Developer John Hynes last week asked the BPDA for permission to convert several floors in a proposed 18-story building on Congress Street from office space, which few now want, to life-sciences R&D space, which is suddenly in great demand, both because of the Covid-19 pandemic:
The Proponent is seeking the modification in response to recent trends in real estate markets, which currently favor life science uses over more limited demand for office use in light of the uncertain long-term impacts of the pandemic.
At issue is the building Hynes and partners want to build at 401 Congress St., near B Street and the overpass to the World Trade Center. Hynes is seeking to convert seven floors, originally meant for generic offices, to biological research floors. The move would technically make the building only 17 floors, because labs need higher ceilings, so Hynes would keep the building the same overall height by lopping off its proposed top floor.
Hynes adds he does not envision the research floors to have permits for the most deadly of microrganisms, such as Ebola. He writes he envisions the floors would not be permitted for anything above "biosafety level 2" which includes diseases that generally do not kill most people who contract it, such as the flu, or which do not spread through the air, such as HIV. Work on diagnostic tests for Covid-19 is allowed in such labs, but not work that might expose staffers to large amounts of the virus, such as research that involves infecting animals with the virus.
The Boston University biolab near Boston Medical Center is licensed for research involving level-4 pathogens - the worst of the worst. More details on different biosafey levels.
In his request, Hynes said the proposal will continue to feature a "Great Hall" on the first two floors, as well as regular office space between the life-sciences floor and the top story, which would be used for the building's mechanical services.
Hynes hopes to begin construction next year.
401 Congress St., filings, including the change request and detailed plans and renderings.