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BPDA agrees to let developers ditch Chinatown BPL branch in proposed Tremont Street building, but says don't worry, it has an even better site in mind

The BPDA board agreed today to let developers of a proposed residential and hotel building on Tremont Street in Chinatown eliminate space for the long awaited BPL Chinatown branch because of funding complications caused by Covid-19.

But the board also approved a plan to issue an RFP for a city-owned parcel between Tyler, Hudson and Harvard streets that would include space for the BPL branch.

Reay Pannesi, a senior BPDA official, said the proposed developers of the Tremont site, known as Parcel P-12C, had financial problems due to Covid-19 that other developers in the city did not, due to their project's unique nature - a joint venture by a hospital, a hotel and a non-profit community group, which depended in part on funding coming from other operations that themselves suffered pandemic-related slowdowns.

The BPDA vote was technically to give the developers another six months to arrange financing for the complex.

The vote came a few minutes after the board voted to issues an RFP for the Tyler/Hudson/Harvard parcel, also known as R-1, which was the former "temporary" home of a YMCA branch that operated for some 30 years.

The RFP requests developers willing to put up a building with more affordable housing than normally called for by city regulations as well as ways to help preserve the culture and community of Chinatown, Pannesi said. She said part of this would include space for the proposed library branch, which would replace a temporary library in the BPDA's Chinatown Trade Center on Boylston Street near Washington Street.

Pannesi said the BPL is "very excited" about the R-1 site, because it is larger than the Tremont Street one, which means more, if not all, of the library could be built on a single floor. Also, it is more centrally located in Chinatown, while the Tremont Street site, if not exactly on the periphery of Chinatown, is separated from the bulk of it by the Theater District, she said.

Pannesi said it is possible that, should something happen to the R-1 proposal, that the library could still go into the Tremont Street building, assuming it's built.

After hearing that, board Chair Priscilla Rojas said, "it's great to have multiple options for that library and great to find one even better suited for it."

The earliest construction could begin on the site is Jan. 1, 2023, after a lease that Tufts Medical Center has to use the parcel for parking expires.

The BPDA board vote did not set any deadlines for the RFP, such as the date by which its sent out or the date by which interested developers have to apply. Once proposals are received, the BPDA would then have to take time to consider them and select one, after which it would then hold a public-hearing process before the board votes on the proposal.

PDF icon R-1 proposal81.9 KB


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Let Chinatown wait for a few more years -- after all, what's 2023 for a community that has been without a permanent BPL branch for more than half a century, the same community whose students are being actively discriminated against by the city in exam school admissions?

And as an added bonus, the new plot is right across the street from One Greenway, a recent development with sky-high condo fees (even for "affordable" units) that has been occupied by gentrifiers ever since it was built.

Maybe "preserving the culture of Chinatown" means as much as it does in DC: keeping only the arch, the elderly (living in affordable senior housing), and a few restaurants in the city, while everyone else has been forced out to the suburbs.

Voting closed 45

Multiple options is better than one library.

Voting closed 16

The BPDA, where the P is silent. The only planning they do is planning to enrich their own balance sheet. In real estate, more than virtually any other area of the law, a deal is a deal. Of course none of the poor BPL serfs will make a stink, or they will end up in charge of inventory on the Bookmobile.

Voting closed 41

Even if they claim the BPL is “very excited” about this new proposal, I don’t hold my breath for anything beneficial to the community that the BPDA dangles in front of us.

Voting closed 7

...you'd be "excited" too.

Voting closed 16


Can we get a comment from the BPL to confirm that in fact, this is good in their eyes?

I understand the cynicism, especially around these parts, but expressing hypothetical displeasure and disappointment is not a productive exercise.

Voting closed 15

It isn't clear to me what is wrong with it's current location aside from being on the edge of the neighborhood. The did a pretty good job sprucing up the place and it's already a City-owned building. Do they need more space? Is the location problematic in the long run? All of these development articles about these parcels over the last few years don't seem to frame the library's needs very well. They state the library/city's desires as a given. What are those desires? I hate that my first instinct in response is "why can't they just stay where they are and build it out".

Voting closed 18

Sarcasm aside, looking at a map of Chinatown that lists all of the restaurants inspired me to journey into enjoying each Chinatown restaurant. Once I am fully comfortable Covid is tamed*.

It's easy to see that there are plenty of restaurants in Chinatown. But seeing so many on a map makes me salivate for sampling a huge variety of one Asian cuisine as translated into the US.

* I remain concerned that even with vaccinations that another wave may come through the US. The Delta variant is proving nasty. There are still many people who stupidly, arrogantly and foolishly play Russian Roulette with their and other lives by refusing vaccinations. While a fully vaccinated person is not likely to die they can still become sick.

Especially as subways become crowded again. From my anecdotal experience not riding the subway daily has contributed to an 100% decrease in any colds, mild or severe, for over a year. Less physical suffering, less sick days from work, more able to be present for self, family and friends.

Perhaps one lesson from Covid is that public transportation needs to be rethought in light of it being a major nexus for the transmission of disease.

Voting closed 6

From my anecdotal experience not riding the subway daily has contributed to an 100% decrease in any colds, mild or severe, for over a year.

Absolutely something to this. I knew about this long ago and adjusted winter commuting behavior accordingly.

I managed to outbike the H1N1 virus in 2009 by biking to work and wearing a scarf if I had to take transit, only to get nuked by my extended family at Thanksgiving.

There is a vaccine for Covid-19. Also for the flu. There is no vaccine for the four other common-cold coronaviruses and rhinoviruses and parainfluenza viruses circulating in a given year.

Voting closed 16

Maybe if we didn't live in a culture that essentially forces low-income people to go to work while sick and contagious there wouldn't be so many sick people riding public transit?

I've yet to see a rigorous analysis that ties public transit directly to covid transmission. Many places with great transit (outside the USA, of course) avoided serious outbreaks, while many places with terrible-to-non-existent transit have been slammed.

Voting closed 7

Is there any agreement that the BPDA has actually HELD developers to satisfy? They seem to be great at making them but then nearly always let them off the hook due to "financing issues."

Voting closed 22