The Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) approved a change in occupancy for the office building at 34-42 Warren St. on Feb. 5 – a change that results in losing 35 spaces on the second-floor of the office/parking garage building.
This project has previously appeared before the ZBA under different ownership, according to Sean O’Donovan, who represented new owner DLJ Realty Partners at the Tuesday hearing.
The project proponents asked to renovate the existing second floor parking garage to create new office space. Architect Joel Bargmann said that a portion of the first floor is parking, retail, and the entry to the office building that exists on the third and fourth levels.
“The modification that’s being requested is to simply take the garage…and replace this garage screen with glass and convert the garage level on the second floor into office space as opposed to parking,” Bargmann said.
The team said that 30 parking spaces will remain, with the potential to add stackers, and 35 spaces would be lost on the second floor. O’Donovan said that the current parking serves the office building, but is underutilized.
The traffic consultant for the project said that the currently approved project is at 2.53 spaces per thousand square feet, and they are looking to get it closer to 1.0.
“I would just comment that if this were a new project, subject to BTD parking guidelines, 1.0 would actually be above what they would recommend for an office space,” she said.
ZBA Chair Christine Araujo asked if there was a conflict between the zoning requirements and what the Boston Transportation Department requires.
The traffic consultant said that it was correct.
“If this project were part of a large project review through the BPDA, which it is not, but if it were, and subject to those requirements, we would be providing somewhere between .7 and 1.0 spaces per thousand square feet,” she said. “And that’s reflective of the trends with lower auto ownership, more reliance on public transportation, and bicycle commuting.”
She also said that they observed 23 residents with private permits who were allowed to park there 24/7, and the daytime use of the parking from office workers was approximately 42 spaces. O’Donovan said that they would agree to stackers for parking if that’s what the ZBA wanted.
Several people expressed support for the project, including Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services representative Quinlan Locke, who said a largely attended abutter’s meeting was held on Dec. 13.
“One of the concerns was parking for those residents, which
had reached out to those residents in regard to,” Locke said. “We also got a lot of letters of support in regard to the building itself. Right now a lot of abutters think it’s an eyesore and they’re looking forward to it being rehabbed.”
Others in support include Councilor Lydia Edwards, the Carpenter’s Union, and a nearby resident on Mount Vernon Street who said he “does not see parking as a concern given its primary commercial use and daytime parking.”
He said that the real issue is parking at night, as he’s lived in the neighborhood for over a decade and confirmed that the garage is currently underutilized and “never full from my perspective.” He also said that the building is an eyesore.
Another direct abutter on Park Street said he came before the ZBA six times over six years to oppose the plans from the previous owner. He said that on April 11, 2017, he returned before the Board of Appeal to finally support those plans, at which time the ZBA also granted the variances.
“I am in favor of this set of plans. It’s time that we settle the whole thing. It’s gone on since 2011. I don’t know what else we can do with it; it’s an old derelict garage building.”
But other residents were not so keen on the idea. A neighbor on Main Street said, “I think parking is very difficult already in the area. I have been on the list for three years to try to get parking in this building and haven’t heard anything about a vacancy. Street parking is already very difficult, and I think removing 35 spaces will only make it more difficult.”
Araujo told the development team that they “need to have a conversation with this abutter if you still have vacancies at night and weekends.”
O’Donovan responded by saying they spoke with this neighbor before the hearing and told him they “absolutely can accommodate on nights and weekends.” The ZBA approved this project with the provisos of continued BPDA design review and that the developers pay “particular attention to the issue of parking.”