurant, as well as created more foot traffic on Harrison Ave.
“The South End is the restaurant destination of the city,” Serpa said, inviting residents to “come in for lunch, come in for dinner.”