Office tower proposed for garage site

By Taryn Luna
Globe Correspondent / July 19, 2011

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The development team seeking to replace the Government Center Garage in downtown Boston last night fleshed out details of the massive complex it wants to build that include plans for a tower about 45 stories high.

The developer, HYM Investment Group LLC, wants to build a seven-building complex that includes office, retail, residential uses and a hotel that would total almost 3 million square feet.

The garage is in something of a no-man’s land between Government Center, North Station, and Quincy Market, but the sprawling development could turn the Congress Street area into an “active retail and pedestrian corridor,” its lead local developer said at a public presentation in Boston City Hall.

“It’s a place that people travel through but not a place that people travel to, especially after 5 o’clock,” said the developer, Thomas N. O’Brien, a former director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The garage is on New Sudbury Street and is bounded by Congress, New Chardon, and Hawkins streets. On the Congress Street side, it fronts on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

O’Brien’s company hopes to expand the site’s connections with the North End, downtown, West End, and Beacon Hill with a project that would create an estimated 2,600 construction jobs over the life of the development.

He said the initial building, a residential tower of about 420 feet at the corner of New Sudbury and Bowker streets, would take at least four years and $140 million to complete. O’Brien did not offer a timeline for the overall project.

The plans would remove part of the existing garage, but keep approximately 1,000 spaces.

The tallest skyscraper, planned for the corner of Bowker Street and New Chardon Street, would be primarily used for office space.

O’Brien’s presentation was delivered to an advisory group appointed by local officials to examine the proposal and advise the BRA on how the project would affect the community.

Members of the group asked questions after O’Brien concluded his speech, and several were concerned that a new school building not in the plans.

“One of the lessons we learned is that it’s not possible for this project to be all things to all people,” O’Brien said. The next step in the process would be a letter of intent with the BRA for the next few months.

Community members also voiced concerns about the potential length of construction, pedestrian and roadway pathways during construction, the impact from shadows on the Greenway, and housing in the area.

The proposed project is big in every way: 1.2 million square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of residential living space, 450,000 square feet of hotel space, 400,000 square feet of parking, and 50,000 square feet of retail space.

The garage occupies a 4-acre premium plot between City Hall, the TD Garden, and the Greenway. For more than 40 years, it has been seen by some as a barrier between the Faneuil Hall area and the reemerging West End neighborhood.

The development would be the largest in the current pipeline of construction projects in downtown Boston and, if built, could bring hundreds of new residents into an area of the city now dotted with restaurants and bars that in large part rely on sporting events to survive.

O’Brien took the lead on the project in early 2010 after the former developer, Ted Raymond, was dropped when the original proposal, which included a pair of 42- and 52-story skyscrapers, stalled.

Taryn Luna can be reached at