Boston Properties has sent a Letter of Intent to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to build a new high rise over Back Bay Station.
The site is currently nothing to write home about: a dark, 1980’s-era brown station brooded over by a Brutalist parking garage.
The project has been in the works for a while, though. According to The Boston Globe, Boston Properties began negotiating with the Commonwealth in the summer of 2014. In exchange for development rights, they agreed to manage the station and renovate it. However, the state soon had to cover the shortfall in the rent from vendors, which covered less than half of the operating budget.
Unfortunately, aside from the square footage, the LOI is short on details. They say that it will be mixed-use, include “significant functional and aesthetic improvements” to the station, integrate the garage and station into the surrounding neighborhood and “be responsive to the” Stuart Street Planning Guidelines.
The Stuart Street Guidelines are fairly conventional, establishing parking maximums and requiring transparency along the street wall (instead of activity along the street wall). One of the more interesting ideas is a requirement for through-block connections in larger projects.
The guidelines also state that the “desired distance” between pedestrian entrances is 75 feet. I have no idea where a number like that came from, especially with the focus on improving the public realm and pedestrian experiences. Many of the buildings in the most active and pedest6rian-friendly neighborhoods of Boston don’t even have 75 feet of street frontage. Conventional concern for shadows and a healthy concern for wind are also present.
Also absent is any discussion of the Copley Place project, acros Dartmouth Street from the Station and connected to it by a tunnel. That project, which also features a new 625 ft skyscraper, was in limbo for a few years. While I hope the new Back Bay Tower isn’t nearly as ugly as the Copley Place tower, I should imagine that they’ll want to work together regarding wind, the tunnel and construction staging.
Hopefully Boston Properties will file their Project Notification Form soon and more details will be revealed.