BPS Pulls Out of Commissary Mitigation Space at Hood Park

The developers of Hood Park and Boston Public Schools (BPS) confirmed somewhat surprisingly on Monday that they have pulled the plug on a planned 20,000 sq. ft. Central Kitchen Commissary, negotiated at the last minute in 2019 as mitigation for the Hood Park campus expansion.

The announcement leaves a 20,000 sq. ft. hole in the development, and also a new donation of $400,000 – the cash equivalent of the Commissary mitigation piece.

A spokesperson for BPS, Sharra Gaston, said this week that the facility – which was vaguely termed in 2019 as a food facility that would benefit students citywide – was not ideal for BPS and they are no longer going forward with the Commissary on Hood Park.

The siting of such a facility at Hood would have meant many trucks, deliveries and dock activity coming in and out of the neighborhood.

“BPS is in search of a commissary facility to house the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) warehouse, as the district continues to produce fresh and healthy meals for our students and their families,” she said. “BPS reviewed the Hood Park Facility in Charlestown as a potential location. The Hood Park space is 20,575 square feet, which can support some of the meal programs and not the full scope of FNS operations. There is limited storage in the facility as well as residential property abutting the location which presented concerns regarding delivery schedules, docking and city ordinances. The site is also not centrally located, which would make distribution to BPS sites across the city difficult. After multiple meetings to discuss the logistics, BPS decided not to move forward with the space. BPS will continue in search of a facility to support our needs, while steadfastly providing uninterrupted food services to our 52,000 students.”

The idea that it was to be the district’s Central Kitchen for school lunch and meals was also a revelation, as no one knew what the amenity was actually to be. When the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) crafted the mitigation agreement with Hood in 2019, former Mayor Martin Walsh’s office suddenly at the very last minute called for a kitchen type concept that would benefit all students in Boston. Many thought it was to be some sort of culinary programming space for students in the district, but few had heard that it was simply slated to be the district’s Central Kitchen, which in the past has been located in Dorchester.

The news came during an IAG meeting on Monday that was looking at the Hood Park development plans for a 156,000 sq. ft. building addition on top of the completed Hood Park Garage. That was already approved in the campus plan that got the go-ahead in 2019, but with the demand for life science space right now, it was moved forward quicker than anticipated.

Most of the discussion did center on Monday around the Commissary piece, and the now $400,000 donation that will come to the community in place of the Commissary mitigation space.

Mark Rosenshein, of Trademark Partners, said Hood had no preference, but that the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and local elected officials were trying to figure out where to put the money. The first payment of that $400,000 would come this year, and there would be four more payments over the next four years – making it about $100,000 per year over the next five years.

“The BPDA is working with us to finalize how the payments get transferred to the community and what that would look like,” he said. “There has been discussion to add this to the Encore casino mitigation fund. Hood Park will be making the first payment this year and will continue to pay that over a five-year period.”

IAG member Joanne Massaro said she was shocked to learn there were meetings happening to dole out money the IAG didn’t even know was available.

“That $400,000 is a big deal,” she said. “I fought for that. To hear it will be combined as part of the Wynn money, I would be upset with that. We tried to do something for the schools and the children in Charlestown…I am asking that the IAG should be included before decisions are made – before anyone even considers putting that money with the Wynn funds.”

Said IAG member Joe Savage, “I want to make sure the IAG is included in the funding decisions on that and where it goes.”

The main focus of the meeting, as stated above, was the addition on top of the parking garage, as well as an update on overall activities on the site as it’s the first major meeting on Hood since 2019.

Rosenshein told the IAG that the meeting was happening because life science space and tenant interest from that industry is blowing up for Hood Park. While the addition was always contemplated and was part of the Master Plan, he said Hood never really intended to build the addition this soon.

“By the end of the year, all of the space in 100 Hood Park Drive (garage) will be filled and leased,” he said. “That’s what’s driving this conversation and moving forward with the addition.”

The addition will be meant for lab/office/research space, but will likely be some sort of life sciences use based on current leases throughout the Park. The addition has been reported on extensively and has had multiple meetings already before the Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC).

If approved, Rosenshein told IAG member Brian Callahan that they would like to get all the permitting done by December, and prepare to start construction in the spring of 2022. They would then anticipate a summer 2023 opening.

The building would be constructed and completed before there would be any movement, he said, on constructing the research tower at 10 Stack Street adjacent to the garage structure. That building, which was originally meant for Agri-research giant Indigo Labs, would now be built after the garage addition – or sometime after 2023.

A New, but Temporary, Dog Park…and a Crossing

Hood Park announced that they plan to construct this summer a massive two-acre enclosed dog park open to the public on property that is slated for high-rise development in the future.

The dog park would feature one side for smaller dogs, and the other side for larger dogs – all paved with pea stone that is commonly used in dog parks.

Chris Kaneb, of Hood, and Mark Rosenshein, of Trademark Partners, both announced the temporary addition to Hood Park this month.

They said that with the change in order of building, they don’t plan to build on half of the land for at least two years, and the other half for about five years. As a temporary amenity for their residents, their tenants and the greater community, they decided to build out a badly-needed dog park. It would be fenced off so that dogs could be off leash legally.

Meanwhile, getting there will soon be easier from Charlestown as Rosenshein said the long-awaited signalized crossing from Charlestown to Hood across Rutherford Avenue is under construction and should be done by Labor Day.

The crossing, he said, became more complicated as it progressed to construction as the City did not want anyone walking on the “cap,” or overpass. Instead, they have had to construct a bridge-like structure over the cap so no one is walking directly on it. That is accompanied by a new on-demand stop signal that will allow pedestrians to cross safely at a signalized area.

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