Medford St. Meeting Focuses on Open Space, Resiliency

Monday night’s community meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) regarding the Planned Development Area (PDA) Master Plan for the former Domino Sugar Factory at 425 Medford Street focused on open space and resilency.

The Master Plan consists of the redevelopment of an approximately 25-acre site located at 425 Medford St. in Charlestown with a multi-phased mixed-use development focused on resolving sea-level-rise issues facing Charlestown and the areas beyond.

Haril Pandya from the Flatley Company’s development team discusses open space components to the project at Monday night’s BPDA meeting.

The City of Boston’s new coastal Zoning Overlay District that went into effect last month includes Charlesrtown’s waterfront along the Mystic River, the area around the Schrafft’s City Center wrapping around to Rutherford Avenue area and Mishawam as well as the Navy Yard along the Boston Harbor. The zoning requires new development in Charlestown and other Boston coastal neighborhoods to take additional steps to limit the damage and displacement related to the impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise.

First up Haril Pandya from the Flatley Company’s development team said the team has been listening to residents over the course of the community process and has integrated some comments and concerns into the overall design when it comes to open space and resiliency.

“We’ve been listening to a variety of dialogues and conversations and really trying to get a sense of what folks are really looking for,” said Pandya. “I think the biggest thing that we’re really trying to address is resiliency. In doing so we’re trying to create a balance between how much is built and the creation of an extension of the neighborhood.”

Pandya said the development team plans to extend Medford Street through the property in order to create a streetscape that feels more like the project site is part of Charlestown rather than a separate waterfront parcel.

“We are also trying to look at the open space to be more programmable, whether it’s sports activities or trying to create other other uses, the community can access it,” said Pandya. “Then we are creating better access and experiences to the water. It’s not just simply getting on a path and getting to the water but adding more accessible routes.”

Pandya said while there will be multiple phases to the project each phase will have a unique opportunity to get to the water.

“We don’t want to create the density that we’re proposing as a continuous urban street edge,” said Pandya. “I think the idea here is to kind of break it up along that Bedford Street edge to make sure we’re creating new corridors as well as view access to the water. That’ll allow for wide access for pedestrians, Along with the resiliency component we want to refresh and reinvigorate and extend the community path to the Harborwalk as well as providing a real opportunity to create a go to destination all the way down to the water.’

Next, Jonathan Law from the development team talked about some of resiliency measures Flatley will take to protect the neighborhood for sea level rise.

“In 2017, there was a coastal resilience solution for East Boston and Charlestown issued and identified the Schrafft’s City Center,” said Law. “So in some areas there’s going to be six feet of water entering not just this site but Charlestown and beyond. We use a 22 foot elevation as our starting point to develop the design for public open space along the waterfront. This elevation of 22 feet is based on the 2070 one percent flood elevation with one foot of freeboard on top. Freeboard is basically an additional safety net above the predicted sea level rise. So when we first looked at this solution of how we could address sea level rise, but also create meaningful spaces for people to enjoy, we didn’t want to just build a wall and have some impenetrable barrier that creates no public open space.”

Instead, the flood barrier will be a new publicly accessible waterfront landscape stretching from Flatley’s property located at 529 Main Street, along 465 Medford Street to 425 Medford all totaling a half mile in length. This new resilient edge to the waterfront will include an extension to the Harborwalk and other public pathways, passive and active recreation areas and seating, green spaces and parks, multiple look-out areas, shade shelters, floodable seat steps, and a public boat launch, kayak launch, and dock.  In addition to the waterfront resiliency area, the proposed project will create another eight acres of public open space, totaling approximately 13 acres, all surrounding and incorporated with approximately 1.8 million gross square feet of mixed-use development featuring residential, hotel, office/laboratory, ground-floor retail, and parking uses.

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