The proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the Star Market site in the Fenway, along with an associated, proposed zoning amendment, was the matter at hand during a virtual public meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning & Development Agency on Monday, Nov. 6.
Boston-based commercial real-estate developer Samuels & Associates intends to develop the approximately 2.4 acre, L-shaped acre site at 1380-1420 Boylston St., which is currently occupied by a single-story Star grocery store, a decommissioned gas station, and surface parking lots, into a mixed-use building comprising four terraced, interconnected sections.
The approximately 553,000 gross square foot project will include approximately 498,000 square feet of office/research and development space; approximately 17,000 square feet of retail/restaurant/service and accessory uses and facilities on the ground floor; approximately 33,000 square feet of enclosed loading and back-of-house space; more than half an acre of landscaped green space along the Emerald Necklace; and underground parking to support the building’s programming.
Peter Sougarides, a Samuels & Associates principal, detailed the $55 million in community benefits promised from the project, including an $18 million contribution to support the creation of Boston-based Transom Real Estate’s 117-unit residential project (of which 48 percent would be affordable homeownership units) at 165 Park Drive in the Fenway.
An additional $1.3 million has been earmarked to support additional affordable housing in partnership with the Fenway CDC (Community Development Corporation), said Sougarides, while $6.8 million has been allocated for linkage for housing and jobs, as well as another $3 million for transportation and job improvements.
The project’s promised community benefits also include a contribution of up to $12 million to build a 5,000 square-foot, free-standing civic building on the far south end of the project site, which would likely be programmed as a new Fenway neighborhood branch of the Boston Public Library in response to the wishes of the community, added Sougarides.
Mallory Rohrig, a member of the city’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the project, as well as executive director of the Fenway Community Center, said the proposed civic building “sounded a lot like a community center” while adding that it “might be an option for synergy or collaboration [with the Fenway Community Center]…rather than having two entities two or three blocks apart doing relatively the same thing.”
Diana Fernandez, the BPDA’s deputy chief of urban design, noted that there seems to be a “real desire to find some kind of synergy” between the proposed civic building and the Fenway Community Center.
Marie Fukuda, co-chair of Fenway Civic Association’s Parks and Open Space Committee and a longtime neighborhood resident, expressed her “vocal support” for bringing a public library to the Fenway, which she described as “exactly the kind of community that needs this kind of resource.” She requested that the building offer “flexible” space that would allow for a wide range of programming as well.
Likewise, Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association board, called the proposed library “a turning point” in terms of getting more city resources allocated to the neighborhood, as well as for having “a civic space that’s funded” in the Fenway.
Another Fenway resident, Freddie Veikley, said she feels very strongly that the proposed library should focus on its literary and educational mission, rather than on merely providing entertainment.
Joe Creason from Rep. Jay Livingstone’s office said while the project would be located just outside Rep. Livingstone’s 8th Suffolk District, it would still affect many of his constituents, so the representative subsequently supports the idea of a proposed library and appreciates Samuels working with the community to reach this end.
Public-realm improvements from the project will include the creation of a total of three acres of new publicly accessible open space along Park Drive between the Fenway T station and Peterborough Street, said Sougarides, along with the creation of 1,000 linear feet of public-realm frontage along the Emerald Necklace “to help create new front door into the Fenway.”
As for zoning, Sougarides said Samuels is requesting that the city make a “minor map amendment” that would allow Fenway Triangle NDA (Neighborhood Development Area) to extend to the backside of the project site. This matter would need to go to the BPDA board for a vote, before being taken up by the city’s Zoning Commission, he said.
Dolores Bogdanian, a longtime neighborhood resident, expressed concern with the 250-foot height limit for the project per the city’s zoning regulations and asked that the zoning be modified to reduce allowable heights. “I think the height and scale is massive,” she said.
While the proposed mixed-use building would be extremely narrow at only 108 feet wide, all loading would take place inside an enclosed loading area, said David Manfredi, CEO and founding principal of Boston’s Elkus Manfredi Architects. Trucks would head off Boylston Street and through a private alley, said Manfredi, while never having to go through Private Alley #932. Trucks would then make all movements inside the building before exiting onto Kilmarnock Street, he said.
Keith LeBlanc, a landscape architect for the project, said a cycle-track would be installed above the curb outside the sidewalk on both sides, Park Drive and Boylston Street, to connect with the citywide bike network.
The project would also result in opportunities for new seating, said LeBlanc, as well as for new trees along the edges and throughout the site, including “occupiable groves of trees.”
Meanwhile, Sougarides assured meeting-goers that the existing Star Market would remain open until the opening of a new supermarket during the third phase of the proposed 401 Park development (for which Samuels will be the property manager, as well a minority owner), so that Fenway residents wouldn’t be without a grocery store at any time throughout the project.
Sougarides was less committal, however, when it came to guaranteeing that the Star Market redevelopment project wouldn’t be limited to Biosafety Level 1 or 2 lab activities (although the applicant would still need the approval of the Boston Public Health Commission to change it to the more-intensive Biosafety Level 3).
“I can’t commit to you this evening,” he said. “We will definitely talk about it internally.”
The public comment period on the Draft Project Impact Report for this project is open through Dec. 4; comments can be submitted via the BPDA’s project page at https://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/1400-boylston-street, or by emailing them to Quinn Valcich of the BPDA at [email protected].