The Zoning Board of Appeal yesterday approved plans by Related Beal to replace a self-storage building at 420 Rutherford Ave. with a three-story building aimed at life-sciences startups - although in a pinch, a robotics developer could also rent space there.
The proposed building, next to a residential building that is part of the Hood Park complex, would be limited to Biosafety Level 2 work, or what Related Beal attorney Jared Eigerman referred to as "cells under a microscope" - that is, relatively benign cells, not cells that could cause deadly disease if they escaped. The approval allows for other sorts of development work to go on in the building, including robotics or other mechanical development.
One resident, Johanna Hynes, said she was concerned that Related Beal's renderings show a bucolic scene along Rutherford Avenue that features a butterfly garden and large shade trees when there's no indication that Related Beal is actually going to transplant large trees instead of planting skinny young trees that could take years or decades to fully develop shade canopies. She added she is concerned about the potential impact of the fact that Rutherford Avenue once formed part of the historic Middlesex Canal.
Eigerman said his client had worked extensively with BPDA and BTD planners on its designs and had historians take a look at the canal issue and concluded there wasn't one. He said the building would be replacing an existing structure.
Among those supporting the project: The developer of Hood Park, which said Related Beal had met with residents of the neighboring building.
Noise from the larger HVAC systems required by life-sciences labs has been an issue in other neighborhoods with biotech butting up against residential buildings; Related Beal proposes to deal with that by placing its building's HVAC systems on the side of the roof away from its residential neighbor, with roof plantings between them and the residences.
The BPDA approved the project in April.
420 Rutherford Ave. filings.