BPDA Releases Austin Street Lots RFP

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to gather potential plans from proponents to redevelop the Austin Street parking lots.

The Austin Street lots, which cover about 5.6 acres, have mainly been used by students of Bunker Hill Community College – however, the lots are actually owned by the BPDA.

Over the last several months, the BPDA, with the help of public feedback, has been putting together the recently publically released RFP. It should be noted that the BPDA can make updates, corrections, clarifications, or extensions to the RFP through emailed addendums.

A statement that alludes to the goals of the RFP found in the introductory section of the document states, “The BPDA seeks to convey the Property to allow mixed-use development that, in conformance with PLAN Charlestown, will bring a mix of housing, with an emphasis on affordability, to the Charlestown area along with community-driven ground floor activation and open space.”

Specifically, the goals or development objectives laid out in the RFP include conformance with PLAN: Charlestown, the creation of affordable housing, ground floor activation, public/open space, healthy development, arts and culture, and diversity and inclusion.

Furthermore, the RFP goes into more detail on what the BPDA is looking for in each of the aforementioned objectives. In terms of conformance with PLAN: Charlestown, some of the goals include housing for a range of incomes, “generous” on-site open space, a sports practice field, improving pedestrian and bike connections, and much more.

Concerning affordable housing, the RFP states, “At least 60% of all residential units must be income-restricted to a maximum of 80% Area Median Income (AMI) for rentals and/or 100% AMI for homeownership.”

Development objectives for ground floor activation include prioritizing things like neighborhood services, retail, and restaurants, with ranges of size and affordability, to get local businesses in the area.

While the public/open space objective emphasizes the inclusion of four practice spaces as well as the inclusion of “green corridors.” 

Another emphasized objective was healthy development in that potential proponents would have to monitor air pollution due to the site’s proximity to the highway. The RFP also details that there should be an emphasis on including spaces for arts and culture.

In addition to some of the development objective details mentioned –  of which there are many more mentioned in the document – the RFP also outlines design guidelines for potential proponents.

One of these guidelines pertains to the height of potential redevelopment in that taller buildings should be constructed closer to the highway and reduced as you move further away.

Moreover, the RFP states, “Proposals that include taller building heights above 150 feet, which is particularly encouraged at the portion of the site closest to the MBTA station, must demonstrate the provision of excellent benefits to the community.”

Other design guidelines focused on specifics regarding connectivity, open space in the site area, resilient development, and more. In terms of parking included, the guidelines call for a parking ratio that is not greater than 0.4/unit for residential uses and 0.4/1,000 square feet for commercial and retail uses.

Keeping the development objectives and design guidelines in mind, proposals are evaluated with several criteria and ranked either highly advantageous, advantageous, or not advantageous.

The evaluation criteria include assessments of the development concept, urban design, sustainable and healthy development, the demonstration of the ability to execute the project as presented, and the diversity and inclusion plan, which constitutes 25% of the BPDA’s evaluation.

Interviews could also be a part of the evaluation of proposed plans which could be included at the BPDA’s discretion.

This evaluation process will be done by an Evaluation Committee – which is made up of BPDA staff, City staff, and the Project Review Committee (PRC). The PRC is part of the opportunity for residents to make sure their voices are heard, as it will be a committee of those in the Charlestown community.

“On June 1st, 2023, the BPDA will issue an application for interested Project Review Committee members. Selections will be made by June 30th, 2023,” reads a statement in the RFP.

More information on the PRC can be found at https://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives/austin-street-parking-lots-disposition-planning.

As the RFP has just been released, the deadline for submissions is Monday, Jul. 10, at 12:00 p.m.

Residents should be aware that there will be time for additional public comment following presentations of proposals.

To learn all the specifics regarding development objectives, design guidelines, evaluation criteria, and more, visit https://www.bostonplans.org/work-with-us/procurement-portal/rfp-listing-page?id=1339, where you can enter your information and download the RFP.

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