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Parcel 3 developers seek extension from Boston Redevelopment Authority

Yawu Miller | 6/4/2014, 10:49 a.m.
A BJ’s Wholesale Club, a major sports and outdoor equipment retailer, a national cinema chain, a health and fitness club, ...
An artist’s rendering shows the streetscape along the Tremont Street side of the proposed Tremont Crossing project, a housing, retail and hotel complex on Parcel 3 in Lower Roxbury. (Architect’s rendering)

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Boston Redevelopment Authority Director of Planning Kairos Shen speaks to members of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee during a meeting Monday.

A BJ’s Wholesale Club, a major sports and outdoor equipment retailer, a national cinema chain, a health and fitness club, arts and crafts store and major clothing retailer are among the businesses that have expressed intent to lease more than 70 percent of the 400,000 square feet of retail space in the Parcel 3 development planned by P-3 Partners LLC.

The commitments for commercial space in the proposed complex have brought the partners to the brink of construction, according to Feldco President Barry Feldman, whose firm partnered with the Elma Lewis Corp. to develop the Lower Roxbury parcel at the corner of Tremont and Whittier streets.

The commitments, which the developers expect to finalize with signed leases in coming months, should ensure construction financing will flow to the project.

But the developers are facing a BRA-imposed deadline that could derail the project, potentially setting the development of long-vacant parcel back years.

On May 22, interim BRA Director Brian Golden sent the P-3 Partners LLC a letter informing them their designation as developers of the parcel would be coming to an end June 30, and calling on them to demonstrate progress on the project if their designation is to be renewed.

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An artist’s rendering shows a hotel and residential building at the corner of Tremont and Whittier streets in the proposed Tremont Crossing mixed-use development.

During a meeting of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee Monday, BRA Director of Planning Kairos Shen said that Golden and Chief of Economic Development John Barros would likely meet with the development team after Barros returns next week from a trade mission to Israel and Dubai.

“This continues to be one of the things the administration wants to see progress on,” Shen said of Parcel 3.

Shen said Golden was concerned about the development team’s financing, noting that some of the project’s proposed financing would come from tax credits that the development team has not yet secured. Most major development projects in Roxbury — and in Boston — apply for state and federal tax credits.

The P-3 Partners team members have requested a six-month extension of the team’s designation, arguing that they need time to sign leases with the retailers, cinema and prospective office tenants — including the Boston Public Schools — in order to obtain construction financing.

“We don’t have signed leases for all of this, but that’s the nature of a mixed-use development,” said Feldco Development Vice President Jeffrey Feldman. “It’s like a Rubik’s Cube.”

Barry Feldman noted that the team lost months of planning time last year after their former lead tenant, Partners Healthcare, pulled out of the deal. Asked by Menino administration officials to continue pursuing Partners, Feldman said the team waited six months until moving forward with BJ’s Wholesale Club.

While Oversight Committee Chairman Darnel Williams and board member Charlotte Nelson questioned the team’s request for an extension, other board members and community members at the meeting Monday expressed support for the project and urged Shen to extend the P-3 Partners’ designation as developers for the site.

“This is an investment of three years,” said board member Dorothea Jones, drawing applause from attendees. “If we don’t give them six more months, it may take us six more years to get where we are now.”