Monday, February 01, 2010

New Balance to Propose Large Development Project at Brighton Landing

The economic downturn has given residents of Allston-Brighton a respite from major construction: Harvard University has stopped construction of their science complex in North Allston; and Boston College has announced a slowdown in capital construction on their main Chestnut Hill campus, with no word about construction on their new Brighton Campus (which is currently the subject of a lawsuit by two residents of Brighton).

It looks like the lull in construction may be about to change.

New Balance is poised to announce a major new project for Brighton Landing that would redevelop an industrial and commercial neighborhood into a mixed-use development.

Word has been leaking out for a number of months that New Balance -- whose corporate headquarters is located next to WGBH's "nuclear aircraft carrier" in the Brighton Landing area alongside the Massachusetts Turnpike -- wishes to initiate a large development project on the currently under-utilized industrial and commercial land between their current buildings and the Stop-and-Shop grocery store to the east.

The initial proposal that has been floated in the past months includes: two office towers (where one is for New Balance's own use to consolidate the corporate offices of their non-NB shoe brands); a movie theater/auditorium; luxury hotel; mixed residential housing and retail; and open green space running east-west in the middle of the project. The entire project is expected to be long-term and would be built in stages, possibly taking up to two decades to complete.

These details were provided and confirmed by a number of individuals who have heard presentations in the past few months from New Balance representatives. New Balance is expected to present details of their proposal in a community meeting next week -- which may include modifications to the plan based on feedback they have received during the past few months. (New Balance was contacted for this story but declined the opportunity to comment.)

The exact identification of the parcels involved was unclear to people briefed on the plans. The parcels in Brighton Landing have a variety of owners listed with the City of Boston assessors office and the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, only several of which are Brighton Landing LLC, the proponent of the new development. (I have drawn the full possible area at right.) It is likewise unclear if they have entered into any purchase and sale contracts other property owners, but it would seem likely based on the maturity of their development proposal.

Lowe's previously proposed to develop part of the site with a large box hardware store that met with the opposition of both neighborhood residents and Mayor Thomas Menino due to its negative transportation impacts on nearby streets. Lowe's later floated the idea again, albeit without filing a new proposal with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The New Balance project concept would address its transportation impacts in two major ways: pushing for the state to locate a commuter rail station at Brighton Landing near Everett Street, which could also service diesel multiple unit trains; and building a new flyover on-/off-ramp for the Mass Pike (and/or a cloverleaf located further east by the Leo Birmingham Parkway). The current transportation constraints of the site are such that the Mass Pike ramps are a requirement for the project to move forward, according to those briefed on the plan.

While the office towers would likely be buffered from existing residential neighborhoods, the pike ramp flyover might be located relatively close to the residential neighborhood of North Brighton along Lincoln Street.

New Balance has not to date submitted their proposed development project to the BRA for review.

Community Meeting: NB Guest Street Planning & Development is hosting a community meeting to present their "vision" of potential future development of Guest Street. The meeting will take place on February 10th at 6:30 p.m., on the 2nd floor at Brighton Landing, 20 Guest Street in Brighton.

Update: Lowe's is on the schedule for Thursday's meeting of the Brighton Allston Improvement Association. Hard to know what that means, based on New Balance floating their own development ideas for what are likely to be some of the same parcels of land.

Image of New Balance's headquarters in Brighton Landing from the NB Store website.

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