One Mystic Avenue and 40 Roland Street Projects Approved

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Following the adoption of PLAN: Charlestown, the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors approved two projects at One Mystic Avenue and 40 Roland Street last week.

The first project up for discussion was One Mystic Avenue. As Sarah Black of the BPDA explained, the project would be a mixed-use development comprised of one building and up to 360,534 square feet of gross floor area.

Additionally, the project would contain approximately 503 residential apartment units, around 8,900 square feet of ground floor lobby, retail, restaurant, and service space, and up to 111 off-street parking spaces.

Furthermore, 100 of the total units will be affordable, with 81 being Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) units from 70 to 100% of Area Median Income (AMI). The remaining 19 affordable units will be project-based housing choice vouchers for veterans under the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program.

This project, which has origins that date back almost four years, has been through extensive community engagement and has been revised throughout several meetings with residents, according to Permitting Counsel for the project, Donald Wiest.

“At the end of this nearly four-year process, we’ve come up with a project that we’re enormously proud of,” said Wiest.

Other aspects of the project are that it is 22 stories in height, and there will be 609 bike spaces. Additionally, the development will be a net zero-carbon project with features such as an all-electric building and much more.

“We are going to be a net zero-carbon project, which is going to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation,” said Aeron Hodges of Stantec Architecture.

During the public testimony portion of the presentation, At-Large City Councilor Erin Murphy voiced her support, commending the inclusion of units for veterans.

“As we know, we are in a housing crisis, and we know that our veterans suffer from homelessness at such a high rate. So to me, this is just a wonderful opportunity to house our veterans,” said Murphy.

In addition to Murphy’s support, several other folks in attendance who provided comments supported the project and complimented aspects of it, such as the housing for veterans, how the project would transform the current site, which was referred to as a junkyard multiple times, and the affordable housing commitments.

While there was support for the project, there were other comments from those in attendance who were opposed.

One opposing Charlestown resident cited the height, saying, “Just looking at those views, I am shocked that you would all think like that is totally okay to add to Charlestown.”

Although multiple people who spoke out in opposition supported things like housing for veterans, they cited other concerns, such as overall public benefit to the community, the Planned Development Area (PDA) process, the height, and more.

In the end, the project at One Mystic Avenue was unanimously approved by the BPDA Board of Directors.

The next project on the docket was at 40 Roland Street, which will bring three new buildings to the neighborhood.

According to Quinn Valcich of the BPDA, the project will contain a nine-story lab/office building at 10-40 Roland Street, a six-story residential building with 52 units at 145 Cambridge Street, and another six-story residential building with 74 units at 128 Cambridge Street.

Moreover, of the 126 total units, 20% will be IDP affordable units, the residential buildings will be all-electric, and all buildings will be zero net-carbon ready. Also, the project is set to have 279 parking spaces and 447 bike spaces.

In addition to the three buildings, another parcel of land — 89 Cambridge Street — will feature community open space and will be designed through the community process.

Other aspects of the project to note are the inclusion of 1.6 acres of publicly accessible open space, planting over 100 net new trees, off-site public realm improvements, and roadway enhancements, among other things.

In speaking about the community engagement with this project that has been going on for three-plus years, Permitting Attorney Michael Parker said, “That engagement has been instrumental in getting the project where it is today.”

Like the previous development, Murphy expressed her support for this project during the public testimony portion of the presentation, citing job creation, the inclusion of housing, and community benefits.

Others also supported the project, complimenting the creation of jobs for Charlestown residents, the public benefits, the commitment to listening to residents, and more.

There did not seem to be many concerns about the project voiced during the meeting. However, there was one question about the lab space and what the safety level of the labs would be.

Parker explained, “The labs are going to be designed for basic research, so there’s nothing like a BSL-4…which are placed in highly restrictive areas.”

“It’s basically run-of-the-mill basic research,” he added.

There were also some concerns about preserving historic properties on the site. Parker explained that feasibility studies, tours of buildings, and more were done to preserve aspects of the site.

For example, most of the building at 24 Roland Street, which is on the site, will be preserved and serve as a subsidized community retail component of the project.

Again, similarly to the previous project discussed, the BPDA Board of Directors unanimously approved the 40 Roland Street project.

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