(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
The Channel Center project is moving into the final phase of construction on its major development along A Street in South Boston.
Developers from Commonwealth Ventures, the proponents, were before the South Boston community Monday night to discuss the “final evolution” of their project and the construction of a new office tower, parking garage, and two parks.
While many in attendance were thrilled to see the project getting underway, many were concerned about the size of the parking structure and the lack of community involvement in the design of the two new parks in the plan.
The One Channel Center phase of the project will erect an 11-story, LEED certifiable building with 521,000-square-feet of office space, some of which will house the State Street Bank offices, as well as 4,000-square-feet of ground-level commercial space to be used for a café.
The building will be divided with a lit glass plane and a pedestrian walk-way that will cut through the building to the proposed park on the corner of A Street and West First Street.
Many residents who attended Monday night’s meeting at 10 Channel Center were curious if pedestrian access through the building would be 24/7 or if the building and walk-way would be opened only during business hours. Residents said that the park won’t always be frequented between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and that crosswalks and other amenities need to be implemented to encourage pedestrian use.
“It seems to me that there needs to be some acknowledgement of pedestrians trying to get to the park,” said Larry Bisoff, a Channel Center resident.
Richard A. Galvin, president of Commonwealth Ventures, said that although times for the walk-way have not been set, he expects the building to be open for most of the day and night.
The One Channel Center phase of the project also includes an above-grade nine-story parking garage with 970 parking spaces as well as space for bike and motorcycle storage. According to consultants with the development team, the garage’s eastern side will be wrapped with a graphic, designed by a local artist.
“We wanted to have a highly designed parking garage,” said Galvin.
The western side of the structure is also proposed to be wrapped in a graphic to soften the garage’s structure and appearance, but many residents said no matter what is done it is still a giant structure right in their community.
“An above-grade parking garage is not something that is suited for the Fort Point neighborhood or any neighborhood that isn’t blighted,” said Steve Hollinger, a local resident. “You don’t put a nine-story parking garage in a prime location.”
Many said the parking garage should be located underground, which was proposed in the original Proposed Development Area documents filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Commonwealth Ventures has since revised the PDA. The revisions, which must be approved by the BRA Board, include the relocation proposed underground spaces to the new parking structure.
While the garage itself was a major point of contention for some residents, the feel of the structure also had many worried.
“I’m really concerned about the ground floor of the garage,” said Lisa Greenfield, a Fort Point resident. “I’d really like to see some retail; it seems like a lost opportunity.”
While many nodded in agreement, Galvin said he is more concerned about the space going unused.
“We were concerned if we put retail there it would just be empty,” said Galvin.
The larger of the two proposed parks and the perceived lack of a community voice in its development was also a concern among the 40 or so residents who attended Monday’s meeting.
“There needs to be a community process around the park,” said Valerie Burns, an area resident, president of the Boston Natural Areas Network, and member of the project’s Impact Advisory Group. “If you know the neighborhood then you know everyone is eager and ready for open space.”
Burns said the neighborhood, which is in desperate need for more open space, should have a say in what its park would look like and who it will serve.
“It’s so valuable it needs to have a lot of input,” said Burns.
The first park’s design is still in the works, but is slated to be approximately 1.6 acres and act as a gathering space for residents and employees who work in the center’s office buildings.
“For parks to be successful the users in the neighborhood need to be involved,” said Rob Adams, a landscape architect with Halvorson Design Partnership and a member of the center’s development team. “It’s essentially the gateway to the Fort Point down Iron Street.”
According to Adams, the park would be approximately the size of the South End’s Titus Sparrow Park. One of the major goals of the park is to open up and improve the A Street corridor.
Adams said possible uses for the park include a lawn, play space, plaza, and event space.
“This will not be an overly manicured park,” said Adams.
Many said they are excited for the park, but want to be more involved. An informal count of hands at the meeting showed that the majority of those in attendance would like to hold another meeting about the park and how residents can shape its process.
Concerns were also raised about the timeline of the park’s construction. Currently the park is slated as the last to be constructed in this phase of the project because the parking lot that currently resides on the park’s land will be used as a staging area for construction.
While many would have liked to see the park happening sooner, residents seemed most concerned about money being left over for its construction.
“There is concern when the park comes last,” said Burns. “All of these issues need to be acknowledged now and the process to get residents involved needs to start happening now.”
Galvin said there would be money left over for the park and his group is ready to work with the residents.
“We have an obligation to develop that park,” said Galvin. “We are willing to work with the BRA to make sure the money is still there.”
But Joe Rogers a member of the IAG and a Fort Point resident also contended that the process needs to start soon.
“I might propose the IAG meets with the BRA and lays out what needs to be done and how to bring in more residents,” said Rogers.
Another new “pocket park,” located on Iron Street, is also slated to be constructed during the One Channel Center phase.
“It should be for the residents to sit, talk, and have their coffee,” said Adams.
The smaller park will include trees and landscaping as well as a center plaza area with a “coffee table” and sitting space.
“We want to create an inwardly focused area…like a living room,” said Adams.
While many at Monday’s meeting were excited to see development start, many expressed that the project was moving too quickly and residents don’t have enough time to provide feedback.
Geoffrey Lewis, a project manager with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said he would be happy to sit back down with residents again and there was discussion Monday night of having another meeting next week, however no formal date has been set.
Currently the developer’s revisions to the project’s PDA are in the public comment period, which ends Jun. 8.
To submit comments, email them to email@example.com, via fax at (617) 918-4297, or via conventional mail:
ATTN: Geoff Lewis, Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
For a copy of the revised PDA, click here.
For more information about the project, click here.
(Image courtesy BRA)
(Image courtesy BRA)
(Image courtesy BRA)