By Seth Daniel
Owners of the Hood Park have filed a Letter of Intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) this week to commence with building its long-promised parking garage, but with a new twist – that being a significant addition of 70,000 square feet of retail space.
“After 35 years, Charlestown is finally getting another parking structure and we want to start in July,” said Mark Rosenshein of Colliers (also a Charlestown resident). “As part of that, the BPDA has asked us to introduce retail uses on the first floor. The design for the garage came in 2000. Since then, they want to activate areas where there are garages with retail. That’s for Hood Park and across the city. We are not ready to announce any tenants but we are in discussions…I know for certain it’s not a grocery store. I want to nip that rumor in the bud. We do expect to see a significant tenant there and hopefully something with an entertainment component. We are in the midst of conversations still.”
The garage project and other matters on the Hood Park were announced in a community meeting on Wednesday night, Nov. 29, though that meeting came too late for publication.
The news for the Hood Park garage, which will contain 725 spots for cars and as much as 75,000 square feet. of retail – which is a significant amount of space, Rosenshein said – comes on the heels of a groundbreaking last month for a residential apartment building on the campus.
In the midst of that was a ribbon cutting for the newly relocated Cambridge College consolidated campus, as well as other new tenants in the park. The Park and the parking garage were part of a large Hood Park redesign process from 2000. That approved plan was amended in 2016 to include the residential building fronting Rutherford Avenue. Plans had been nearly 100-percent office and commercial use in the previous plan, but with the upsurge in activity on the Rutherford Avenue corridor, that has changed.
Geoff Lewis, also of Colliers, and Rosenshein said they will also begin to monitor their parking lot more intensely. That means that the habit of commuters sneaking into their huge surface lot and parking there for free for the day will end. A tagging system will be implemented for tenants and future residents. Anyone without the tag will be removed. That, along with the parking garage project, has the potential to temporarily shift commuter-parking scofflaws onto Charlestown streets, Rosenshein said.
He said they will be vigilant and sensitive to that.
“The lot and the garage are first and foremost to make sure we are taking care of Hood Park parking needs on Hood Park,” he said. “We want to make sure we always have enough capacity to make sure Hood Park tenants are not parking on residential streets. That can’t happen and we won’t let that happen.”
The garage, he said, would only be accessible to Hood Park tenants, and also to those looking to use the new retail offerings – which will require a validation to park. Beyond that, there will be no public parking.
“We are not looking for you to park there and then head into the Bruins game,” he said.
There could be some benefits, however, in the future for Charlestown residents. After one year of operations at the new garage and retail center, Rosenshein said they would evaluate how overnight demand is. If there are significant open spaces routinely available, he said, they will look to offer discounted overnight Charlestown resident parking. He said during snow emergencies, they would also open the garage for Charlestown residents to park for free.
The retail addition – which is new to the plan (the garage has been in the plan for many years and was actually a bit larger) – is perhaps the most exciting aspect for the community. Lewis and Rosenshein said they would be looking to further open the Hood Park back up to Charlestown with that tenancy.
It is significant space, and he said they are working thoughtfully to put something there that will serve residents and tenants of Hood Park, but also draw in residents from Charlestown.
Overall, the new plan is an exciting piece to add to the new Hood Park puzzle.
“It is pretty exciting,” said Rosenshein. “The addition of residential at Hood Park and the Graphic Arts project next door and the conversation with the Boston Transportation Department on Rutherford Avenue are all very exciting.”
Lewis said they have filed with the BPDA.