The Boston Planning & Development Agency board approved an amendment to the ground lease for the Chain Forge Building in the Navy Yard to change its usage from the previously proposed hotel to small rental units at its Dec. 16 meeting. But the tenant still needs to file its plans for the new proposal with the city, which would trigger an Article 80 public process, before it can move forward.
In an internal BPDA memo dated Dec. 16 of last year, a request was made to the BPDA Director Brian Golden to amend the ground lease for the Chain Forge Building, also known as Building 105, to amend the ground lease with the tenant, CVPA Chain Forge LLC, from the currently approved project comprising an 180,000 gross square-foot, 230-key hotel, with approximately 6,000 square feet of restaurant/bar space and meeting and function rooms, to new project consisting of an unspecified number of residential units ranging from a 357 square-foot studio to 1,219 square-foot two-bedroom units.
The memo states that BPDA staff is of the opinion that the ground lease for the property, first executed on Dec. 29, 2017, and which has had its permitting and financing approval deadlines extended by the BPDA 10 times since, should be amended to allow until the close of business this Dec. 20 to “obtain building permits” and “close on construction.”
Brittany Comak, the BPDA’s assistant director of communications, wrote in an email, “Last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chain Forge development team reached out to the BPDA to indicate their interest in potentially updating their project from hotel to housing units. However, at this time the project has not filed a formal Notice of Project Change (NPC) with the BPDA asking to move forward with this change. If the BPDA receives a formal filing, the Article 80 process will be triggered and the community will be notified and once again be fully involved in reviewing the proposed changes. The change would not go to the BPDA Board for a vote until there has been a thorough public process and review.”
The Chain Forge Building was acquired by the BPDA’s forerunner, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, in 1975 when the BRA bought the Charlestown Navy Yard from the U.S. Government. Built in the early 1900s, the building served as the U.S. Navy’s sole producer of chains for decades, but it has now sat vacant for more than 40 years.
The development team has expended millions of dollars advancing the development of the site since the lease with the BPDA was executed in December 2017. These costs include environmental remediation, cataloging and preserving historic equipment, and preparing the site for redevelopment. Despite these efforts, the BPDA grew concerned about the pace of development and in 2019 instituted a financial penalty system for each month the property remains undeveloped. This penalty rate has been escalated on several occasions with over $2.5 million in delay fees charged to date, according to the city.