New private dorm in the Fenway would feature LGBTQ-centric theater to make up for the gay club it would eliminate

Architect's rendering

Architect's rendering.

A British company that specializes in building private dorm buildings has filed formal plans for a 15-story, 533-bed dorm on the Boylston Street block across from the Fenway Park side, between the Sunoco station and Jersey Street.

The building, which would be Scape's first such project in the US, would be open to students at nearby colleges.

It would replace two-story buildings that feature several stores and which have a history of being the home of gay-oriented nightclubs, including the current Machine. Scape says it will pay homage to that history by including a 6,000-square foot, 120-seat theater to be turned over to a non-profit group:

The Boylston Black Box will embrace the long-standing LGBTQ heritage of the Project Site. Since the 1970s, the Project Site has served as the location of various LGBTQ entertainment venues, including ‘The 1270’, ‘Quest’, ‘RamRod’, and ‘Machine’. These entertainment venues have been emblematic LGBTQ spaces and have often served - directly and indirectly - as a base for the LGBTQ community in the Fenway neighborhood.

The Boylston Black Box will seek to honor the history of the LGBTQ community’s important relationship with the Project Site and with The Fens and will serve as an iconic location for the LGBTQ community going forward.

Scape says the building would help Boston by reducing student demand for apartments, and by replacing a couple of dowdy old buildings, one of which dates to 1919, the other to 1923:

The Project will replace the decaying, non-descript existing structures – which have exhausted and exceeded their useful lives and inhibit the public realm – to construct an architecturally-compelling, contextual building which combines elements of the neighborhood’s design heritage with contemporary components.

The company detailed how it would keep the dorm from becoming a high-rise Delta House:

The full-service building will be operated - 24 hours per day, seven days per week - by full-time, extensively-trained, professionals employed directly by the Proponent. The comprehensive staff will operate the building with a consistent focus on coordination and cooperation with neighborhood stakeholders, integration and communication with academic institutions, and safety and security of its staff and its residents.

The newly constructed building will adhere to - and continue to comply with, at all times - the most current life-safety systems requirements and unit-occupancy limits. Leases will be for terms of 51 weeks and subleasing and overnight rentals (e.g. 'Airbnb') will be expressly prohibited. Each resident will be fully documented and rostered and will be subject to compliance with an enforceable rental agreement and a detailed handbook (which the Proponent is prepared to share with the City and the neighborhood for annual review).

The Project's location, scale, service offering, and turn-key, fully-furnished units will effectuate the magnetism needed to draw academic tenants from the existing neighborhood housing stock, returning that inventory to the workforce and families.

Scape hopes to begin 22 months of construction this fall.

In addition to the BPDA, the Zoning Board of Appeal will also have to approve the proposal.

The BPDA has scheduled a public meeting on the proposal for 6 p.m. on April 22 at Simmons University's Main College Hall, Room C101, 300 the Fenway.

1252-1270 Boylston St. project notification form (81M PDF).

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Comments

Why not just include space in

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Why not just include space in the new building for Machine?

I don't like the idea of taking away one of the last gay bars in the city and replacing it with a theater that will be LGBTQ-oriented, claiming that "plays homage to" what it's replacing. There are already plenty of LGBTQ-friendly theaters in Boston. And a theater is not the same sort of gathering place that a nightclub is. It doesn't play the same role in the community or serve the same needs.

I agree that that space should be redeveloped as something higher-density at this point, but that shouldn't have to come at the cost of losing yet another spot for LGBT-friendly nightlife.

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Could be that housing (even

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Could be that housing (even dorms) are less valuable when they're directly above a nightclub.

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Agree wholeheartedly!

Nice marketing tug at sentiment by this developer but seriously, a theater? WTF and where would these thousands of theater kids and patrons park since it's a hike to the T?

If they could recreate the ambience of the 1270 which was really the only Boston club that actually encouraged co-mingling of guys and gals (other than Randolph Country Club), they get my vote!

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A hike for whom???

Since when is Machine a hike from the T?... It's a 10 minute walk to either Fenway or Kenmore.

Also, where would they park? Have you seen all the new buildings that went up next to this with hundreds of parking spaces?

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Homo homage

I don't know why we can't just ensure Machine/RamRod's current owners/operators be guaranteed one of the retail stalls with underground space AND also grant them access to the theatre to collaborate on programming? Are the owners stepping down from running the place entirely?

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from what I understand

the owner of Machine is elderly and wants to retire. His children have no interest in running a bar and dealing with all of the associated headaches. Not only does he own Machine, but he owns the entire building up to the 1270/Quest space. I believe the deal is structured as a long term lease of the land to the developer, thus ensuring income stream. He also owns(ed?) Jacques in Bay Village.

A great Idea, but...

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Sounds like a great idea, the question is, will it be affordable to any but the wealthier students and or their parents?

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Dorms are generally more

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Dorms are generally more affordable than an apartment to begin with. So increasing dorms can only help less wealthy students.

In the 1970s students used to move off-campus to save money. Today, students stay on-campus to save money.

Maybe in New York

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but not that I have heard in Boston. The rates for recent dorms (NEU Lightview) are well on par with regular rental housing and not near the 4 people in a two bedroom situation that plenty of students live in.

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Today, students stay on

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Today, students stay on-campus to save money.

This is not true at all, at least at Northeastern and BU. When I was at NU a few years ago, everyone moved off campus ASAP because on-campus housing was so expensive.

For 2018-2019, the cheapest option for an upperclassman is a bed in a double room for $4,310 for a semester. The cheapest if you want your own bedroom is $5,375. A standard single bedroom is $5,870, and an "enhanced" single bedroom is $6,690. Using the standard rate, and assuming 4 months of occupancy (Jan-Apr), that's $1,467.50 a month for a standard bedroom. You can easily find a room in a decent off-campus apartment for $1,000 or less. I lived for a couple years on Fort Hill a mile from campus for $900/month. A room in a really crappy place in Jackson Square can be had for $600/month.

Yes, you have to pay utilities as well off-campus, but it's still significantly cheaper, along with allowing you more freedom (e.g. staying in town over breaks, not needing to sign in guests). No one stays on campus to save money. People stay because it's convenient, or because they don't want to have to deal with living on their own yet.

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Why the BPDA allowing a

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Why the BPDA allowing a developer to propose a project that flies in the face of decades of efforts of Fenway residents to get student housing built ON CAMPUS? The Boylston Street rezoning in 2004 EXPLICITLY BANNED DORMITORIES as the result of 10 years of community outreach and consensus.

It seems to me the city views the Fenway as a student ghetto and a piggy bank and doesn't give a shit about the residents as long as rich developers throw money their way. Just like the city didn't give a shit when landlords where straight up murdering residents in arson for profit schemes in the Fenway until the state stepped in.

This block is supposed to be developed into mid-rise workforce housing. What the Hell is the city thinking allowing a developer to propose a high rise dormitory here besides $$$$$$$$ in their pocket?

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The Boylston Street rezoning

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The Boylston Street rezoning in 2004 EXPLICITLY BANNED DORMITORIES as the result of 10 years of community outreach and consensus.

Tough day for the Fenway NIMBY crowd. Must suck to have bought in decades ago to a neighborhood close to downtown that is highly desirable now. We'll keep you in our prayers.

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Yeah the Fenway is full of

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Yeah the Fenway is full of NIMBYs and that's why Boylston Street is still gas stations, fast food, and parking lots for suburban slobs to puke & piss in after RedSox games.

That sound you hear is my eyes rolling,

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Walsh does not believe in zoning

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Seriously, developers know that they can propose whatever they want, and the administration will approve it, usually with few changes. Existing zoning rules do not come into play.

$$

Trouble is off campus housing is always cheaper than the dorms. Colleges use the dorms as a big money grab. (not that this place is necessarily going to be cheap). But as long a s college kids are trying to save money, they'll be renting the local housing stock.

I'd rather have a gay bar

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I'd rather have a gay bar instead.

I worry that this "Performing Arts Center" will just become a playground for the connected. And not a replacement for many shows that happen at Machine.

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533 beds, no additional parking? Follow the money.

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Parking
The existing 15 surface parking spaces along Private Alley 937 will be taken out of
service and replaced with 15 parking spaces in the basement level of the Project with
access via Private Alley 937. No net-new parking will be created in connection with
the Project which will not only support the need for alternative modes of
transportation but will also minimize the construction schedule and neighborhood
impacts. Additionally, five of the existing onsite metered parking spaces will be
maintained in the new streetscape design.

---
How does anyone expect 533 new beds with no additional parking to work? If this is approved, follow the money. As someone already noted, this is a significant hike to the T, especially on game/event days with congestion and ticket requirements for streets around the park. I'm sure none of the wealthy kids will have the pre-requisite BMW (or two) or whatever the latest fad car is. With parking already a nightmare on event days, this should be great. I also agree that the gay-centric theater is very patronizing and borderline homophobic. Gays have been included on the stage and screen for years, no need to exclude them with their own separate space as a feel-good measure for the developer. Walsh and the Council should step in.

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You're an idiot

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You are a bonified idiot

Didn't you even READ the god damn text above?

This will REPLACE club called Machine, where a ton of LGBTQ performances already happen. This would make sure these continue.

LGBTQ people need their own spaces, so many are disappearing, and with ignorant idiots like you still roaming this planet, we'll need them for years to come.

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A theater will REPLACE (your emphasis) a nightclub?

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Didn't mean to offend but based on someone's earlier comment, it appears I'm not the only one who thinks there's a big difference between a theater and a nightclub. It would seem they are removing the nightclub aspect altogether and patronizing the LGBT crowd with a theater. Will the liquor license transfer to the theater? I'm all for private housing for college kids but 533 beds and no parking for an age group eligible (and likely) to drive seems ridiculous. Especially on game/concert nights.

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yawn

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"but cars, but parking"

Give me a break. Its near 2 Green Line stops, and 3 bus lines. And walking distance to a THIRD line if you're adventurous

And yeah..

no parking for an age group eligible (and likely) to drive seems ridiculous. Especially on game/concert nights.

Yeah ridiculous to add MORE CARS to the roads on game/concert nights. If people don't have a car, they can't use it and clog up the streets with MORE CARS. duhhhhh

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If they are living in a dorm

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Perhaps they won’t qualify for resident status, thus not be issued a parking permit for street parking. God bless any brave soul willing to try long term parking in Fenway without a sticker or rented spot. The parking ticket/ impound fees is yet another revenue stream for the city!

LGBTQ people need their own

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LGBTQ people need their own spaces

Is it so bad for LGBTQ people to share space with everyone?

Follow the summary

It's for college kids. Very, very few have cars with them in Boston. BU, BC, NE, etc collectively house 50k+ students but have only a tiny amount of paid parking spaces for them. College kids hardly ever leave their part of the city.

This company wants in on the business currently monopolized by the school's housing departments. Fine by me.

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The same way the thousands of

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The same way the thousands of existing Fenway apartments without parking work. People make other arrangements. If they don't like it, they don't have to choose to live there.

Rich kids in expensive housing WILL WANT CARS

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or at least motorcycles that cost as much as cars.

Developers don't want to build low-profit inexpensive housing. This is premium housing for mostly wealthy foreign students who can live closer to how they live back home, but still with some sense of dormitory life (ie nobody over 25 or 30 living there). Back home, they have at least one car at their disposal and will choose housing with parking.

Better to have night club space serving a mixed crowd like the 1270 did. A club provides much more social interaction than a theater, and it's not like theater is dominated by straight people, crushing the spirit of queers.

No

Apparently you haven't been keeping up with the times. The really, really rich kids don't need or want to live in this building. Their parents can rent them expensive luxury condos which come with a garage spot for their BMW.

A vast majority of college undergrads do not keep a car with them in the city, nor do they want to. They aren't going anywhere in which Uber isn't preferable. And for the few that do have cars, they are already paying their school a parking fee and will just switch to doing so at a private lot near Fenway if they move to this building.

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What are you talking about?

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What are you talking about? There are already big dorm buildings without parking all over the city. It has worked fine for decades. And 10 minutes to a T station isn't a far walk. Stop forcing people to have cars. Stop forcing people to pay for parking garages. Stop raising the pricing of housing by insisting on parking.

More garage parking equals more cars on the road which equals more traffic, pollution, noise and pedestrian deaths. Every building without parking is a step in a sensible direction. This is not the suburbs. This is not 1950. This is not Texas. We need to design our city for people, not cars.

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the usual ruse?

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always remember to pander to identity politics when taking something away from the people in the community. This always works.

now commence the build baby builders with their actually desperate and depraved unquenchable thirst for tall glass bullshit.

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Landlord is Owner of Machine

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Of this I am 99.99% certain. Henry Vara owns the building and is the owner of Machine/Ramrod. So if he wanted to continue to have a nightclub, he could make it a condition of the sale. Seems hes not interested.

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I can't blame him

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Look, I was a regular at RamRod for many years. Very very sad to see it go, even if it isnt "my crowd" anymore.

But Henry Vara has owned that place for decades, he's a very old man now. And considering all the crap he has to do for the city, between licensing issues, keeping it up to code, and whatever. I can't blame him for not wanting to have another club. IN 2019 it's almost more work than its worth.

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Can't blame him either

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And with Ryan Landrys comment below it makes it more clear whats going to be there.

Hopefully, we can get

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Hopefully, we can get together and have a smaller nightclub. I don't think the developers will be willing to give up much more space but we can try. That might make more people happy and god knows I need a place to drink! x

Theater or Nightclub

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My name is Ryan Landry.
I have produced, directed and paid for (in full) over 65 fully realized theatrical productions at Machine over the past 20 years.
I have been the only theater company here since 1997 and I have the countless reviews, interviews and sweat stains to prove it. The fact that this is home to the Gold Dust Orphans is a well known fact, city wide. It started very small and was a huge struggle financially but an important one for the city I feel, for we now have thousands of people coming to the shows each year. People from all walks of life who love what we do. Gay and straight, black and white, male and female.
We do not discriminate.
The fact that the owner sold the building is something that has been coming for many years. He, like the building has gotten old. It happens to all of us. The building is literally falling apart and there have been no major repairs etc for many years now. Chalk it up to not much money coming in nightclub wise. This is an undeniable truth.
The developers are also not the enemies here. In fact they are doing something pretty extraordinary. Yes, they are building yet more student housing in the area but instead of just kicking everyone, (including our small theater company) to the curb they are spending their own money and building us a state of the art theater in SUPPORT of all the Orphans many years of hard work. This space will be shared with other like minded groups when we are not in residence. Groups like Theater Offensive and Imaginary Beasts.
If you indeed want to keep a nightclub in this space I suggest you show up more often since most nights here are practically empty save for those that feature 18 plus. It is indeed a shame that the gay bars are closing in Boston. I don't have an answer for that though I wish I did. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that people have new ways of socializing these days, not all of them good.
But to put down the theatre that I have created, paid for, won awards for, single handedly struggled to keep afloat and given my entire life to for over two decades is just plain dumb.
I plan on supporting this project because it is really a matter of life and death for me and my theater. Perhaps you don't have as much invested so you can't see what a miracle this is that we are being offered this gift.

Support moves like this. It doesn't have to be for me. Do it for all the struggling artists. Save your judgements for the things that truly matter. There are many these days. The fact that this is even happening is a godsend to us. Though we will miss the nightclub, we are grateful that this new development has offered us a chance to continue our work as opposed to just pushing us to the side.
Thanks for listening. x

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thank you Ryan

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Always a fan and I hope this new space shines

Why not just do what the ART

Why not just do what the ART did with what is now Oberon over in Cambridge. They took what was supposed to be a short run play with scantily clad actors and turned it into a years long revolution of the stage space.

Get some creative people in there and have a hybrid nightclub/play experience that is LGBT based. It could be a more interactive drag queen show where people mingle or it could be something much more creative.

It seems to do well for Oberon and I think it could be successful. Gay people can now go to any clubs they want, this would be a possible way to attract people back while still dressing it in enough of the "Arts" as to not upset administrators and possibly parents that the dorms are sitting on top of a gay nightclub.

I presume that had something to do with the clubs just not being incorporated into design fully... the whole concept of dorms being housed on top of Machine or a similar club.

Actually...

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Gay people can’t just go to any club today and not be harassed. The fact that you wrote “this would be a possible way to attract people back while still dressing it in enough of the "Arts" as to not upset administrators and possibly parents that the dorms are sitting on top of a gay nightclub.” proves that you know this.

I want to make one thing

I want to make one thing clear, I am also gay (and verified on this page for ten years) , just wanted to make sure that was layed out there.

You and the other commentor are conflating being gay and being in a scene setting as the same thing. They are two different things. I would also ask that if I am wrong, where is everyone? Why are the bars closing down? Don't tell me land prices, Lynn had 3 or 4 gay bars not even 10 years ago and now they have none.

If you'd like you can take my comment and take the word "gay" out and I think it still holds true. I said gay night club because it was a gay nightclub. The same way I would say Chinese Food Restaurant instead of food establishment. Regardless of how you feel about gay rights and the gay night scene , a parent might think twice about housing their kid above Machine. Where as something with an arts centric approach may be more appealing, not just to those looking to house students but those looking to patron a gay centric space.

Nope

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"Gay people can now go to any clubs they want"

No, we can't. Not if we want to dance with each other, kiss, touch or even hold hands. Take off your shirt, the ancien regime Boston vice police reappear.

going to a general-audience

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going to a general-audience club as a gay girl SUCKS - nothing like a bunch of skeezy straight dudes assuming you're there for their entertainment (or to give them their threesome fantasy)

Do schools need to sign on

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Do schools need to sign on for this to be considered student housing? If not, why no set aside for affordable housing? Green space? What is the square footage per student?

Well Now

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Isn't that special. And the Fenway's transformation into a bro-broette undergrad ghetto will be complete!

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hmmmmm....

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hmmmmm....

Is there a liquor license that would now be in-play?

Homage?

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An "homage" to the gays? In theater?

Reminds me: "If there were no gay men there would be no opera...if there were no gay men, who'd care?"

We need our dance floors.