By Seth Daniel
When people in Charlestown think about seeing a show or a concert, they typically look to the south towards the TD Garden, but if a plan by Hood Park holds, a new 4,000-seat concert and entertainment venue could occupy the first floor of a newly proposed five-story parking garage on the Hood Park campus in just two short years.
The 775-car parking garage has been rolled out to the community earlier this month, but Mark Rosenshein, of Colliers (and a Charlestown resident), told the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) some new information in that Hood is just about ready to ink a deal with a major concert venue operator.
As part of the garage plan – which was first approved in a Master Plan process in 2000 – the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is now requiring that all new garages have retail/commercial uses on the ground floor to activate the space.
Rosenshein said for the 75,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor, about 25 percent will be reserved for a restaurant and 75 percent for the entertainment venue.
“We have now identified two uses,” he said. “We still cannot share who the tenants are, but the new thing we can share is that we plan to have a restaurant there and a performance/entertainment venue with a 4,000-seat capacity. It will be an entertainment and concert hall on the first floor.”
That was completely new information and surprising to many who envisioned a large box store or some other kind of retail venture. Rosenshein said the operator is in the process of finalizing the lease with Hood, but before all the details are completed, they hope to bring the operator to the CNC before any Operational Agreement is worked out.
“This is a company that does this and that does it well,” said Rosenshein. “We are confident they can handle it…They have venues in other parts of the city and around the country.”
The layout of the venue includes no windows and double-acoustic panels, and Rosenshein said that is because they will make every effort “to keep the sound in the box” so neighbors on the mainland side hear no noise. The garage is located on the back of the campus on vacant land, and will have a new residential building at 480 Rutherford Ave. between the concert venue and the neighborhood – not to mention the highway as well. The stage is positioned to be on the far end of the venue as well, closest to the highway and the Casella recycling plant. Plans also call for beer and liquor sales at the venue and the accompanying restaurant.
Rosenshein indicated the operator would have about 150 nights booked per year, with about 50 of those being to the full 4,000-seat capacity. The remaining 100 nights are envisioned to have shows at 2,500 seats or 1,000 seats.
“The operator doesn’t feel there is any saturation in the market,” he said. “They see an opportunity and a hole in what is offered here. They don’t think there are many of these middle-range venues. They feel the 3,000 to 4,000-seat range is a missing piece of the puzzle.”
Traffic was first on the mind of most, and Rosenshein did say they will have to manage a fair amount of traffic – some 1,900 new trips according to their recent study. The study indicated that there would actually be 50 fewer trips at the morning rush, and 50 new trips at the evening rush. The bulk of the trips would be off-peak for the venue and restaurant.
He said those trips are not at peak times because most concerts and shows would start after 7 p.m. and let out at 11 p.m. or midnight. Many he believes would come by the MBTA because it is very close, and others would likely carpool.
CNC Chair Tom Cunha said he is apprehensive due to the traffic and the management of it.
“We deal with traffic, but for the first time in my life I feel like I’m staring down heavy traffic at 7:30 p.m. as opposed to the usual 7:30 a.m.,” he said. “They may need to be careful not to schedule nights when the Bruins or Celtics play at the Garden.”
Said Rosenshein, “There is no question there would be traffic issues with the venue. There will be an additional amount of traffic from that venue.”
Lisa Collins said she was concerned about those at the venue parking on Baldwin Street, migrating into the neighborhood by foot and vehicle. She and Member Tara Lally were concerned about people coming out of the venue late at night and being loud as they pass through the area.
Rosenshein pledged to have two police details during all shows, one on the Hood campus and another on Rutherford Avenue.
He also said that with only 150 shows per year, there would be ample opportunity for community non-profits to use the space – including the Working Theatre and other groups in the Town.
He also said there is no reason that $1 of all merchandise sales at the venue couldn’t be donated to non-profits in the neighborhood via the CNC.
“Absolutely we want this facility to serve the community in part and we want it to be an asset to the community,” Rosenshein said. “We think it is a meaningful thing and part of the evolution of Charlestown – having a performance space in combination with a restaurant in close proximity to the neighborhood.”
- The concert venue was the biggest news, but it was not the only thing revealed about the Hood Park campus plans – which have changed substantially since the original approval in 2000.
Rosenshein said there are plans for a large office building on the back of the campus next to the new garage. The garage would handle the parking needs for the venue/restaurant, the remainder of the new 48 Rutherford Ave. residential building and the new office.
He said the hurry-up is on due to an anchor tenant for the proposed office building that wants to be in place by 2020 – meaning that they have to build out the venue/garage first and then move fast on the office building.
“We are working with an anchor tenant for the office building,” he said. “We hope to be able to sign them by the spring and be able to move them into that building. They said they want to move in by December 2020…It’s very aggressive, but we think we can do it.” He said he could not share the name of that anchor office tenant, but indicated it would be a type of world headquarters.
That would mean the parking garage/venue would begin construction in July 2018, and finish in July 2019.