BPDA Proposes 275-Foot Height Limit in Hood Park at its Board Meeting

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) will propose raising maximum heights in and around the western half of the Hood Park by 160 feet – leaving the possibility of 275-foot-tall buildings on the properties in Charlestown abutting the I-93 corridor.

The document was presented for consideration on the BPDA agenda Tuesday, and will be discussed by the Board today, Oct. 11. The goal is to submit the height change to the Zoning Commission on Nov. 7 at 9 a.m.

The proposal came after the BPDA held three meetings throughout the spring and summer months regarding what the neighborhood and business interests would like to see in the industrial zoning district on the other side of Rutherford Avenue.

In detail, the proposal would only affect the areas 300 feet beyond Rutherford Avenue (heading west) and 400 feet beyond Cambridge Street. That leaves about half of the Hood Park land, as well as interests like Boston Sand & Gravel, Costa Fruit and Casella Waste. Within that narrow area, buildings would be allowed to rise up a total of 275 feet (with the last habitable floor being no higher than 250 feet. The amendment would also only apply to the Local Industrial Subdistrict, which means it cannot be applied in any fashion to properties on the mainland side of the Town.

The areas inside of 300 feet from Rutherford Avenue and 400 feet from Cambridge Street would remain at their current height levels, which are 75 feet tall in total.

Another key protection that will be retained is the fact that no building can be built by right (without review) which is more than 45 feet tall.

The Floor Area Ratios (FAR) – a measure of density and the total amount of square footage allowed – would not change from 2.0 throughout the district.

The proposal is in no way a done deal, as residents and Councilor Lydia Edwards previously stopped a text amendment at the Zoning Commissioner earlier this year that called for increased heights in the same area. That request was seemingly to accommodate Hood Park, which has been on a very public campaign over the last year that calls for revamping the existing plan for the Park. That plan would call for taller buildings near the highway – the tallest being a 295-foot tower, as proposed now – in exchange for more open space throughout the development. Hood Park believes that its existing plan, approved in 2000, is out of date and would better serve their tenants and the community with increased open space, which would require taller buildings, they have said.

The proposed height increases

“We believe this change will enhance the City’s overall strategic growth objectives and provide Hood Park with the opportunity to continue to engage with the community and contribute to local job growth, ensuring that our current tenants will be able to stay in Charlestown,” said Mark Rosenshein, of Trademark Partners.

Councilor Lydia Edwards said she has reviewed the new proposal and is still concerned about the height.

“I believe residents of Charlestown should be in the forefront of shaping the guidelines for development in their community,” said Councilor Edwards. “While I do appreciate the efforts of City planners to update zoning for the Local Industrial Subdistrict of Charlestown, last modified in 2001, it is not clear to me that the zoning change, which more than doubles the maximum height in the area, is entirely reflective of neighborhood input. I look forward to hearing from residents as the proposal advances to the Zoning Commission.”

State Rep. Dan Ryan has also been involved in the process and said

“I look forward to hearing what the Zoning Commission has to say about the BPDA’s proposal,” he said. “There has been a thorough process around these parcels and about amending the 20-year-old approvals for this area to bring them up to date. Interested parties have had an opportunity to be heard at this juncture. It is time to move to the next phase either with or without the zoning changes. I do not fear height near the highway. But, I also understand some people’s concerns about overcrowding. This city and region is in a transformative time. The decisions here will determine if Charlestown will be part of that future or left behind. This week’s vote will further than discussion.”

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