Proposed 2 Charlesgate West Project Discussed At Virtual Public Meeting

A mixed-use project proposed for 2 Charlesgate West was the matter at hand during a virtual meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday, Jan. 11.

​Morro, a developer of multi-family housing, has proposed an approximately 290,000 square-foot project comprising 406 fully furnished, smaller dwelling units (i.e. 184 studios, 122 one-bedrooms, 91 two-bedrooms, and nine three-bedrooms); 2,860 Square feet of retail at the Ipswich Street level; and indoor bike parking for 408 bikes. No onsite parking is proposed for the project, although it would create an off-street loading area.

The project had originally been proposed by Scape, a British real estate developer and Morro’s sister brand, in 2021 and conceived as a 251,000 square-foot building, comprising 400 residential housing units, 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail, and 75 below grade parking spaces. The developer solicited community feedback for a couple of years before filing a DPIR (Draft Project Impact Report) for the latest iteration of the project in December of 2023, said David Hunt, chief development officer for Morro.

Hunt summarized the project’s public benefits, including addressing the “acute” housing shortage in the Fenway neighborhood while providing 61 units of onsite affordable housing (15 percent of the project’s total units). The developer has also pledged to support the Fenway CDC (Community Development Corporation) to build additional affordable housing in the neighborhood, added Hunt.

​Emmett Gregory, project manager for Boston-based Mikyoung Kim Design, said parallel parking would be eliminated on the south side of Ipswich Street to create wider sidewalks, while a new public plaza with opportunities for seating and natural plantings would be created on the Boylston Street side of the site to complement the opposite-facing Fens.

​The project proposes a new publicly accessible, open staircase and enclosed public elevator, joining Ipswich Street with Boylston Street and providing access to the Back Bay Fens. A new piece of public art is also proposed for the top of the stairs, and the developer intends to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture and community stakeholders to conceive of a project that would reflect the character of the Fenway neighborhood,  said  Brett Bentson, a principal with the Boston design firm, Utile.

Additionally, Bentson said the project would also be “working in total harmony” with MassDOT’s (Massachusetts Department of Transportation) proposed replacement of a deteriorating southern section of the Bowker Overpass near Kenmore Square. (The proposed Bowker overpass replacement includes widening the bridge structure to the west to accommodate pathways along Charlesgate West, according to MassDOT Highway Division officials.)

​Bentson said the team would also present the project to the Boston Parks Commission in light of their intention to comply with the  Parks and Parkways Ordinance, and to allow the commission “to review projects that impact the environment of the parks”; “regulate the edges of certain parks to maintain consistency in use, setback, and height”; and “protect the environment of parks from disruptive activities and shadows.”

​Likewise, Bentson said the project would also “take cues” from the Fenway-Kenmore Transportation Action Plan, (FKTAP) – a joint effort underway between the BPDA and the Boston Transportation Department that aims to guide changes to the neighborhood’s streets and public realm in a holistic manner.

​As proposed, the site would be divided into Lot A, fronting the Fens, which would have a maximum height of 70 feet; and Lot B, front Ipswich Street, with allowable building heights in the range of 295 feet. Materials used on Lot A would respond to the context of Boylston Street and the Fens, while materials used on Lot B would respond to the context of Ipswich and Newbury streets.

​Marie Fukuda, a member of the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for the project and a longtime Fenway resident, pointed to the proposed redivision of the parcel as her biggest concern with the project, and she urged the BPDA and the developer to seek other solutions.

​Meanwhile, the project will undoubtedly have a wind impact, said Bentson, so the project team is now studying five areas of concern. “It’s a very challenging space with a lot of open space, especially to the north,” he said.

​The project team will also be conducting a “minute-by-minute” shadow analysis, said Bentson, who added most new shadow would be cast on the Massachusetts Turnpike and the train tracks. The project would also have “little impact” on open space, he said, and no impact south of Boylston Street.

​Moreover, the project team will look at “access to sunlight” in regard to anticipated impacts from the project,  added Bentson.

​Despite these assurances, Freddie Viekley, a longtime Fenway resident, asserted that the project was too “oversized”  and tall for its site.

“This is way over the top, and it’s shocking,” she said. “There’s no rationale for [causing] permanent damage to the sight lines from the park. Overall, it has to come down.”

Viekley also pointed to what she perceives as “obfuscation” with the shadow study, since, she said, tree shadow would have a different impact on land, plants, and trees than building shadow. “It’s important that solar energy reaches the soil, regardless of whether there are leaves on it or not,” she said.

Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association board who has been involved in the public process for the redevelopment of 2 Charlesgate Park since the beginning, applauded many aspects of the project, including the creation of affordable units onsite, as well as the removal of parking from the south side of Ipswich Street to create a pedestrian corridor.

To address the expected impact from the project, Horn expressed his preference for the creation of a “natural wind wall” using natural plantings and  a mixture of trees. He suggested drawing inspiration from Frederick Law Olmsted to achieve this goal. “I’d hate to see a monoculture on that corner – that would be a shame,” he said.

Horn also expressed concern with the height of the approximately 300-foot building planned for Lot A and said he would prefer to see a building somewhere in the range of 220-230 feet tall built there instead,

In response, Hunt said, “It’s not a short building, and that’s why we’re trying to study all the impacts.”

Caroline Reeves, co-founder of the Muddy Water Initiative, a grassroots advocacy group dedicated to cleaning up the Muddy River, which is located right next to the project site, said her organization opposes the proposed project because despite stormwater remediation and planned site improvements, they believe it wouldn’t be enough to offset the expected adverse impacts from the project, such as trash ending up in the river, or on the proposed staircase.

In contrast, Matt Jones of Commonwealth Avenue, said as a longtime neighborhood resident, he would support the project. “What’s there now is really a disgraceful eyesore,“ he said.

This meeting was originally scheduled for Dec. 21.

​The public comment period for the DPIR (Draft Project Impact Report) for this project is open until Jan. 23. To submit a public comment or for more information on the proposed 2 Charlesgate West project, visit

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