Community says ‘No’ to Increased Height Conversation at Hood, BPDA Recommends Passage

Just a few days after several residents of the Town told the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) they would not like to see a text amendment that would allow Hood Park to present building plans for higher buildings, the BPDA has issued a recommendation for its Board to approve the same text amendment.

The recommendation was published on Tuesday with the agenda for the Board meeting, which is today, March 15. The Board was expected to vote on the text amendment as well.

“In an effort to support economic growth and transit-oriented development in these…subdistricts, as well as allow the flexibility needed in future development, …an amendment to the PDA maximum building height regulations would allow an applicable approved Development Plan to govern the building height and not the regulations… This would allow BPDA and other City agencies to control the size and scale of any Proposed Project within (Hood) where greater height is appropriate, and without being limited by what may be construed as an inappropriate height limitation on Planned Development Area (PDA) development in all…of Charlestown. Based on the foregoing, the BPDA staff recommends that the Board approve the recommended text amendment…”

That came just one day after the community met at the Schrafft’s Building Monday night, March 12, where the BPDA heard from the community they would not want the amendment.

“I think it’s a terrible idea; we don’t want that,” said Bill Lamb of the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) at Monday’s meeting. “We have been asking for years for some planning to take place on this area…We have been trying to tie that side of Charlestown to Charlestown proper so people would be able to move from one side to the other – maybe come and go to work. I you put a really tall building, it’s antithetical to what we’ve been talking about. They’ll come in and park in a parking garage and go up and down a tall building and then leave. They’ll have not connection to Charlestown at all.”

More than a few residents were worried about the precedent the text amendment would set.

“I don’t think the PDA is the issue, but the precedent this sets for everyone else,” said Ivey St. John.

Right now, the Hood PDA is one of only two PDAs in Charlestown, as PDAs are prohibited in most of Charlestown. Also, PDAs are for large developments and only allowed if a proponent has one acre or more of contiguous land parcels. So, there aren’t many places in Charlestown that meet the mark.

One of the few is the Hood Park PDA, which was approved in 2000, and has been amended four times now.

However, within a discussion about one recent amendment – the 900-plus parking spot parking garage – Hood representatives said they wanted to come back to the community for a conversation about raising building heights. Hood potentially wants the ability to go as high as 330 feet tall, but more likely somewhere around 250 feet tall.

Under their current PDA, they are limited to 115 ft. tall buildings.

In fact, BPDA officials told residents on Monday, Hood cannot even discuss greater heights with the community officially unless the text amendment is approved.

“The amendment allows for the BPDA and the proponent to at least have a community conversation about what the appropriate height might be,” said BPDA Project Manager Raul Duverge. “Now, they cannot even have a conversation with you about any building over the maximum height of 115 feet. This amendment allows them to have a conversation with you all.”

BPDA Planner Cecilia Nardi said the text amendment would allow a developer in a Charlestown PDA to come to the community one project at a time regarding height.

“What we think this achieves is the height can be determined in a conversation with the community on every individual development plan,” she said. “That means they could come out and have a conversation about a building that is 330 feet in height. The next time they want to propose a building over the limit, they would have to come back for another conversation.”

Those in attendance, except for one man, were not in favor of the text amendment.

The recommendation to the Board in the BPDA Agenda made no mention of the near-unanimous opposition from the community at Monday’s meeting.

In other Hood Park news, BPDA officials said they expect that some time in April, Hood will propose an office tower at 200 Hood Park Drive across from the proposed new parking garage. Hood representatives have said they are looking to build the office building for a tenant that has not yet been secured. They would start construction once the tenant is secured, and they expect it to be a world headquarters for any such company.

BPDA officials said after that building is constructed, Hood would likely have used up all of the square footage allowed in their 2000 Master Plan. To build more, they would have to seek an amendment to that plan from the BPDA and the community.

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