Two Developers Offer Proposals for Building 108 Redevelopment

Two qualified developers have submitted very different proposals for the Navy Yard Power Plant (Building 108) property redevelopment – one looking to build on the research and development uses nearby, and they other looking to add a residential complement to the RopeWalk project a stone’s throw away.

The proposals from Power House Partners and Vision Development will be hashed out in a community meeting online Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

“I think we’re excited to be bringing this out to the community,” said Devin Quirk of the BPDA. “We’re also really excited to have a conversation and get feedback. Before we get into our evaluation, we want to hear community feedback. That will be the purpose of this meeting.”

Quirk and Project Manager Morgan McDaniel said the BPDA would be approving a contract at its December meeting to go forward with the remediation and demolition of the Power Plant site – which has significant contamination issues. The BPDA will likely approve the $5 million cleanup effort and start the job in December, with the goal of having it all removed this summer. That will clear the way for picking a preferred developer and staring the Article 80 public review. The hope is that by 2022 one of the projects would be able to break ground on construction.

Getting two good proposals is a victory, Quirk and McDaniel said, as they had put out an RFP in 2019 and got one applicant – which was later deemed not to have a good enough inclusion and diversity plan.

After the re-issue this year of the RFP, Power Plant came back with a better proposal and Vision submitted its first effort. Both have been deemed qualified.

Power House is a group made up of Conroy Development (Geoffrey Lewis and Louis Cabral), Bruner/Cott Architects, Lee Kennedy Construction and Dain-Torpy-LeRay-Wiest & Garner attorneys. They have done previous work in the Navy Yard and are proposing a 67,000 sq. ft. building with active uses at ground level and research and development in the space above – building on the research and development uses by Mass General nearby.

“Power House Partners’ proposal is heavily influenced by the presence of the existing uses in the Navy Yard, including Partner’s Healthcare and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital,” read their submission letter. “The projected strong market demand for R&D and Lab space, in close proximity to the finest healthcare institutions in the world, strongly supports our proposed redevelopment use and program for the site.”

While housing has been popular in the Navy Yard, and needed in Charlestown, the development team said they were confident research and development was the right approach for this property.

“When making this decision, the Team took into account recent and nearby residential development such as Navy Yard 33, the Starboard at 45 First Avenue, and the Ropewalk; in addition to several recent developments and proposed projects in the Charlestown neighborhood,” read the filing. “Most significantly, the opportunity to acquire Building 107 from the National Park Service creates the opportunity for additional residential development to balance the commercial growth created by Building 108.”

The program would include 28,015 sq. ft. on the first floor with a restaurant/retail spaces occupying about 18,000 sq. ft. and 10,000 sq. ft. being used for research and development. The second floor (28,015 sq. ft.) and third and fourth floors (both 5,400 sq. ft.) would be fully research and development uses.

There is no parking associated with the proposal, but it is eligible to use the Building 199 garage.

The Vision Development (Robert Shaffer and Clayton Turnbull) proposal seeks a residential use and comes from the development team that is at the moment bringing the RopeWalk building, located next door, to the market for unique apartment rentals. By acquiring the building, they would be able to create a campus of residential uses and outdoor courtyard spaces as well – potentially also acquiring Building 107 from the National Parks Service and looping that in as well.

“Our proposal will not only meet but exceed where possible the BPDA’s stated development objectives and design guidelines for the Building 108 site through shared objectives, including promoting residential and commercial activities compatible with the Charlestown Navy Yard and the waterfront; building for balanced growth along Boston’s shoreline; and creating public spaces and pathways that encourage an active and thoughtful connection between the Charlestown Neighborhood and the Boston Harbor.”

The Vision proposal looks to build a new apartment building abutting the RopeWalk that would have 78 units of housing, with 12 units being affordable. There would also be 5,200 sq. ft. of new ground floor commercial space, and 44 parking spaces on two levels.

The exterior plans, however, are the heart of the project for the public, though, the plan stated.

Outside, the Company will create a welcoming, beautiful, and visually interesting courtyard providing an attractive outdoor public pathway and activation space that also serves as a connector to Building 107,” read the letter. “The public courtyard is envisioned to be a communal outdoor space for personal reflection, meeting neighbors or small activations such as art installations or outdoor exhibit space.”

The total development program consists of 120,494 sq. ft. of new space.

Both concepts will be premiered at the meeting on Dec. 3, and Quirk and McDaniel said one thing to note is that both developers came in with extensive diversity and inclusion plans that raised the bar.

“I think we’re excited to report that request and the message was received,” Quirk said.

Said McDaniel, “I think developers want to be committed to this ideal of diversity and inclusion and we needed only to be clear about our expectations for that.”

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