In a filing with the BPDA this week, Weiner Ventures explains why the units in its proposed luxury tower next to the Hynes are so large - and why that means the building needs more parking spaces than the city requires and why it can't put any affordable units in the proposed building.
It all boils down to the financial costs and risks of building a deck over the turnpike to support a key part of the proposed 108-unit building, Weiner says: To make up for that, the company has to attract a ritzier breed of buyers who will pay more than they would elsewhere, and that means giving them roomier condos and garage space in which to stash that second car. Weiner wants to put in 175 parking spaces - 18 for the use of first-floor stores - rather than the 108 the city requires.
In turn, that means the project probably could not succeed by setting aside the required 13% of units - a total of 14 - as "affordable" in part, because there's not possible way to make 2,667-square-foot units in a luxury building affordable by people only making 80% of the area median income. But that's not a bad thing, Weiner continues. The city affordable-housing regulation lets a developer do this if it contributes enough money to buy or build affordable units elsewhere that is equivalent to 18% of the building's total units, and Weiner says it is looking to contribute towards affordable housing in "a central Boston neighborhood to be approved by the BPDA."
Weiner elaborates on the connection between the required turnpike deck and the need for larger units and more parking spaces for the project, which it's shrunk down from its original proposal, which called for two towers, with a total of 160 condos and 182 apartments:
The Project is subject to unique project costs and risks associated with construction over the Turnpike and must meet the requirements of its investors and lenders in order to be successful. Risks include not just the construction and general complexity of the air rights project but also, among others risks, marketability to prospective condominium buyers. Also, assuming that the Project is developed to contain 108 condominium units and only the area within the units themselves is considered (in other words, excluding shared amenities and common area), the average condominium unit will contain 2,667 square feet. This unit size is unusually large for a development within the downtown area and notably larger than most other projects. If the units were traditionally sized, there would be an increased unit count, resulting in significantly more parking spaces than the Project. For example, per BTD guidelines of 1.0 space/condominium unit, if the 288,000 square feet of residential use were developed as more “traditionally-sized” units of 1,000 square feet/unit excluding common areas and amenities, the number of residential parking spaces would be 288 spaces, which is almost double the 157 residential spaces proposed as part of the Project.
The Proponent's market analysis indicates that such a premier residential offering within the Back Bay will only be successfully marketed at the required price points if sufficient parking spaces are available for each residential unit. Further, many of these spaces are expected to be used for vehicle storage by unit owners for a lightly used second vehicle and are not expected to contribute to area traffic, especially during peak commuter periods. At the same time, while the market for a luxury residential condominium building demands such on-site parking for vehicles owned by residents, facilitating public transportation access helps reduce the number of vehicles traveling to and from this building on a daily basis. The Project's proximity to public transportation will allow retail and restaurant patrons and building staff and employees to travel to and from the Project using existing public transportation options, thus reducing the greenhouse gas emissions linked to this building. Accessible public transportation can also reduce commuting costs and help attract and retain building staff and tenant employees. The Proponent also recognizes that parking trends are evolving and changing and that it is hoped that the needs and desires for private vehicles will diminish over the useful life of this Project. Accordingly, the garage floors are being designed with flat floorplates which can be repurposed for other uses, if demand for the parking spaces lessens over the useful life of the Project.
In addition to the BPDA, a city air-pollution board will also have to approve the more-than-required parking spaces; that board meets in June.
In the filing, Weiner says the project would have a number of benefits for the city, including knitting the Back Bay and the Fenway together rather than having them separated by the ugly gash that is the turnpike and Worcester Line tracks and "activating" more of Boylston Street by increasing its potential as a "24/7" area, through new shops on the ground floor and "new residents who will enliven the area on a 24/7 basis."
From the filing:
1000 Boylston St. supplemental filing (37M PDF).