By Lauren Bennett
The first Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meeting to discuss the 100 Hood Park Drive garage project was held on January 17.
Senior Project Manager Raul Duverge of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) spoke first about the project’s current status. He discussed the Article 80 review process for the proposed project: the original master plan was approved in 2000, with three amendments to date and a fourth currently being proposed.
All comments and questions were taken from the IAG first, and then any members of the public in attendance.
Mark Rosenshein, now of Trademark Partners LLC, told the IAG and the public that the parking garage will include four levels of parking instead of six in order to include the retail space on the ground floor. That retail space has been the focus of the project in the Town to date – with a proposed 4,000 person concert venue and a full-service restaurant now proposed.
He said that the Notice of Project Change includes the relocation of 75,000 sq. feet of office space to Hood Park Drive and conversion to retail space, and the clarification and addition of uses to the Hood Park Planned Development Area (PDA) including retail and entertainment use.
Rosenshein also said that there would be just 725 spots in the parking garage, which “meets the obligation for Hook Park,” he said.
He said the construction of the garage would start in July of 2018, and it would open July of 2019 – if approved.
Rosenshein spent some time talking about an issue that’s on the minds of many community members regarding the concert venue: noise. He said that they are currently measuring the existing noise from the highway and Rutherford Avenue, and the facility will continue to run that model for a year after they open.
‘We will do the tests necessary to prove that the volumes today that you experience will not change as a result of the (concert) venue,” said Rosenshein.
He reminded those in attendance that the mechanical components of the building (heating, cooling, etc.) will be located inside the building as part of the effort to keep the noise levels the same as they are currently.
IAG member Elaine Donovan was concerned about people on Baldwin Street and noise from pedestrian traffic.
“What kind of mitigation do these people get? Do they get noise windows?” she asked. “You don’t know until the thing comes to be and happens.”
Rosenshein reiterated that there is a commitment to no change in noise because of the venue.
Rosenshein discussed another major concern in traffic. He admits that while the venue would add a certain amount of traffic, “adding 500 cars is not going to cause a backup on Rutherford Avenue at 11 at night,” he said.
He said that Hood Park will probably get between 500 and 700 cars on the night of a show, according to statistical information from current Boston venues.
The issue of the transition between office employees and venue-goers in the parking garage was brought up as well.
“Based on what we know today, that parking changes over around 6 p.m. The garage empties around 6 p.m.; the transition should work well between office people leaving and people coming in for shows at the venue,” said Rosenshein.
He also reassured IAG members that starting from day one of the venue opening, “We have a surplus of parking capacity on campus. Parking is the one thing I’m not worried about.”
Rosenshein was still not allowed to reveal the identity of the venue operator, which raised some questions from the IAG.
IAG member Michael Parker said, “We don’t know the track record of the vendor,” and said that tenants can get away with more than they should because of the “economics of the situation.”
“The vendor already operates facilities in Boston,” said Rosenshein.
He also told IAG members that the vendor will come and speak to them: “I guarantee before you step on that site, they will be here.”
Elaine Donovan said there is a concern for safety at the venue, especially in case of fire.
“We are down one department, which I’m hoping will be back up and running by the time the venue opens,” she said.
As far as community benefits go, Rosenshein touched upon local hiring first. A slide presented at the meeting stated that there will be a Charlestown resident-only job fair first, and a commitment to a “minimum of 25 percent Charlestown resident interviews for positions and a goal of 15 percent Charlestown hires for permanent and part-time positions, contingent upon Charlestown capacity.”
According to the slide, there will also be “up to 12 events per year with subsidized base staffing to be coordinated with local elected officials.” As it was presented, Charlestown non-profits will benefit on a first-come, first-served basis, and Boston-based charities will be allowed to participate if all of the rights are not used by Charlestown organizations.
The slide also read that the venue will be required to end their events at 1 a.m. except for specific holidays (like New Year’s Eve). This is up for negotiation with the community.
This was the first time the IAG had all sat down together, so “we need to meet again and put our heads together,” said Donovan.
“The target is to try to reconvene the IAG in the next two or two and a half weeks,” said Duverge.
The public comment period ends on February 1.
A full public meeting that was reported to have gone very well was held on Jan. 10 at Hood Park.