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Strategic Plan For Harrison-Albany Corridor Nears Completion

A draft of the final plan was presented to the community on Tuesday.

After 14 working meetings with an advisory group of residents, businesses and property owners, the Boston Redevelopment Authority presented a draft of its strategic plan to bolster development along the Harrison-Albany Corridor at a public meeting Tuesday evening.

Included in the plan, which should be finalized in early October, are a series of changes to the city zoning code that would allow taller, denser buildings to be constructed in underutilized portions of the corridor.

“The current zoning wasn’t allowing…development to happen. It was almost too restrictive,” Senior Architect Michael Cannizzo said on Tuesday. “I think that was the first time I heard people say at a meeting, ‘You‘re not dense enough, you’re not tall enough.’”

The draft plan includes higher building heights in three of four areas along the corridor, with base heights of up to 100 feet allowed in the New York Streets area and portions of SoWa and the Back Streets. Projects larger that one acre that qualify as PDAs (Planned Development Areas) would be able to build even higher – up to 200 feet along the interstate.

In order to qualify a project as a PDA, a development team must submit detailed zoning plans including specifics on open space and parking. The process includes a 45-day public comment period.

Under the BRA’s plan, a PDA must provide additional affordable housing or affordable commercial or cultural space in order to take advantage of increased heights and density. They would also be required to designate 20 percent of the lot to public open space. Options in the BRA draft plan include public thruways such as private ways, alleys or pedestrian walkways, all of which would be open to the public but owned and maintained by the developer.

“We’re breaking some new ground here,” Cannizzo said of the affordable commercial space option. “We want to have new businesses in here, we want to have that vibrancy that new businesses bring.”

The plan also opens the door for liquor stores and bars to set up shop along the corridor on a case-by-case basis with community input. Currently, both are forbidden in all four subsections of the corridor. 

Short and long-term transportation changes included in the plan mirror those presented to the advisory group in February. They include opening the Harrison Avenue overpass to two-way traffic, making Traveler Street two-way between Harrison and Albany Street and making Washington Street two-way between Herald and East Berkeley streets to better connect the corridor to surrounding neighborhoods.

For pedestrians, the BRA has promised increased connections with South Boston, specifically in the area underneath Interstate 93. On Tuesday, South End resident Chris Wells called for lighting and plantings to make the walk more enjoyable and safe.

“It’s a no-man’s land underneath 93, and then you get over to the Fort Point Channel and the whole mood changes,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

In March, the BRA discussed studying whether the area underneath the interstate could be converted into parking, despite lacking funding for implementation.  

A final version of the Strategic Plan will be posted on the BRA website in the next few weeks. Once posted, a two-week public comment period will begin before the plan is presented to the BRA Board for adoption.  

BosGuy September 21, 2011 at 04:14 PM
That is excellent news. I'd like to see this area built up and developed. It serves nobody as a wasteland, which is what it is currently.
Jodi November 14, 2011 at 03:17 PM
I agree that they should build up that area, but the proposed expansion extends all the way up E. Berkeley to Shawmut - which is a terrible idea. Keep the larger buildings down by the expressway! We don't need more Ateliers in the neighborhood!
South End Resident November 21, 2011 at 10:41 PM
What the article fails to mention is that the 30-person advisory group consisted of about 6 actual South End Residents and 24 developers/business owners. It's true - I got the list from the BRA. Advisory group members also argue that the residents had 2.5 years to add their opinion, so it's now too late. If the project were more appropriately named "Shawmut, Washington, Harrison, Albany Development Project," as it truly is, I would be willing to bet that many more of the affected residents would have been aware of what was happening and would have taken a more active role in providing feedback earlier. Also, if they had made it clear before now that the proposed building heights on Shawmut would be 150 feet, people would have commented earlier. How dare they use that as an argument that residents had all this time to add their feedback and now it's too late!

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