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Developers of massive South Boston project propose a privately funded bus line rather than a gondola

L Street proposal: Before and after

Architect's rendering: Before and after.

The developers that have proposed turning the old Boston Edison power plant along L Street into a mixed-use development today filed new plans that call for fewer residential units and somewhat shorter buildings than originally proposed - and a possible solution to waterfront gridlock through funding of a new bus route to the site.

And in their filing with the BPDA and state environmental officials, Hilco Redevelopment Partners and Redgate Capital Partners said they would be willing to start up the new route - which would be available to anybody with a CharlieCard - well before any of the new buildings are open for occupancy.

The Proponent is prepared to begin a pilot of supplemental service upon receiving its master plan approvals for the Project and the commencement of demolition (currently planned for 2019), even before any occupancy of the Project Site.

In their newest filing, the developers are proposing a total of 1,344 residential units - 777 apartments and 567 condos - down from the 1,600 they proposed last year. The tallest building on the site would rise 206 feet, down from the 220 originally proposed; two other buildings would also be shorter. They are proposing a hotel with 344 rooms - up from the 150 proposed last year. In total, the project, when completed in 12 to 15 years, would have 1.93 million square feet of residential, office, retail and hotel space, down from the 2.1 million first proposed.

The development would have 1,397 parking spaces.

The companies say they hope to begin demolition of the giant buildings next year and begin construction in 2020. Two key buildings - a hall housing turbines and an 1898 building - would be kept as part of the project. The first new buildings to go up would be low-rise residential buildings along East 1st Street.

They add they plan to add 5.5 acres of public space, including along the waterfront, and with pedestrian connections to the rest of the Harborwalk.

The entire site will have its grade increased to protect the buildings against the sea-level change and fiercer storms expected due to climate change, they say.

The filing discusses the bus proposal in a bit more detail:

Although located approximately 1.5 miles from South Station, the growing City Point neighborhood of South Boston, which is not served by the MBTA Red Line, is experiencing gaps and shortfalls in its MBTA public transit service (bus service). To help address this issue, the Proponent proposes to fund and operate, in partnership with the MBTA, an innovative supplemental bus service that is open to anyone with a Charlie Card.

This supplemental service would be expressly designed to identify and address, in real time, gaps and shortfalls in established MBTA bus service caused by changes in transit demand, traffic patterns and usage. The service would create the opportunity to pilot potentially more efficient routes (such as inbound service to South Station along First Street, or inbound service to South Station along Summer Street that does not continue into the Financial District) that could both supplement existing MBTA bus service and also provide real-time evidence supporting changes to existing service.

The Proponent has begun discussions with the MBTA regarding a public-private partnership to implement this proposed supplemental bus service, which would advance the objectives of the MBTA's on-going "Better Bus Project" initiative. Once launched, the Proponent may enlist other private landowners to further leverage this service and assist in providing more transit capacity and options in the area. Due to the pressing neighborhood need for better transit service and as a demonstration of its commitment to this key Project element, the Proponent is prepared to begin a pilot of supplemental service upon receiving its master plan approvals for the Project and the commencement of demolition (currently planned for 2019), before any actual occupancy of the site.

Proposed remake of the turbine hall:

Turbine Hall

Draft project-impact report (35M PDF).

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Comments

How far along East First will the buildings go? If past M Street, they might want to look into funding some netting for the outfield fence at the softball park at M and First. Many a ball is hit onto that property now. A friend in real estate has toured the site and he reported to me that there are literally hundreds of old softballs on the ground there.

Suldog
http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com

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Voting closed 21

So, yeah, goes past M.

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Voting closed 20

Less housing and more parking. Ugh. I'm so sick of these NIMBYs trying to protect their free on-street parking and their own property values at the detriment of everyone else. The Mayor and the BPDA need to do what's in the best interest of the city, not simply what nearby homeowners want.

(And if we want to reduce the demand for on-street parking, there are much better ways to do that than forcing developers to build off-street parking, which will only increase the number of cars on the road and the amount of congestion that our already slow buses get stuck in.)

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Would you not want to protect your property value?

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So now it is a bad thing that people want to protect their property values and preserve their current parking situation??? What makes the developers and future residents so special that they deserve consideration but the current property owners, homeowners and residents do not? Just because a developer wants to build it doesn't mean it's a good idea.

This development is frigging huge and the parking spaces are appropriate and necessary. This part of Southie is poorly served by rapid transit and despite what all you anti-car people say , people will continue to have cars whether you like it or not. If you want people to reduce the use of cars, then build a new extension of the Red Line or turn one of the bus lines into a streetcar line like the Green LIne. Buses are problematic now in Southie and it wont get any better with more people. And make no mistake , the Silver Line is just a bus line

This developer, like most developers, intentionally proposed something huge, then they pretend to make concessions and listen to the locals by slightly reducing the size of the development. It need to be reduced a lot more. And it wont work without a lot of parking spaces.

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Voting closed 23

First off, why is it dogma that people will bring cars regardless of whether or not they have a parking space? I've gone into this previously but, suffice to say, it isn't the case.

What makes the developers and future residents so special that they deserve consideration but the current property owners, homeowners and residents do not?

There is nothing inherently wrong with current residents wanting to protect their home value, but only if it doesn't come at the expense of allowing more housing to be built and more folks to be able to move to our city without displacement (one and the same if you ask me).

Also, while current residents do deserve consideration, their cars do not. If the current residents don't have an off street parking space, they have no right to park in the city. They have the opportunity to, and have had that opportunity for decades, but parking is not a human right.

If we were serious about extending transit to Southie we'd remove street parking on main roads and designate permanent bus lanes and signal prioritization. Hell, we'd do that for every neighborhood in the city.

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busses work great when they aren't competing with single occupant vehicles in deadlocked traffic.

"wah wah the bus is too slow, so let me get the thing that makes the bus even more slow" jesus christ the lack of logic here

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Honestly, this kind of vitriol is not helpful. While I am a YIMBY and post fairly regularly here in support of greater density, suggesting that current residents' concerns about their property values, and the character of their neighborhood, should simply be ignored is immature and unrealistic. I grant you that I am not sure how the demolition of a shuttered power plant (particularly this one which caused a cancer bloom in this neighborhood in its heyday) would hurt anyone's property values, but building this much housing without due consideration to vehicle traffic is an issue. The real solution, of course, is to make the T work. We have gotten to the point where people simply dismiss out of hand that an urban neighborhood can be mostly supported by public transit, and perhaps justifiably so given the state of things on the T. People do not consider it reliable, which should be an embarrassment to us all. This is not New York, and it is unlikely that we will ever see a day when people in Boston simply don't have cars. But hopefully we will see a day when people can rely on public transit for most of their needs, including getting to work.

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This comment was about preserving free perks for people already there at the public expense, and making that some sort of "right".

Everyone in our cities - and not just Boston - should be paying to store their private property on public land. Period.

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Isn't that what excise taxes paid on vehicles every year goes to?

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If you were running for office, and continued to be so reasonable, I would vote for you.

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Let's have discussions about ideas and policy without vitriol and personal diatribes -- that seems to be working OK on the Hub

However, let's also not throw in gratuitous junk science as it serves no purpose and often ignites the diatribes and vitriol

Case in point "I grant you that I am not sure how the demolition of a shuttered power plant (particularly this one which caused a cancer bloom in this neighborhood in its heyday)"

That is an utterly unsupportable statement of no value to the discussion. First -- there is no such creature as a "cancer bloom" Even so-called well researched "clusters" above the average occurrence are essentially impossible to verify.

The epidemiology of nearly all cancers is mostly junk science. Cancer first is a common name for many mostly only casually related diseases -- not much connects:. a sarcoma in a leg bone with lung cancer with basal cell skin cancer, with ovarian cancer with lymphoma. All of those have different "triggers." In addition most cancers have very long incubation times between a trigger and the manifestation of the disease. During that period people move, change types of employment, change life-styles [e.g. smoking] -- so how do you connect the so-called "cluster" - -do you track people who lived in area when the exposure occurred, or do you only count the people who stayed in the same place since the exposure?

There is really only one case where there is scientifically sound correlation and causation between exposure and incidence of cancer and that involved a rare rapidly developing testicular cancer. During the Vietnam War two Navy Aircraft depots serviced the same types of aircraft. At one depot a large spike in incidence [many times the expected rate for people in the 20's age group in question] of a rare, fast evolving [1 to 2 years] testicular cancer which almost never occurs in young men was happening to mechanics who were using an organic solvent to degrease and clean aircraft parts. These young guys were being young guys and they were "playing with the solvent" such as soaking the other guys on your team after work was done as if the stuff was water. With the same population of servicemen at the other depot with a different solvent -- no super statistical spike in incidence. Bingo!

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So.....

you're for the bus lanes?

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"While I am a YIMBY and post fairly regularly here in support of greater density, suggesting that current residents' concerns about their property values, and the character of their neighborhood, should simply be ignored is immature and unrealistic."

That is not what I'm suggesting at all. Of course people should be concerned about their property values, but if we let that dictate what does and doesn't get built, then nothing will get built. The current housing shortage is great for property values of people who already own property, but for renters or those who are looking to move into the area, it's terrible. Boston is going to lose it's competitive economic edge if we don't keep building more housing.

In terms of "character of the neighborhood," introducing more off-street parking for more cars is certainly a great way to ruin that character. I get that people who have lived here a while and utilize the free on-street resident parking want to preserve that, and there are ways to do that without requiring more off-street parking than is necessary or limiting development. The city needs to better manage the on-street parking, through permit fees and/or other restrictions so that it is not oversubscribed. Requiring developers to provide more off-street than they would otherwise may reduce the future demand for on-street parking somewhat, but mostly in encourages more people to bring cars with them, generates more traffic (and noise and pollution) on local streets from those cars, occupies land that could be used for more housing/offices/retail/etc, and increases the costs for anyone looking to buy/rent in that new development.

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People do.

Of course you aren't interested in the actual solution to the problem - charging everybody who uses public parking on street a hefty fee for the service. No. You want your free parking to be subsidized by the tax money of people who will be forced to pay for theirs.

The "I got mine so fuck everyone" problem.

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Unless there's enough reliable other ways to get around then there needs to be some parking, and it's understandable that people want to maintain property values in their location.

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Free parking? Really? What do you think our taxes are paying for? We payed for those streets-they belong to us all, and if some private developer wants to build a huger development on private property with out publicly owned streets then they can supply their own parking for their tenants rather than overwhelm city streets. The city and state need to expend the political capital to radically improve public transit options and get suburban commuters off neighborhood streets before any more development goes on.

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Why not contribute to the cost of operating a public bus route that services the area? Why would we be OK with private?

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Why would they want to fund a larger public bus line vs. a private for their residents?

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They line up at hubs like North & South Station to transport their people to places like Mass General. Why in the world would they simply hand over money to the T and hope they do the same thing? I hate to tell you but the T doesn't have a good reputation for reliability or fiscal responsibility. They are trying to do one thing but you want them to fix a different problem.

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MGH isn't asking permission to build a building that has tangible negative consequences on the neighbors. This developer is. A private bus doesn't benefit the neighbors nearly as much as a public bus would.

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Doesn't necessarily mean improved transit in the area unless there's an unambiguous contract with the MBTA which requires them to maintain a specified schedule. If they just kick in money to help pay for the 7 or 9 bus, that doesn't require the T to operate the schedule as promised (hint: they don't!) or add buses to accommodate the additional transit demand created by this development (hint: they won't!).

Read the Globe's story about the 111 bus from this week. The T only says it is "considering banning cancellation of back-to-back buses on the route." That should give you some idea as to why rush hour service on the T can be so lame.

The money would just go into the MBTA general fund and the bus service to Southie would remain as crappy as it currently is.

Hiring a private bus operator introduces accountability: If the private operator doesn't run trips, they don't get paid. If they don't at the very least start trips on time, they don't get paid the full amount. And if they start/end the bus route at the development, even if the service is also available to the general public, it pretty much guarantees seats to the residents of that development -- rather than the likely case of every rush hour bus already being full by the time the bus reaches First and L.

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Pretty sure Silver Line 3 stopped right there

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None of the current Silver Line routes cross over the L Street bridge into South Boston. At one time, there was a branch that ran down East First Street, over the bridge and into South Station but that part of the route was discontinued due to low ridership.

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And before the Silver Line there was the old number 2 bus that did that route. I seem to recall it went all around some massive parking lot on the waterfront too, to pick up employees from some company that I forget. The whole run down area the number 2 went through is now the "Innovation District".

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The number 2 was a bus from South Station to North Station that was discontinued in 1981:
http://www.wardmaps.com/viewasset.php?aid=14828

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That also seems like a useful route.

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via the Transitway (tunnel) and Boston Marine Industrial Park. It had problems though -- the 7 bus paralleled the route down Summer Street, was cheaper (SL3 was subway fare), ran all the way to the Financial District/Downtown Crossing, and was much more frequent.

The SL3 only would go as far as South Station by a circuitous route, so it was cancelled in March 2009 due to low ridership. It was about 15 years before its time.

The 7 still has its problems, as it is overcrowded during rush hours, but only runs every 30 minutes on Saturday, and doesn't run at all on Sunday.

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So you’re saying that they spent $400,000 to figure out that they would rather use a bus. Ha! In classic Bostonian Fashion

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They truly believe, and want you to believe, that this massive development does not need parking. These residential units and businesses will cater to the rollerblading and Uber riding commuters. And guess what? The City will play into this fallacy.

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It mentions how many parking spaces they're proposing. After you find that, I can explain the bus thing if you like.

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If you went to the community meeting you would know that the major concern was that there was not ENOUGH parking.
The developers stated that people who would live, work and shop here would not drive. We all know that’s BS.

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For 1390 residential units, numerous hotel rooms and offices which they only give square footage not actual human figures. Add in all the employees, deliveries, contractors, visitors and patrons of the bars and restaurants and you believe that’s enough parking spots?

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I know lots of people who don't own a car and live in urban areas. Almost everyone in their 20s. And, a bunch of folks 70+.

In an era of delivery of goods, services, and people, it just isn't as hard as it used to be. And I get it, that's hard to understand if you've owned a car for the last 40 years, or if you're schlepping kids around all the time. And I'm not saying that you don't need a car.

But lots of folks don't. And many families in the city live with one car.

Some with 0, some with 1... that leads to a ratio below 1.0. All that parking puts upward pressure on housing prices while simultaneously taking away space that could be used for people to sleep each night.

South Station, Kendall Square, Harvard Square, MGH, and UMass Boston are all on the red line. An MBTA [not private] bus to the Red Line is a pretty easy commute, and all of those areas have loads of folks who don't own even the one car.

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isn't this how a lot of the current train and bus routes were established to start with? the original streetcars and subways were a weird wild west of competing private companies and all eventually got folded into the mbta. as much as privatization skeeves me out, the one nice thing is it IS fast, whereas payments to the mbta or trying to lobby for a new public line is likely to get held up, redirected, or stuck in 'study/development' hell for years at a time. maybe this'll encourage more big developments to do something like this. hell, maybe the big developers can go in on a system, and you can take your private bus from southie to another big development in dot, etc. eventually we'll have a state government that recognizes that public transit is literally required to keep boston operating as a city, and fund it properly, and these new private lines can all get folded into the system.

perfect shouldn't be the enemy of good

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We fought 30 years to rid that First St mile of polluters- oil tank farm, asbestos laden power plant and that Edison site that poisoned the air all of which contributed to disease clusters...
This redevelopment will be better than any of that.

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Dedicated bus service on weekdays during peak hours that runs along First Street all the way to Dorchester Ave, and continues on through the postal annex road (which is technically still Dorchester Ave)

Entire route needs only about 5 stops to be feasible: L & 1st, 1st & D, 1st & Dot Ave, Dot Ave & Summer, Summer & D (BCEC)

Any other proposed solution is just going to create more congestion on already heavily clogged commuter routes.

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Nice picture. Are those holes in the glass ceiling, or levitating chandeliers?

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I live in Southie and I own a car. Street parking in the neighborhood is insane. I see people get into heated arguments all the time. When I moved to South Boston 5 years ago, I got a condo with it's own private garage. I would NEVER live in Southie without off street parking and prefer covered so I don't have to deal with the snow.

I work in downtown so I use transit everyday to get to work via the 7 bus or the 9 bus and Red line. Both the 7 and 9 are terrible. Too many no show buses. Or they get stuck in traffic mostly associated with downtown/I-93 versus Southie itself.

But I do use my car to get groceries, go shopping (i.e Home Depot), or to get out of town on weekends. I put very few annual miles on my car. Quit assuming people owning cars are using them everyday. Some of us only use them when needed. And if you don't live in Southie, you really don't know the issues. Most of Southie's traffic is cut thru to avoid I-93. Some people who live in Southie work at Rte 128 locations - so there are no good transit options for them.

I encourage building off street parking. Anything to get rid of the on street parking insanity Southie has now.

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Honest question: If off-street parking was not available in your building, would you still have moved to Southie? Would you still own a car?

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How difficult it is to sell or rent a unit without parking. Those that decide to buy or rent without parking usually move after the first or second winter.

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It’s surprising just how dense this proposal is! I lived on I street and 1st for 3 years, and this defunct power plant is an eyesore! The 3 story ceilings proposed are gorgeous and i hope they are executed even 1/10 as nice as the drawings. However, that corner is a gnarly bottleneck already! 300 units, ok maybe, but 1000+? With the conley traffic running right behind it? I’ll believe it when i see 1000 people wanting to live all the way out there.

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