Building 108 Demolition Underway

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a public meeting on May 22 to discuss the current status of the Charlestown Navy Yard Building 108, as well as start to discuss what the site might be used for in the future.

Built between 1902 and 1904, the 32,000 square-foot building once functioned as a power plant for the Navy Yard, according to Chris Breen of the BPDA. Devin Quirk of the BPDA said that the BPDA has started an “active process” to demolish the building, and decided that now would be a good time to start talking to the community about the future of the site.

Paul Osborn of the BPDA and deputy director for Capital Construction said there is “contamination throughout the building, primarily asbestos,” and about 25 percent of the roof structure is gone. The building is overall in poor condition, he said.

Osborn added that approvals are required from both the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection agency, and the BPDA is currently working closely with each.

Design and engineering firm Weston and Sampson has been hired to conduct “further evaluation for demolition and hazardous material requirements,” Osborn said. Demolition and environmental remediation is estimated to start in December of this year, but that is not a firm date, he said. “Public safety and job safety is the number one priority,” Osborn said, which requires a more lengthy process to execute safety and correctly.

Current activity includes building protective barrier walls to protect the Ropewalk. Osborn said that demolition will take approximately six to seven months, though a lot is still unknown about the materials inside. The building will be taken down slowly in a controlled demolition. A question was asked about the possibility of closing Third Avenue during demolition, and Osborn said he does anticipate that happening, as he “doesn’t want to take any risks.”

After discussion of what is currently known about the demolition process, David Carlson of the BPDA talked about the rehabilitation guidelines that limit what can be done as far as reconstruction goes in the historic area where the building sits. The National Park Service, which oversees the Charlestown Navy Yard, “is strict with design guidelines,” Carlson said. Possible future uses include: residential, mixed use, commercial, or a combination of the three.

The newly constructed building “would be consistent with the existing cornice line of the old building and other buildings in the area,” Carlson said. Residents have expressed interest in turning the site into extra parking for the neighborhood, but “parking eats up a lot of square footage in a building like this,” Carlson said, and parking cannot be put underground due to the concrete wall foundations that would be difficult to remove. “Pure parking is unlikely,” added Devin Quirk of the BPDA.

Reay Pannesi of the BPDA then talked about the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, which is the next step in the process. An RFP “contains boilerplate sections describing property, neighborhood, legal requirements,” according to a slide presented at the meeting. It “also contains ‘comparative evaluation criteria’ which explain to potential proposers how their proposals will be evaluated.” Pannesi said that the BPDA will be seeking a developer to build a new building within the parameters set forth in the historic guidelines. Following a public comment period, it will take anywhere from four to six weeks to get the RFP drafted and approved. In order to issue the RFP, approval is needed from the BPDA board, Pannesi said. Devin Quirk said that the earliest this could happen by the end of summer, though they are not committing to any date as of right now.

A Charlestown resident commented that she would like to see some One Charlestown units be put on the building 108 site in order to lessen the number of units being put on the existing site.

“The BPDA stands behind affordable housing,” Quirk said, but the type of height that would be required to put those units there “was not contemplated in the transfer of the property.”

The BPDA is hoping to balance affordability with the requirements of historic preservation.

Another resident asked if there was any commercial interest yet. Quirk said that there have not been any “in depth conversations with anyone,” and he said that issuing the RFP is the way to solicit that interest. “After that, the public can hear proposals and decide what would be best for the community.”

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