Hood Park Kicks off Community Discussion, Trading Open Space for Height

June 12, 2018
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The first in a series of three planning and design charrettes regarding the future of Hood Park was held on May 30, just a week after the company proposed a 230-foot office building on its campus – double the height of the current allowable limits.

Mark Rosenshein, of Trademark Partners, LLC, began the meeting by updating the community about a couple of names that have changed. The office building originally referred to as 520 Rutherford Ave. has been changed to 10 Stack St. in a reference to the original Hood smoke stack. As an homage to H.P. Hood dairy company founder Harvey Perley Hood, the residential building at 480 Rutherford Avenue is now being referred to as The Harvey.

The Harvey is slated to be open for residents in May of 2019. Construction on the 100 Hood Park Drive parking garage will commence this July with retail and restaurant space on the bottom floor, and finish in July or August of 2019, according to Rosenshein.

Rosenshein said the owners of Hood Park had an “extensive meeting” with the IAG where they discussed possible community benefits as mitigation for the density and traffic. He said they discussed 4,000 square feet of space at 100 Hood Park Drive that could be used for a children’s STEM center. Rosenshein said that he hopes to have a series of partners to help with the learning center, which could operate for as many as 10 years on campus.

Rosenshein stressed that he wanted the community to understand the concept of FAR, or Floor Area Ratio. FAR is “the ratio of built space to your property,” said Rosenshein. He also said that parking doesn’t count for FAR, and that Hood Park has a FAR of 2.0.

“The density is driven by the FAR, not the height,” said Rosenshein. “We will not be asking for a change to what the current FAR is.”

He said, however, that they are asking for additional height, a change from the 2000 proposal. The company has already made that public about a week ago when they officially proposed a 230-foot office building next to the parking garage. At the moment, buildings can be no higher than 115 feet.

Rosenshein said that there are several reasons for needing additional height. “The floor to floor heights from 2000 to 2018 have grown substantially,” he said. He said that floors in office spaces have gone from 10 to 15 feet, and workers today expect more natural light and more fresh air in their offices. Rosenshein said this requires skinnier buildings so people can be closer to the outside walls.

He also said that they want to build parking into each building, which would eliminate the need for the proposed isolated parking structures on Rutherford Avenue, but also add height to the buildings.

“We are not asking to reduce parking,” Rosenshein stressed.

A question was raised about why parking can’t be below grade, and Rosenshein said that it’s being considered but it cannot all be put underground because of the high level of the water table.

There are community benefits to moving parking to the buildings, said Rosenshein. The space that’s left (2 acres) can be used for community green space. Architects would meet with the community to discuss what they would like to see in a park, so the community would be involved in designing the space as well.

Today, there is a 115 foot height limit in the zoning code, but Rosenshein said they are looking to have a diversity of building heights rather than all of them being the same. Some would be shorter than 115 feet, some would be taller, he said.

He said they are asking to double the height of 10 Stack St. so it would be 230 feet tall and 13 stories high. There would also be a 20-25 foot mechanical screen that encloses the mechanical equipment, extending it to 250 feet.

Bill Lamb, chair of the Charlestown Preservation Society Design Review Committee, expressed concern about the proposed extra height to some of the buildings.

“Open space for height is the argument we’re making,” Rosenshein said. He said they were asking to more than double the open space requirement, but in response to Lamb, they will still be having discussions with members of the community about their concerns.

Rosenshein said that as opposed to the plan approved in 2000, which was essentially just office space, this new proposal could become something for the whole community to use.

Aside from open space, Rosenshein said there are other benefits to the community. According to the slides presented at the meeting, 10 Stack St. would provide 948 construction jobs and the potential for 800 permanent jobs with companies like Indigo Agriculture.

Though nothing is set in stone, a hotel is also being considered, which would provide 689 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs. There would be a hiring commitment of 50 percent of the jobs for Charlestown residents.

Other benefits include the full pedestrian crosswalk that intersects at Hood Park Drive, Rutherford Avenue, and Baldwin Street, which is being funded by Hood Park. Hood Park is also paying for the bike and pedestrian connection from Rutherford Avenue to Spice Street, and is proposing more than 100,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

September is when the formal permitting process will begin. Rosenshein said that he wants as many people to hear this information as possible before then, so various meetings will be held over the summer to keep the community informed and updated.

The Hood Park website has been updated and all documents and PowerPoints from community meetings will be uploaded, Rosenshein said, and the slides from this meeting are currently available for viewing. Rosenshein said that the retail space will be discussed at the next planning and design meeting, and ground level views of the plan will also be available in the near future.

In an effort to accommodate as many people as possible, there is a Hood Park working meeting tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 23.