Colliers Proposes Residential Building within Hood Park

By Seth Daniel

A third, large residential project on the industrial side of Rutherford Avenue has become public this week, with Colliers International proposing a large residential project for the Hood Park on a site that had previously been slated for an office building.

Geoffrey Lewis and Mark Rosenshein of Colliers announced this week that they would be seeking to change the use of 480 Rutherford Ave. in the Hood Office Park from an office building use to a residential use. The site is now a vacant lot totaling 72,850 sq. ft.

The proposed change would open the door for a 177-unit apartment building on six floors (69 feet) with 91 parking spaces and 10,500 sq. ft. of retail uses.

“There is an approval already there for an office building and we’re just changing the use (to residential),” said Lewis this week. “This would be the first new, ground-up construction within the Hood Park…We think it’s a great project and looking forward to going through the process with the City, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the community. We think bringing residential uses to Hood Park is good for Hood and also Charlestown and the City of Boston.”

The Hood Park has been operating and renovating its buildings since having a huge, 1.16 million sq. ft. Planned Development Area (PDA) petition approved by the BRA in 2000. To date, several of the buildings on the site have been renovated, including the large 500 Rutherford Ave. building next to the proposed residential development. That PDA, however, was only approved with uses for office buildings and industrial uses. Residential uses weren’t an option, and that is primarily because the “other side” of Rutherford Avenue has historically only been used for offices, a jail, industrial entities and a community college.

Only recently has it become an attractive place for potential living space.

That recent attraction, though, has brought market forces to bear rather quickly.

Already, Bridgeview – an affordable housing development – has completed construction and is ready for occupancy on that side of Rutherford Avenue.

Tonight, Sept. 15, the BRA will hold a public hearing on the advancement of the Graphic Arts project on Sullivan Square – a two building project with 171 units slated for development next door to the Hood Park. It is expected to come to a vote of the BRA Board in October.

Other properties, such as the Bunker Hill Industrial Park, have been purchased within the last year by large residential developers who don’t seem interested in operating small, one story warehouses – though they have advanced no plans yet and haven’t returned phone calls.

“I think they all see the same thing we do,” said Lewis. “It’s a great place for residential. It’s close to two T stops and walking distance to downtown. We really want to make it part of a mixed-use community and campus. There will be people moving into the Hood Park that work here and people in the community already who want to live there and people who want to live there to see if Charlestown is a good fit for them. We look forward to making it an integral part of Charlestown.”

Already, the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) has taken a look at the project and had concerns about the parking, having just 91 spaces for 177 units.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Dan Ryan said the project is intriguing for an area that has long been ignored by those in the Town. However, he said the pieces coming together as a whole will only seek to make problems like transportation and traffic more unbearable without producing a larger plan for Rutherford Avenue.

“As I’ve said before, as stand alone developments each project being proposed in Charlestown has merit,” he said. “But, taken collectively, without a long-term vision, we are screwed. The Orange Line is full. Our bus routes are packed with traffic and it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to raise taxes to pay for a 21st Century MBTA. Everyone in the state seems to be pushing transit-oriented development without the necessary transit. The Hood property is intriguing in that it could begin a transformative discussion for Charlestown. We need to use this opportunity for a larger vision about our neighborhood’s future.”

Rosenshein, a former member of the CNC, said the Hood proposal addresses traffic in the sense that it will decrease the numbers of trips that go to and from the project. He said an office use is more stressful on traffic because it takes place in a concentrated period of time – usually from 9-5 with two heavy rush hours. A residential use, however, has fewer people per square foot and less concentrated traffic patterns.

“I think what a lot of people in Charlestown are concerned about and what Dan Ryan is concerned about is traffic impacts,” said Rosenshein. “By switching to residential, we’ll have less impact on traffic and transportation than had we built the office. The time is concentrated with an office use, but with residential people come and go differently…We are actually reducing the impacts.”

The idea of having residential uses in highly-industrial areas has been an ongoing discussion at numerous sites around Boston – particularly in the Rutherford Avenue area and in the Widdett Circle area of South Boston. Both are highly industrialized areas, but are also very attractive for new residential development due to the fact that they are so close to the downtown area and its highly-sought after neighborhoods.

At the Hood Park, new residents would have a front-row view of a recycling transfer station, heavy trucking companies and a fruit wholesaler. Rosenshein and Lewis said such uses across the city are being sidled next to one another, such as at the Ink Block in the South End where luxury apartments and condos are next door to a homeless shelter and gas station.

The project will go through a traditional Article 80 Large Project Review with the BRA, but it will only be through an amendment process to the original PDA – as opposed to the filing and review of a brand new PDA. The amendment for residential only covers the property at 480 Rutherford Ave..

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