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Hood Park Pulls Concert Venue Proposal, Wants to Talk Higher Buildings Later

Tuesday was the day the music died at Hood Park, as the developer surprised everyone at a public meeting by announcing that they have cancelled plans for the controversial concert venue proposed there.

The news came at the outset of the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Hood Park Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meeting Tuesday night at Hood Park when Mark Rosenshein of Trademark Partners said the 4,000-person concert venue – which was to be located in a proposed parking garage – was off the table.

“In a bit of news, we have cancelled the venue,” he said. “It’s that easy. It’s gone. We will not ask for and will not pursue a 4,000-person concert venue at that location any longer…The economics of the proposal just never came together. It doesn’t mean we’re not moving forward and doesn’t mean we’re not moving forward on the garage.”

Chris Kaneb, manager of Hood Park, said the venue just wasn’t the right fit.

“As the owners of Hood Park, we wanted to respond to the needs of our existing Hood Park tenants and future residents as well as those in the surrounding neighborhood while also trying to create new uses that generate long-term benefits for the larger Charlestown community,” he said. “We concluded that this proposed entertainment venue was not the right fit for Hood Park at this time, however we look forward to other opportunities to create a dynamic environment to live and work.”

Instead, Rosenshein said, they will build a less controversial parking garage, and then come back to the IAG and community this spring to talk about increasing the maximum height of buildings on the Hood site from 115 feet to 330 feet.

“What we’re looking for is a bigger number on the height,” he said later in the meeting. “One reason we took the venue off the table is so we can have an honest conversation about buildings that are 330-feet in height. The office building we are looking to propose (in April for 200 Hood Park Drive) is not going to be 330-feet, but as we build out Hood Park there might be a reasons to go up to 330 feet in the future. That would be an average height for the buildings around us…We want to be able to come back to ask you for permission to do that.”

The news about the venue being cancelled threw many on the IAG for a loop, and all interpreted it as good news. It had become a sticking point within the group for the overall project, which includes a 750-space parking garage, a restaurant, another retail space and now a second floor commercial lab space proposal. The concert venue had also attracted a mysterious and anonymous anti-venue public relations campaign that consisted of misleading phone polls and a website dedicated to Concerned Charlestown Residents.

Most on the IAG learned of the news at the meeting, though the rumor had been making its way around the Town for about a day.

Rosenshein said they learned about the cancellation of the deal on Monday around 11 a.m.

State Rep. Dan Ryan

“Well, we are back to where we were before the concert venue come up,” he said. “We have a major land owner with 20-year-old approvals that they would like to amend. We need to refocus on the impacts, both positive and negative, this development will have on Rutherford Avenue and the community at large.

“I also want to make it clear that the Astro-turf efforts to muddy the waters around the community process was a real disservice to the residents and volunteers who put in their time and effort, in person, to make sure the community’s concerns were heard,” he said, alluding to the negative PR campaign. “In the end, the concert venue was a business venture between two parties that didn’t work out. It was not thwarted by an anonymous residents group.”

The parking garage has a public hearing at the BPDA on March 15 before the BPDA Board. Another final meeting of the IAG is expected in early March, but there is much less to talk about on the parking garage sans venue.

However, it doesn’t mean there isn’t anything controversial to talk about at Hood Park. Most of the remainder of the meeting Tuesday focused on a proposal that will officially come in the spring – around April. That proposal includes a 13-story office building that doesn’t yet have a tenant. That office building has been discussed vaguely before, and it will include about 375,000 sq. ft. of leasable space, he said. They will begin permitting it in April, but won’t start construction until they have at least 200,000 sq. ft. leased.

The larger discussion in April will be a Hood Park meeting and a BPDA meeting that will be called to discuss potential changes to the height restrictions at Hood Park and along I-93. As of now, many of the buildings in the Cambridge, Somerville and Everett corridor are 250 feet or above. The Wynn Boston Harbor casino is 331 feet. Hood Park would like to be able to consider buildings of the same size on the back of its property in the future.

“I see that as the overbuilding of the Town,” said IAG member Patti Kelley. “It’s going to take away the small town feel we have. You’re going to have all these big buildings going up like a wall, and what happens when all the sudden they become rental units or condos? It seems too much.”

That was the popular sentiment on the IAG Tuesday, but it was a conversation chalked up for another day. For now, most everyone was happy to hear the venue is history.

Seth Daniel :