Apartments in Fort Point OK’d by city

Complex to add 211 units in the Innovation District

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / December 16, 2010

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Construction will begin next year on a 21-story, $150 million apartment complex in the Fort Point Channel neighborhood that is designed to fit Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s goal of creating a so-called Innovation District in the area.

The project, at 319 A St., takes its cues from the city’s efforts to lure young professionals and technology companies to the former industrial district, which is slowly being transformed by upscale restaurants, new retailers, and more modern homes.

Some units in the complex will feature shared living areas and other elements designed to encourage a communal lifestyle.

An executive with developer Archon Group, which is based in Irving, Texas, said the complex will help Fort Point attract the biotechnology firms and entrepreneurial start-up companies Menino hopes to bring together there.

The project, which received city approval Tuesday night, will replace a five-story warehouse with a complex of more than 200 apartments in two buildings along Melcher and A streets, near the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

The larger building, on A Street, will include 184 apartments and four levels of parking, with 19 units to be rented at below-market rates. The smaller building, at 63 Melcher St., will offer 27 apartments with shared lounges and other common spaces.

Construction is expected to begin next summer.

“This is a key component of the mayor’s strategy to attract and retain the workforce already moving to the Innovation District,’’ said Susan Elsbree, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the city’s planning arm.

The project is the latest in a series of property developments that have helped reshape Fort Point in the past decade. While several new restaurants and offices have opened in the area, much of the building activity has stalled in recent years, with developers struggling to generate funding in the down economy.

Archon has waged a long battle to win city approvals for the complex, which generated years of debate. Most of the neighbors’ concerns focused on height; the developers initially proposed a complex topping out at 240 feet — much taller than the low- and mid-rise warehouses that dominate the district.

Archon executives ultimately agreed to cut the height of the tallest building to 180 feet, a reduction of 25 percent. They also added several live-work apartments for neighborhood artists as well as the units with shared living areas, a nod to Menino’s effort to attract young researchers and students with dorm-style housing.

The company will also pay $2 million to support a city initiative to build more public parks in the area.

The city approved two other projects Tuesday night.

Developer Mount Vernon Co. received approval for a 100-unit apartment complex on the site of an automobile garage at Griggs Street and Brainerd Road in Allston.

And Boylston Properties received approval for an 183-room extended-stay hotel at 121 Brookline Ave. in the Fenway.

Casey Ross can be reached at