By Seth Daniel
The Hood Park parking garage – which has tentatively been slated to also contain a 4,000-person concert venue and a restaurant – has been in a roller coaster drama over the last week that has ended in pretty much the same place it started.
That place is that there is a proposed parking garage on the back side of the Hood site with 75,000 sq. ft. of retail that could house the concert venue and restaurant.
Word around the Town moved quickly last week that the garage portion was still okay, but that City officials – including possibly the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and Mayor Martin Walsh – did not like the concert venue concept.
Other entertainment venue interests nearby were also apparently skittish about such a facility so close.
In fact, many reported that the concert venue was slated to die a slow death within the official process.
That, however, has all self-corrected this week as the official BPDA process chugs along, most recently with an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meeting last night – too late for the newspaper’s deadlines. While the concert venue seems to be the focus of the project, the bottom line is the proposal is only about a parking garage at the moment with significant retail on the ground floor – a retail portion that the BPDA required of the Hood developers.
Mayor Walsh this week wouldn’t say on the record whether or not he supports the concert venue. However, he did say he is watching the process and will weigh in later.
“Mayor Walsh looks forward to reviewing the proposal once the formal community process is completed,” said Nicole Caravella, press secretary.
State Rep. Dan Ryan said it’s important to follow the official process on this proposal. He said that, so far, the concert venue has prematurely jumped ahead of the parking garage plan – a plan that supports the construction of another office building to house a world headquarters for a new tenant.
“I understand people have concerns about the revised plans for the Hood Office Park,” he said. “I have them, too, but I’m willing to listen. I find the idea of a concert venue intriguing. But, it is still way too early to make a decision one way or another. To the best of my knowledge Hood has not even entered into an agreement with a vendor yet. Until this venue moves from concept to possibility, we, the community, need to concentrate on what we know is already approved to come to the area.”
He also cautioned that residents shouldn’t enter into the ‘done deal’ mentality – and that within the official BPDA process that Charlestown has been outside of for a long time, there is plenty of room for change.
“I hear the term ‘done deal’ all the time,” he said. “That term is really a disservice to the community process. When people hear this they tend to throw their hands up and don’t bother participating. The only piece of this plan that is a done deal is the fact that H.P. Hood, a major employer in the region since its Charlestown founding in 1846, are a private landholder with an 18-year-old, BPDA-approved plan to develop this campus.”
Finally, Ryan said it is important for the Town to remember the Hood redevelopment has a great deal to do with the redevelopment of Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue.
“Over the past twenty years this corridor was conceived in a vacuum,” he said. “Most of the development that is causing consternation was approved long before I got into office. With these changes to Hood’s design, we, the community, have another bite of the community process apple. We need to relish this. Since Mayor Walsh took office more residents have been educated and included in community decisions. The BPDA has implemented the IAG process in Charlestown. So, we are now playing by the same rules as the rest of the city, for the first time in nearly two decades. Adding the IAG’s does not take anything away from any groups previously in existence…And one, big, major change is that we now have an elected official who wakes up every morning and stares at Rutherford Avenue.”