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'Ink Block' project receives warm welcome in the South End

Posted by Patrick Rosso  February 24, 2012 08:50 AM

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(Image courtesy BRA)

A rendering of one of the buildings on the corner of Harrison Avenue and Herald Street.

Developers of the proposed “Ink Block" project, at the site of the Boston Herald’s former headquarters on Washington Street, received a generally warm reception at their meeting with the South End community Thursday night.

This is not the first time New England-based National Development has proposed a project for the site. In the spring, the group proposed a more scaled-down version but have since revamped the proposal adding more units and taking advantage of the new zoning in the neighborhood, which allows taller buildings.

“At this juncture we were encouraged to begin the project,” said Sherry Clancy, a project manager for National Development. “Now we feel it is the right time to move forward.”

The group has proposed demolishing portions of the Herald’s old building and replacing it with 85,000-square-feet of retail use and 463,900-square-feet of residential use.

The development would consist of 471 rental residential units, which will be lofts, one, two and three-bedrooms, along with space for retail use and a grocery store. The project also calls for 411 underground parking spaces and close to 60 at-grade spaces.

The first building would be a nine-story residential structure on Herald Street.

The second building would be a five-story residential structure facing Harrison Avenue with street-level retail, including a grocery store.

The third building would be an eight-story residential structure with street-level retail facing Harrison Avenue.

The fourth building would be an eight-story residential structure with street-level retail facing Traveler Street.

Project architect David Manfredi said developers are working to make every building unique.

“This is much more than a building, we are building an urban block,” said Manfredi. “We want each of these parts to be specifically distinct.”

Along with unique buildings, Clancy informed residents that the site will also have multimodal amenities, including a Zipcar station and possibly a Hubway site. Clancy also said the developers would be making public realm improvements, including widening sidewalks, planting trees and building a small pocket park on the site of the development.

Many of the 30 residents who packed the meeting room at Project Place Thursday expressed excitement for the development.

“I think it’s a big improvement,” said Alan Naylor, a South End resident. “I was just curious as far as the space [for the supermarket]. Is that adequate?”

The supermarket was a major point of excitement for residents who said it is needed in the neighborhood.

National Development has set aside close to 30,000-square-feet of space for a grocery store and although many in the meeting expressed a want to see a Whole Foods there, Clancy said they are in talks with a few chains but Whole Foods is not one of them.

While many at Thursday’s meeting seemed enthusiastic for the development, Bill Moy, a member of the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Impact Advisory Committee, a group of residents and business owners working to review plans and raise neighborhood concerns, said the project doesn’t fit.

“That’s a suburban strip mall on an urban site,” said Moy. “This project as it exists today doesn’t do justice to the area. This should be an anchor site for the South End and Chinatown.”

Residents also suggested National Development add more shrubs and trees to the site to help hide the two-story parking structure in the center of the development, along installing solar trash cans and more bike racks.

The question of who would be doing the work was also raised by residents. Clancy did not specify if the people working on the site would be local residents but did say the group plans to use 100-percent union labor.

National Development, according to Clancy, would like to begin demolition of the current structure by fall 2012 with the construction of buildings one, two and three following the demolition.

Construction of the fourth building may be delayed until after the construction and occupancy of buildings one, two and three.

According to the Project Notification Form filed by National Development with the BRA, the group estimates that all the buildings could be completed and operating by 2016.

But before the groups break any ground on the site they must first receive a slew of approvals from the city.

Along with seeking BRA approval, developers also must obtain variances from the city for the ground water system and for parking. Developers must also receive the sign-off of the city’s Landmarks Commission because the development falls into the South End “protection area”, requiring review by the city agency.

The public comment period for the project ends March 9. Comments can be submitted via email to or through mail to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, One City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA 02201.
Email Patrick Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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