Debate Over Proposed Tower in the Bay Village Continues

By Beth Treffeisen

Looming over the minds of many in Bay Village and surrounding neighborhoods, is a proposed 19-story building that is slated to fill in the gap of a current surface parking lot, between the Revere Hotel and South Cove, an elderly assistant living facility.

For years this eyesore has welcomed many in and out of the tiny neighborhood of Bay Village and the question of what should take its place has several opinions amongst the residents.

After receiving community feedback, the developers, Transom Real Estate, LLC, returned to the neighborhood to present updated changes to the proposed 19-story tower to be located at 212 Stuart St.

This was part of a joint meeting between the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Bay Village Neighborhood Association (BVNA) planning sub-committee that happened on Monday at the Revere Hotel. There, residents viewed the updated changes and voiced their thoughts on the proposed 199-foot tower.

“We made the changes that we thought we could do,” said Peter Spellios from Transom Real Estate. “We went through a process and made a determination that we could get rid of an equivalent of a floor of density and that we could reduce it.”

He continued, “Those concerns of height was overridden by the concerns of the plaza and really at the ground level where people would be most effected.”

The building will consist of approximately 146,000 square feet. It will contain less than the original space allotted for ground floor retail at about 2,000 square feet, which would be big enough for a café or bakery.

It will contain a little less than the 131 residential rental units originally proposed due to the re-configuring of the building.

Changes include setting back the building on Stuart St., to open up the pedestrian plaza more, changing the material so that the building reflects warmer tones, and adding decorative metal to reflect the nearby brick row houses.

Along Cocoanut Grove Lane (Shawmut St.) the architects have added in two town houses within the building that will be almost at the exact same historical location where two row houses used to exist. In addition, garden boxes will line the wall all the way back to the corner retail space.

No on-site parking will be available but the developers have made an agreement with the adjacent garage located 200 Stuart St. to provide long-term parking to occupants and visitors of the building.

The last time that the developers presented to the neighborhood was at the January BVNA sub-planning committee meeting.

“I’m a landlord, a taxpayer, a voter and I am against this project that is proposed,” said Paul Miller a resident of Bay Village. “I do appreciate all the work that you’ve done. I think the town houses into Shawmut St., is a great step – good job. But I think that the set back is quite frankly laughable.”

He continued by saying that the reduction of the building is nothing, only about 7,000 square feet.

“I’ve been at these meetings many times and I respectively disagree with what you said earlier that the revisions on the first floor overshadowed the height,” said Miller. “All I’ve heard is height, height, height, over and over, over again.”

He asked again if the developer would lower it the height by 85 feet, than 65 feet to no avail.

Spellios returned his question with, “We put forth the height that we are willing to do.”

Kathy Hull another resident of Bay Village said that a lot of what the developers are hearing from the people is that 199 feet is too tall.

“While BPDA continues to do new studies and plans new variances for redevelopment in Boston they demand that the new projects and I quote, ‘preserve and celebrate the character and scale of existing buildings within sub-districts with some exceptions,’” said Hull.

She continued, “Thank you for responding to the character issue but no reason has been brought up to why this project should have this exception of scale quite frankly in this historic district.”

Hull also echoed concerns over environmental impacts such as additional shadows on nearby parks and the increase of wind.

Previously, the BPDA approved two developments for this site in 2006 and 2008.

In 2005, Ceres-MHP Development LLC proposed an eight-story, plus penthouse at 115 feet tall residential building that did not include the 222 Stuart Street parcel.

In 2007, Rena LLC purchased both of those properties and proposed a ten-story building at 112 feet that would include mix-used programming of office and retail space. Construction on the project never commenced.

John Shope, the former BVNA president in the early 2000’s said that he is in support of this project because even though the City has been in a building boom, no developers up until now have pounced at redeveloping these parcels.

Responding to what a Bay Village member said earlier, “He said if you kill this building you’d just get a 120 foot building that is just a monolith, but that’s not true. We won’t get that — we will get something worse,” said Shope.

He continued, “The reason why I know that we won’t get that is because that is exactly what was permitted [in 2006 and 2008] and any developer could have come along and brought it back to life.”

Spellios said that despite the height being an important issue that residents have brought up, he truly believes gaining constructive feedback is important.

He said, “I believe this process works, this process creates a better project and that my team truly believes and thinks we have a better project here.”

The comment period for this project is open to April 14, 2017.

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