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Potential developers share plans for site near Greenway

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  May 3, 2012 10:29 AM

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Haymarket Square Hotel.JPG

(Normandy Real Estate Partners/Jones Lang LaSalle/Perkins + Will Architects)

The Haymarket Square Hotel would feature 180 guest rooms, plus spaces for shopping, dining, and community meetings.

A second pair of potential developers made their pitches for the future use of an empty lot between the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and Blackstone Street on Tuesday, completing the public meetings that reviewed four very different visions for the site.

Over the coming weeks, a selection committee from the state Department of Transportation will interview the development teams and review the recommendations of a citizens’ advisory committee, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and individual residents who submit recommendations. Officials expect to declare a winner sometime this summer.

On April 25, two teams of potential developers presented their plans for a proposed Boston Museum with a first-floor market component and for a Blackstone Market with five stories of rental housing. On Tuesday, the plans included the Haymarket Square Hotel — which would include restaurants, an indoor garden, and other community spaces — and another market/housing combination to be called Market Square.

Each development team has stressed that its members listened closely to the desires of the community and the advisory committee and that it is especially sensitive to the needs of the Haymarket pushcart vendors, who have operated adjacent to the site since about 1830.

The plan for a Haymarket Square Hotel came from one of three prospective developers who proposed uses for the site in an earlier round of submissions that were rejected by MassDOT in 2009.

Eamon O’Marah, who proposed a residential use in the earlier round, has returned as senior vice president with the real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, working with Justin Krebs of Normandy Real Estate Partners and Robert Brown of the architectural firm Perkins + Will. O’Marah and Krebs previously worked together on the development of the Ames Hotel on Court Street.

The 180-room Haymarket Square Hotel, they said, would be more than a space for tourists, with spaces for shopping, dining, and community meetings, as well as a winter garden and rooftop gardens that would be an extension of the adjacent Greenway and would be available for community use.

“This project will serve as a civic anchor for the North End and surrounding neighborhoods,” O’Marah said Tuesday.

The building would have a first floor 15 feet in height that would contain market space at the Hanover Street point of the triangular lot and other retail and café space toward North Street. It would also offer public restrooms, an amenity that doesn’t currently exist on the Greenway and is rare in downtown.

To make the space inviting to visitors and residents, it would have two large entrances facing the Greenway and two on Blackstone Street, as well as a fifth entrance on North Street.

The winter garden would occupy a lobby space at an intersection of four corridors and would extend into the second floor. The first floor would also contain a storage area for the Haymarket vendors and a trash area with four compactors.

Brown, the architect, said the first-floor retail would complement the food vending at Haymarket and at the new public market planned for the first floor of the adjacent Parcel 7 building, which is currently vacant. It could be used for other food items or for products related to food, such as cutlery and kitchen gadgets or cookbooks.

O’Marah said the team would work with the Boston Public Market Association and the Haymarket Pushcart Association to ensure the selection of retail was complementary rather than competitive with their operations.

Beginning about one-fifth of the way from Hanover to North Street, a second floor would rise to 24 feet. That floor would contain a community room and other meeting spaces, a fitness center and swimming pool, and about 18 hotel rooms. Then, about a third of the way to North Street, the building would increase to six stories and a height of 60 feet, with those four stories taken up by hotel rooms.

Above the sixth floor would be a green roof, with a glass-walled restaurant at the southern end of the building that would reach to 72 feet.

The building’s façade would be a dramatic combination of glass and narrow terra cotta slabs, the color of red brick, which would catch the light differently and display changing shadow patterns as the sun moved across the sky each day.

The plan would level Blackstone Street, O’Marah said, and remove its curb to create a better environment for Haymarket vendors and alleviate the need for pallets to level their stands. Brown said the plan would add 20-foot stanchions to Blackstone every 30 feet that would provide power and water to the vendors and the ability to stretch a canvas awning over the stalls.

O’Marah said the plan would preserve all Haymarket pushcart locations on Blackstone Street and create a new fire lane required by the city by moving the row of stalls nearest the Greenway toward the hotel building, which would have an eight-foot setback on the first floor to create space for the vendors. The setback would also create an overhang that would partially shelter that row of stalls from the weather.

“These locations are territorial and have been established for 70 years, and we feel that the non-displacement of any location is important in the moving-forward process,” he said.

The hotel would offer limited-service lodgings with moderate prices affordable to middle-class families and business travelers, Krebs said. Hotel guests’ cars would be parked by valets in nearby garages, eliminating the need for on-site parking.

Tuesday’s other presentation came from Walter “Budge” Upton, who managed the redevelopment of Faneuil Hall in the 1970s and helped lead the recent construction of a new wing at the Museum of Fine Arts. Upton, a principal at the firm Upton + Partners, presented a plan for a combination market and residential development called Market Square.

Visually, the building designed by CBT Architects for Market Square is the least flashy of the four, hearkening back to old New England in its stately red-brick façade and a decorative gazebo-like feature at the Hanover Street tip that resembles, committee member Victor Brogna pointed out, a lighthouse.

It is a building that would be at ease alongside the adjacent Blackstone Block, which contains some of the city’s oldest remaining architecture.

The building would be two stories tall at Blackstone Street, though a rooftop dining area above that would include the open-air gazebo structure with a circular roof like a flattened cone. At about one-third of the way to North Street, it would rise to seven stories

The ground floor would contain retail space, a lobby for the residential component, and service space. Apartments would take up most of floors two through seven, with a restaurant at the Hanover Street tip on the second floor and a roof deck featuring outdoor dining above that.

Like the hotel proposal, it would also feature public restrooms and would have no on-site parking. Residents who owned cars, Upton said, would use the Dock Square Parking Garage or the Government Center Garage, where the developers have already arranged a lower rate for potential residents. But he expects that few residents would have cars.

“Parking demands downtown for the city-dweller have been diminishing and will continue to do so,” Upton said.

In contrast to the apartment component of the Blackstone Market plan, which would include only 50 apartments in the upper five of seven floors, Upton’s Market Square plan would include 119 smaller apartments in the top six of its seven floors.

Most of the units would be studios, with some one-bedroom units with small studies and a few two-bedroom apartments. The units would average 700 square feet each, and Upton said would be permanent rental housing, with no option to convert to condominiums.

Upton said he’d like to add even more housing to the area by developing empty space on the upper floors of the nearby Parcel 7 building as apartments.

“We have also offered … to take the risk and develop apartments on the upper levels of Parcel 7,” Upton said. “We’ve also offered to make an investment with the garage, to take over the management of that facility, and to do it basically in joint venture with the Mass Department of Transportion.”

The Market Square plan, Upton said, includes $2.4 million for public improvements around the site as well as an intention to pursue $1 million in state MassWorks funding for additional improvements. Those would included new street lighting, furniture, and bollards, as well as heating coils in the street to melt snow in the winter.

He said he would work with the Haymarket vendors and the Boston Fire Department to ensure that a fire lane could be incorporated on Blackstone Street without any vendors being forced to move their stands.

The first-floor market space, he said, would be a high-end Italian market similar to Eataly on New York’s Fifth Avenue. It would include international and domestic specialty foods with some sit-down dining and would incorporate locally sourced products through the Organic Renaissance Food Exchange, which connects retailers to local growers.

The market would be a destination where people shop but also socialize, Upton said, and would satisfy an existing demand in the North End area for high-quality Italian home cooking. He said it would also help to reconnect the North End across the Greenway to a site that had been considered part of the neighborhood before they were split by the construction of the elevated Central Artery in the 1950s.

Upton stressed that he and his team had listened to the public dialogue of the past three years over how the site should function and had taken into account all viewpoints. He described his plan as “re-knitting the city” where the highway had divided it.

“What we do support is the creation of a Market Square, if you will,” Upton said. “Market Square is not intended to be the name of a building; it’s intended to be a label for a new place in Boston at the crossroads of all these elements.”

All four proposals are available at the MassDOT Real Estate Website. MassDOT will accept public comment on the proposals until June 3, 2012. Comments may be sent by e-mail to or by letter to the following address:

RE: Parcel 9
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4170
Boston, MA 02116

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Market Square sketch.JPG

(Upton + Partners/CBT Architects)

Market Square would contain a high-end Italian food market and restaurant space below six floors of rental housing.

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