Green Line Extension back on track, at least for now

State transportation planners working on the long delayed plans to extend the Green Line past Lechmere will recommend next week that the MBTA hire a consortium of companies to do the work, at a potential cost of no more than $1.1 billion - on top of what the state's already spent on the work.

Green Line Extension planners opened bids today and agreed to recommend the hiring of Fluor Enterprises, Inc., The Middlesex Corp., Herzog Contracting Corp., and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc. The companies, bidding together as GLX Constructors, submitted a bid of $954.6 million. Planners then added money for contingencies, to bring the expected cost to $1.08 billion.

The board that now runs the T meets Monday to consider the proposal.

The companies said their bid includes several components the state had said it could do without to just get the trains running already, including construction of canopies at platforms, a number of elevators, extension of a community path between East Somerville and Lechmere stations, public art and an "enhanced" trolley maintenance facility in Somerville.

In addition to money from the state - which has pledged to buy a new fleet of trolleys for the extension separate from construction of the line - the federal government has committed $1 billion towards the work.

Green Line Extension project updates.

Tree on the move

Roving UHub photographers don't let international borders stop them from bringing you the views you can use. Today, roving UHub photographer Chris Chatterton shows us the official Nova Scotia Christmas tree on its way to Boston through downtown Halifax.

Nova Scotia, of course, sends Boston a tree each year as thanks for the help we sent them after one of the worst explosions in history there in 1917.

Board approves pile-of-boxes development for Back Bay station; churches to get $3 million for shadow mitigation

Architect's rendering.

The BPDA board yesterday approved a large mixed-use development that will include $69 million in renovations to the fume-filled Back Bay T station.

The Boston Properties project, which will include an office/retail building and two residential buildings with 600 residential units, also comes with $3 million in payments to nearby Old South Church and the owners of other historic buildings to fix any issues that might be caused by shadows from the project.

The buildings will range from 26 to 35 stories. Rather than include the required affordable units in the new complex, which will sit mainly atop what is now the garage next to the station - and the current bus area off Clarendon Street, Boston Properties will build 90 affordable units someplace else and pay $3 million into a BPDA fund to help people buy homes at less than stratospheric prices..

In addition to helping to fix up the train station, Boston Properties will extend its retail offerings, which now consist of some food outlets, a florist and some pushcarts selling Boston-themed gear.

Christie Brinkley doesn't live in Boston, so cut that out, Delaware North

The Herald reports the owner of the Garden has decided to try to re-brand its neighborhood, where it's currently building a mega mixed-use complex, as Uptown. Funked up, no? What's wrong with the West End?

Of possible note: The city once tried renaming large swaths of downtown as the Midtown Cultural District. As residents moved in, some even formed the Midtown Cultural District Residents Association. But the group renamed itself the Downtown BostonResidents Association last year after realizing, oops, Boston doesn't have a midtown.

Verizon will pull the copper plug in 2018

A heads up to those on Verizon regular telephone or DSL service. Verizon will decommission copper wire service in Massachusetts starting in 2018.

The web address below explains what will happen. PDF documents for Massachusetts are linked. Read more.

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Several hundred apartments, condos approved for Brighton parcel next to St. E's, which was slapped around at hearing

Rendering of restored church and monastery at St. Gabriel's site

The BPDA board yesterday approved a 660-unit "mid-market" development on the old St. Gabriel's site off Washington Street and behind St. Elizabeth Medical Center in a move that could also lead to the creation of a new, privately funded Allston/Brighton bus line.

BPDA board members said they appreciated efforts by developer Cabot, Cabot and Forbes to include 105 condos in the project, in a neighborhood that has seen home-ownership rates drop dramatically in recent years, although some residents said that was not enough.

But BPDA officials and City Councilor Mark Ciommo blasted St. Elizabeth's Hospital and owner Steward Health Care for stonewalling the city and residents on the issue of what to do with the 300 cars its employees now park on the St. Gabriel's site once that parking is removed to make way for the St. Gabriel project.

Noting that St. E's needs BPDA approval for an upcoming renewal of its "institutional master plan," board member Ted Landsmark said "I won't forget that disappointment."

"I don't want anyone to walk out of here thinking that we're impotent to deal with these issues," because of St. E's need for BPDA approval of its new plan, BPDA Director Brian Golden said.

Ciommo was so pissed off at St. Elizabeth's that he actually spoke during the "opponent" period of the meeting - the first time he's ever formally risen to voice opposition to BPDA approval of a project in his ten years in office. He said he didn't want the board to reject the St. Gabriel plan outright, but to give CCF and the community more time to try to get St. Elizabeth to deal with them on the issue. Doherty also expressed frustration in just trying to get St. Elizabeth and Steward to talk.

Nobody from the hospital or the health-care chain attended the hearing, or at least, would admit it when Landsmark asked for them to show themselves.

Part of CCF's proposal includes funding to help plan and start up an Allston/Brighton shuttle bus service to ferry neighborhood residents to and from local employers and shops. Renters in the new project would have a $20 monthly fee added to their rent should the bus line get up and running. CCF CEO Jay Doherty said similar private shuttles have worked well in other areas, such as along Rte. 128.

Under the plan approved by the BPDA, CCF will build four new residential buildings on the site. Roughly 98, or about 15%, of the units will be marketed as affordable, Doherty said. The city required 13%.

The company will also restore the monastery and church at the center of the 11.6-acre parcel, at a cost of roughly $25 million. The monastery will become housing, while the church will be turned into a community center. The St. Fatima shrine on the site will be kept. A three-acre open space along the Washington Street side of the property will be restored.

The company will build 510 parking spaces for residents.

Opponents said that in addition to the St. E's issue, they were also concerned about density - in addition to the St. Gabriel's project, more than 300 additional units are either under construction or planned for Washington Street next to the property.

And while the 105 condos is up from the zero CCF originally proposed, it's still less than the percentage of owner-occupied homes in Brighton today, they said. They worried about increased numbers of "transient" tenants, such as college students, messing up the neighborhood.

Board member Michael Monahan said he sympathized with the concern, but added that the city is in desperate need of new housing. And Monahan, also business agent for the IBEW Local 103, said even the 105 condos CCF proposed might be a stretch because banks would rather finance apartments than condos. "Rentals are red hot" for financing, he said.

And, he added, home ownership isn't everything. "It doesn't mean you're not successful if you don't own a home," he said.

St. Gabriel's rendering
St. Gabriel's map

St. Gabriel's filings with the BPDA.

Roslindale getting a winter beer garden

Trillium Brewing of Fort Point will be opening a winter beer garden in the almost completely renovated trolley substation in Roslindale Square, the company and Roslindale Village Main Street announced today.

The Trillium Garden at the Substation is slated to open in early December 2017 and will run through the winter season. In the heart of Roslindale Village, the beer garden will be an indoor venue open five days a week, serving a variety of rotating draft options. The location accommodates open seating, community space, and a limited number of private event opportunities.

Trillium, which had run a beer garden on the Rose Kennedy Greenway this summer, jumped its own gun a couple weeks ago by posting a photo on its social-media accounts of the substation's unique windows, then took the photos down a couple hours later.

The beer garden will go in the space that had been planned as a restaurant.

Roslindale Village Main Street says it made what turned out to be a successful pitch to the brewery to use the space for a beer garden over the winter, through April. The group adds:

RVMS and other local organizations plan to operate arts and cultural pop-ups, including local music, art, and restaurant collaborations on days Trillium will be closed and, when complementary, during times the beer garden is open.

On the other side of the square, meanwhile, a West Roxbury resident is planning a more permanent brewery on Belgrade Avenue, where Select Cafe used to be.

Gyrations over infamous King Arthur strip club help kill plans for a new gentlemen's club there

The Chelsea Record reports on a zoning-board meeting where a proposal to turn the shuttered club with a bloody past into a new club that would require gentlemen to wear suits and ties was rejected, in part because it turns out the proponents didn't have permission from the owner of the land to do anything with it.

Chelsea wants Massport to build a $3 million park as recompense for Logan airplane noise

The Chelsea Record reports on a city-council meeting about airport noise and residents - some officials want to use a new BU study on noise issues to sue Massport, while others want to use it to help convince Massport to pay more mitigation money.

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