By Lauren Bennett
After the bombshell news earlier this month at the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) meeting that the Hood Park was pursuing a concert venue operator for the first floor of its proposed new parking garage, residents were able to digest and comment on the proposal at a public meeting help at Hood on Monday night.
Some 30 to 50 residents attended, many with concerns over traffic and noise.
The Patriot-Bridge previously reported that the owners have filed with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for a new parking garage, which will include retail space on the first floor. Mark Rosenshein, of Colliers and a Charlestown resident, said that the space will be used for a restaurant as well as a performance venue.
Rosenshein clarified that the performance venue will have the capacity to hold 4,000 people, but it will not have 4,000 seats. Rosenshein said that Hood Park has also proposed 177 residential units at 480 Rutherford Ave., which they hope to have open for occupancy in April or May of 2019, as well as 1.2 million square feet of office space at 100 Hood Park Drive.
Community members had various concerns with the proposition of a performance venue at Hood Park. Since Charlestown is only one square mile, traffic was an important concern for many.
Charlestown resident Moe Gillen said he’d like to see representation from MassPort during this process.
“What the Town needs is a comprehensive plan,” he said. “What will the traffic be like?”
Rosenshein stated that he’s “well aware of the traffic issue,” and reassured community members that Wynn Boston Harbor is going to significantly change the traffic pattern, and the City and state are going to change the pattern of traffic at Sullivan Square – a change that is already under construction and involves the use of Spice Street and D Street to divert traffic from Cambridge Street and Sullivan Square.
He also said that a lot of the new traffic wouldn’t be during peak hours.
“By comparison, this is Gillette Stadium,” Elaine Donovan, a Charlestown resident, said.
Donovan doesn’t believe that there are peak hours in Charlestown.
“We’re peaked all day long now,” she said. “We’re rats in a cage. It’s cruelty.”
Community members also had questions about the project’s effect on local business and benefit to the Charlestown community.
Rosenshein said that union card carrying local residents would have first opportunity to work on or at the facility. Additionally, “We will absolutely make the vendors purchase things locally,” he said, and expressed his wish for Charlestown residents to work at the facility.
Noise was another concern among Charlestown residents.
Patty Kelley, an abutter on Essex Street, is worried about overnight noise from trucks servicing the restaurant and the performance venue.
“I don’t want that carnival atmosphere coming to town,” she said. Rosenshein said that there will be an additional number of vehicles to service the restaurant. However, he said that they would be at the far end of the venue, away from the residential area.
He also said that decibel levels from the performance venues are the responsibility of the venue owner, but there will be no windows at the performance venue to “keep the noise inside the box,” he said.
Rosenshein noted that the noise currently coming from Hood Park is already above the decibel limit. Most of the new noise would be coming from mechanical equipment (HVAC, etc.), and the venue “will not contribute to what you hear on Rutherford at all,” he said.
Charlestown resident Noreen Manning expressed concern for public safety when it comes to the performance venue and having so many extra people in the area at once.
“My big concern is medical emergencies,” she said. Should she have an emergency and need to get out, she said, “I don’t want people in my way.”
The parking garage will not be a commuter garage, said Rosenshein. It will only be open to tenants, residents, and Hood Park guests. The surrounding sidewalks will be “landscaped with active outdoor uses for community engagement,” according to a slide at the presentation.
New tenants have also moved into Hood Park: Indigo, an agriculture technology business, and Cambridge College, he said.
Rosenshein said the performance venue is not a done deal, but if it were to go through, there would be adequate police detail at every event, and northbound traffic would be directed through Hood Park so nobody would be able to leave going north on Rutherford Avenue. This will keep noise and pedestrian traffic out of the residential neighborhoods, Rosenshein said.
Rosenshein said the next step in the process is to have two community meetings in January and then the BPDA board vote. He also said that there need to be at least six more community meetings “before anything can happen.” The Notice of Project Change is available for viewing on the BPDA website.