NABB LBU Committee Hears From Owners of Proposed Boylston Street Dispensary

The owners of another adult-use cannabis dispensary proposed for Boylston Street made their pitch to the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay License and Building Use Committee at the group’s monthly meeting on Monday, Nov. 7, which took place virtually.

The future home of Blank Street Coffee at 647 Boylston St.

Copley Connection is a venture that would be operated and wholly owned by Josh Zakim, former District 8 city councilor and a Back Bay resident; Senam Kumahia, vice president of Carpenter & Company, Inc., a Cambridge real estate development firm; and Victor Chiang, a Wellesley resident and one of the co-founders of Cypress Tree Management, which now operates an adult-use cannabis shop called Redi in Newton and intends to soon open additional  dispensaries in Natick and the Fenway. (Copley Connection would be an entirely separate endeavor from Cypress Tress Management, however, said Chiang.)

Copley Connection would be located in the former location of a Wendy’s restaurant at 551 Boylston St. and span around 6,400 square feet across three floors, said Kumahia. No retail or merchandise would be located on the first floor, which is where customers’ identification would be verified for the first time, he said, before they are allowed to access the primary retail area on the second floor. The basement would be home to “back-of-house operations” and accessible via the rear alley where deliveries would be made, added Kumahia.

The proposed dispensary is expected to open next summer, following at least 18 weeks of construction, said Chiang. The proposed hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Although Copley Connection would be only an adult-use dispensary to start, Chiang said they would be interested in expanding to become a medical dispensary as well, although there are higher standards for permitting a medical dispensary in the city (especially since the owners aren’t social equity applicants).

Meanwhile, Copley Connection would be located within the half-mile buffer zone that the Boston Zoning Code mandates between dispensaries, said Kumahia, as it would be located four-tenths of a mile from Ayr, an existing adult-use cannabis dispensary at 827 Boylston St.

While by some measurements, Copley Connection would be located just shy of the 500-foot buffer from a school due to its close proximity to the Snowden International School at Copley, Zakim said the dispensary’s proposed site would be in compliance with the zoning code per the Boston Cannabis Board and the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, which both measure the distance between the two entry ways.

The distance between the entry of the proposed dispensary to the school’s entry is “well over 600 feet” (and over 800 feet between the front doors of the two establishments), said Zakim, who added that Copley Connection would also take proactive steps to ensure that its products aren’t diverted to minors.

Regarding expected community benefits, Zakim said Copley Connection would make “significant and sustained contributions” to Copley Square Park via planned collaboration with the Boston Parks Department and the Friends of Copley Square, which would include but not be limited to additional maintenance shifts, volunteer cleanups, and contributions to public events in the park.

Staff would also be posted outside Copley Connection to not only clean the public space in front of the storefront, but also to ensure that customers arriving at the store don’t double-park, said Zakim.

Most customers are also expected to travel to Copley Connection via the T, given the location’s close proximity to the Green and Orange lines and bus routes, according to the owners.

Copley Connection will also take additional steps related to “nuisance prevention,” including pledging not to sell individual pre-rolls, as well as disposing of trash in a locked dumpster in the rear alleyway.

The first-floor waiting area could accommodate up to 20 customers, said the owners, while in the event of excessive crowds waiting to get into the establishment, customers would be turned away at the door, or told to return later.

Elliott Laffer, chair of NABB’s board of directors, expressed concern that the proposed dispensary would give way to another “blank window” on a block already dominated by fast-food restaurants and bank branches. (No products would be visible in the dispensary’s ground-floor windows, according to the owners.)

Conrad Armstrong, the committee’s chair, said it’s “unfortunate” that the business wouldn’t have a dedicated parking space.

Regarding the expected community impact of Copley Connection, Anthony Baez of District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok’s office said they have received no complaints concerning Ayr to date.

Zakim said the city’s Office of Neighborhood Service intends to hold a public meeting on the Copley Connection proposal at a future date.

In another matter, a would-be applicant came before the committee to discuss the possibility of opening a “claw shop” (featuring claw crane machines, like those typically found in arcades, that often dispense plush toys) at a yet-to-be-determined Newbury Street location.

Christian Fernandez said the proposed business would come on the heels of Gotcha, a claw shop located at the Florida Mall in Orlando, Fla., as well as Space Zero, an amusement center featuring trampolines and virtual reality machines, in addition to claw machines, located at South Shore Plaza in Braintree.

“We really want to understand where the neighborhood would stand with this [to see] if it is worth pursuing,” said Fernandez , who added that the proposal would have to go through a “special variance process” with the city to secure an “automatic amusement device license” to move forward.

Customers of the proposed claw shop are expected to range in age from 15 to 25, and would number around 1,000 each day, he said, and they would likely include many families.

The proposed hours of operation are 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, said Fernandez, and if the business were to occupy an approximately 2,000 square-foot space, it could accommodate between 30 and 40 claw machines.

The business owners is currently looking at a retail space near the intersection of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue because of that area’s easy access to the Hynes station on the T’s Green line, as well as due to its close proximity to two Newbury Street business expected to attract a similar demographic, Newbury Comics and Anime Zakka, respectively, said Hernandez. The owners would also consider a location on Newbury Street within a 15 minute walk from the T station, he said.

The business is expected to generate minimal trash, said Fernandez, since no food would be served on the premises. A vending machine dispensing soft drinks might be located on the premises, however.

Regarding the expected noise impact, Fernandez said the claw machines “make no noise whatsoever,” and that he expects the establishment wouldn’t be disruptive to the neighborhood.

The commission also heard from Attorney Dennis Quilty again regarding The Sheraton Boston hotel at 39 Dalton St., where one of the two towers (the south tower) is being converted into a dorm by Northeastern University to house around 800 students in approximately 420 rooms on a temporary basis with the approval of the Boston Planning & Development Agency. (The north tower has remained a hotel.)

Quilty was on hand this time to discuss the proposed transfer of a Food and Beverage License, with no changes to the existing operation, including hours and occupancy – a matter that, he said, is scheduled to go before the city’s Licensing Board on Nov. 16.

“It’s just a necessary step for the new ownership to take control of that asset,” said Quilty, who added he would be returning to the commission regarding the remove of the South Tower from the liquor license, if that building is approved by the city as permanent student housing for Northeastern.

Furthermore, the commission also heard about a proposal to transform the ground-floor retail space at 647 Boylston St. previously occupied by GameStop into a new storefront for Blank Street Coffee.

Blank Street Coffee is a Brooklyn-based chain of coffee shops with an existing location at 282 Cambridge St., as well as another Beacon Hill location at 97 Charles St. on the way, along with other stores throughout New York City and in Washington, D.C., and London, England.

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