(Image courtesy Boston Redevelopment Authority)
The makeover of Melcher Street is underway, despite previous setbacks and delays, with developers touting housing and assuring residents that parking will be sufficient under their revised proposal.
The developers’ plan for the properties at 49, 51 and 63 Melcher St. -- stalled after it was proposed back in February 2008 -- now combines office and retail space with residential units, including affordable artists' housing. The three properties are located in South Boston’s Fort Point district.
The surrounding neighborhood, much of which was developed by the Boston Wharf Company, has evolved from primarily warehouse and industrial uses into a mixed-use area of retail, commercial, residential and artists' spaces.
The Melcher Street site is located within the boundaries of the Innovation District, an area of the South Boston Waterfront that is targeting start-up companies, or "innovation industries," by creating housing and office space geared towards new businesses and their employees. To lure start-ups, the project will include 1,500 square feet of space to be offered at reduced rents.
According to Melina Schuler, spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Mayor Thomas Menino wants the area to be a place "where innovators and entrepreneurs can live, work, and play. ”
Overall, the project has garnered support from residents for its revitalization aims and for the developer’s commitment to preserving the historic structures of the buildings, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One aspect of the project that sparked debate during a recent public meeting was parking, with residents concerned that there were no accommodations for parking spaces on the properties.
Jared Eigerman, attorney for the developers, addressed the residents' concerns by assuring that there will be sufficient parking available in the nearby Necco Street garage. Geoff Lewis, senior project manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said, "That’s something we are continuing to look into --improving traffic flow, parking and general access to neighborhoods.”
The first phase of the project is already underway at 63 Melcher St. and includes five affordable artists' residences and studio units on the first floor. The second through fourth levels will have approximately 27 units that cater to innovation district workers by offering housing that is within close proximity to their businesses.
“Innovation housing features compact flexible units, with shared common spaces. The idea is that in those shared areas, entrepreneurs can gather and converse with each other,” said Schuler. The fifth level will have six lofts. The project is being developed in conjunction with a residential project at 319 A Street.
The second phase entails the rehabilitation of 51 Melcher St. and will feature office space. The final phase focuses on the development of 49 Melcher St., which will include restaurants, entertainment and retail outlets on the first floor. The upper floors will have 14 to 22 residential units.
Eigerman said the project will exceed expectations in terms of providing residential units. He noted that the 100-acre PDA Master Plan requires at least one-third of new development in the Fort Point Channel district to be residential or artist-friendly in character. "This set of projects puts us ahead of that pace,” he said.
The anticipated completion date of the entire project is spring 2013.
This article was reported and written under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (firstname.lastname@example.org), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.