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Old 03-13-2007, 02:57 PM   #1
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Parcel P-3

Developers, Boston Officials Have a Lot of Hope in Site
By Thomas Grillo

Heritage Common, the proposed 681,407-square-foot redevelopment of a vacant parcel in Boston?s Roxbury neighborhood by Weston Assoc. and Taylor Smith Properties, is shown above in an artist?s rendering.

Forty years after part of Boston?s Roxbury section was leveled in the name of urban renewal, developers are vying for the chance to turn an overgrown lot into a vibrant neighborhood.

A 15-member advisory panel and the Boston Redevelopment Authority will select from among three visions for an 8.7-acre parcel located across from the Boston Police Department?s headquarters. One plan wraps retail, office and condominiums around a museum, performing-arts center and fine-arts school; another offers primarily housing and medical office space; the third combines offices and retail space including a sporting goods store and a jazz club.

?If we get this right, Roxbury will be perceived as a destination and not just a cut-through to get to the South End or Jamaica Plain,? said Darnell Williams, chairman of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, a panel appointed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino to guide development of several forgotten sections of Roxbury.

Known as Parcel P-3, the project site represents the remnants of the Inner Belt, a failed transportation plan hatched in the 1960s that would have razed thousands of homes to bring Interstate 95 through Roxbury, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville. In the face of massive protests, former Gov. Francis W. Sargent reversed the policy in 1972, but not before more than 300 homes were demolished in Roxbury.

Today, much of the vacant land provides parking for Boston Police Department employees while the rest is a blighted, fenced-off area. But following six years of planning coordinated by the BRA, citizen groups are nearing the end of their work.

In December 2005, the BRA issued a long-awaited Request for Proposals for the high-profile parcel. The largest of seven underused lots, P-3 is located at the intersection of Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard near the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the MBTA?s Ruggles Station and the Longwood Medical Area.

The RFP was based on the master-planning process that preceded it. The master plan, the culmination of a three-year community process, represents a commitment to the Roxbury community to continue to build a socially and economically vibrant Roxbury, according to the BRA. It serves as a blueprint for future growth. The plan articulates both broad objectives for the neighborhood and also identifies specific goals for each of the publicly owned parcels.

Driven by the vision of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan, the RFP called for ?wealth-generating? proposals that will create jobs and offer a mix of office, research and development, light industrial and ground-floor retail space.

?Economic Reciprocity?
Three Boston-based developers responded to the RFP last spring with a variety of proposals designed to transform the gritty high-crime area into an urban oasis. But the BRA rejected them because the developers failed to adhere to the minimum lease-payment requirement of $3 per square foot. Rather than reissue the RFP, the BRA asked the trio of developers to resubmit their applications. Annual lease payments are expected to cost between $2 million and $4.2 million.

Trinity Financial and the Madison Park Development Corp. proposed Tremont Center, a $200 million development that would include 230 housing units, 293,290 square feet of office space for the Longwood Hospitals and the transformation of the vacant former Whittier Street Neighborhood Health Center into a new home for Health Careers Academy, a Horace Mann Charter School that trains students for careers in the medical field.

?Our development will offer quality jobs that are not subject to the cyclical variations of financial services or high tech,? said Patrick Lee, principal. ?We offer a set of tools that provide opportunities for residents to access the jobs that will be created here.?

Weston Assoc. and Taylor Smith Properties have proposed Heritage Common, a combination of 568,000 square feet of medical office space with more than 100,00 square feet of retail including Modell?s Sporting Goods, TJMaxx, Dunkin? Donuts, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits and Ruby Tuesday. The proposal also calls for a 3,000-square-foot New England Jazz Center to recreate Connolly?s, a well-known Roxbury jazz club that was razed about 15 years ago.

?The community asked for proposals that create wealth and our plan achieves it through entrepreneurship, job creation and investment opportunities,? said Lawrence R. Smith, Taylor Smith?s president.

Elma Lewis Partners has submitted a plan for Ruggles Place, a mixed-use project totaling 1.4 million square feet plan that includes 300,000 square feet of office, educational and medical space, a new Whittier Street Health Center, nearly 50,000 square feet of retail and new space for the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) and the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, the school of music and dance that was started in 1950.

?Our proposal will attract people citywide to come to Roxbury as a destination so that the cultural institutions and businesses will prosper,? said Edmund Barry Gaither, executive director of the NCAAA, one of the Elma Lewis partners.

Reginald Jackson, co-chairman of the neighborhood?s Project Review Committee, a group that will recommend a preferred developer to the BRA, declined to comment. A spokeswoman said he was ?not particularly interested in speaking to reporters at this time.?

Marilyn Lynch, Project Review Committee co-chair, also refused to comment.

Williams, the Oversight Committee chair, declined to discuss the selection process.

?It would be inappropriate for me to indicate favorability of one over the other,? he said. ?Our goal, and the work of the Project Review Committee, is to vet the financial viability of each project and examine how they measure up to the RFP. We want to make sure there?s economic reciprocity and that developers are not coming from out of state making all the money and walking away.?

A source familiar with the work of both committees said the panel has narrowed its choice to Heritage Common or Tremont Center. He said the panel rejected Ruggles Place.

?No one is taking the cultural proposal seriously,? said the source, who declined to be identified. ?That?s not economic development and it?s not much of a money generator. Museums and arts facilities need to raise money and don?t make money.?

The source also told Banker & Tradesman that in a secret ballot of the Project Review Committee, the Heritage Common came out on top.

A City Hall source said the mayor has confidence in Patrick Lee and his Tremont Center plan and does not believe the Heritage Common developers can deliver on their promise.

Kairos Shen, the BRA?s planning director, said the selection process has no timetable but could be wrapped up by this spring.

?My sense is that the oversight committee is learning the power of the market in terms of how it will intervene in the development process,? he said. ?What might have worked six years ago, when we first got started, may not work today. The question of how viable these projects are in today?s market is a real challenge.?

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Old 03-13-2007, 04:04 PM   #2
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Sounds like a nice idea. i hate seeing wasted vacant land in urban areas. even if the police do use it to park. It would be nice to see the "retail" be along the lines of Grocery Stores, Pharmacies, and things of that nature since this is a mostly residential area. The idea for Popeye's and Ruby Tuesday is not exactly "High Class," but we don't need expensive retail everywhere.

I don't know how i feel about "making it a destination." I think that's a bit ambitious seeing Boston's trying to do that in other neighborhoods as well (see Seaport District/ South Boston Waterfront, and even DOT). The other ideas involving fine arts, Jazz Club, etc, are all good. it seems like the idea is to revitalize the neighborhood, not necessarily to make it a draw for people outside the city.

it'll be interesting to see how this works out.
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Old 03-26-2007, 10:42 AM   #3
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Soccer Stadium

The soccer stadium that wasn't
March 24, 2007

ONE OF Boston's more stagnant sites -- a piece of land in Roxbury called Parcel 3 -- looked as if it had a shot at new life as a professional soccer stadium. But a lack of passion for the project from City Hall has extinguished an intriguing idea.

Trinity Financial, a Boston real estate development company with a record of redeeming hardscrabble areas, wants to build a 20,000-seat stadium in cooperation with the Robert Kraft family, operators of the New England Revolution professional soccer team and owners of the New England Patriots. A partnership was also possible with Northeastern University, which is looking for a new stadium for its football team. But despite lengthy discussions between the parties, the stadium concept was nowhere to be found last month when Trinity filed its formal proposal with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Instead, Trinity is proposing an 800,000-square-foot commercial and residential development on the 8-acre site along the Southwest Corridor across from Boston Police headquarters.

Major League Soccer is driving a major campaign to build new stadiums in urban areas, including Toronto and Los Angeles, where the sport could benefit from mass transit and enthusiastic fans, especially new immigrants. Last summer, Mayor Menino promised to appoint a task force of business and sports leaders to evaluate sites for professional soccer in Boston. But not a single member was ever appointed.

It's hard to pinpoint when the stadium idea fell apart, or why. The Menino administration was seeking ironclad guarantees that the abutting Whittier Street public housing complex could be rebuilt elsewhere or incorporated into the site as part of a wider development. The Krafts faced a firestorm of opposition in the mid-1990s when they tried to site a football stadium for the New England Patriots along the South Boston waterfront. Patriots spokesman Stacey James says, "We're happy with things as they are." But the Krafts couldn't be all that happy; they lost a chance to create a legacy by combining the stadium with several youth sports facilities. Besides, they are drawing an average of 13,000 soccer fans per game to giant Gillette Stadium, while the competition is opting for efficient, soccer-specific stadiums that double as concert venues.

There could be lots of good reasons to reject a soccer stadium on Parcel 3. Perhaps the traffic and safety concerns would outweigh the benefits to the community, including jobs, economic development, and philanthropy. Developer demands for tax abatements might easily have killed the project. But these conversations never even had a chance to take place. Letting innovative ideas fizzle before the public can consider them is not good urban policy. The game was forfeited without a fight.
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:20 PM   #4
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Doesn't a stadium seem unworkable for that location? And, terribly out of place?
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:30 PM   #5
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I don't see why it would be either, given that it's right next to a T station. It may not be the best use of the land, but it's not obviously bad either.
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parcel p-3, roxbury, southwest corridor

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