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Parcel 3 developers seek extension from Boston Redevelopment Authority

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Parcel 3 developers seek extension from Boston Redevelopment Authority
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.

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.

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.”

Williams and Nelson cautioned against the board taking a vote in support of P-3 Partners before hearing Barros and Golden’s concerns. Nelson questioned whether the board could request a set of metrics measuring monthly progress on the project.

Jones said the board should not have to wait for Barros and Golden to weigh in.

“This is as much for the community to consider as it is for the BRA to consider,” she sadi. “The fact that John Barros is travelling does not mean the community can’t have a voice and express it.”

Williams responded, asserting that the issue was too volatile to vote on during the Monday meeting.

“This is a powder keg and it can get lit in a nanosecond,” he said. “We just need to hear from John and Mr. Golden first.”

No vote was taken Monday.

The P-3 Partners LLC development plans include 400,000 square feet of retail, an extended-stay hotel, 300 market rate, affordable and moderate income residential units, a 1,500-space parking garage and a 30,000-square-foot space for the National Center of Afro-American Artists.​

The Parcel 3 site has been mostly vacant for decades, most of its buildings cleared during the ‘70s through federal Urban Renewal funds. The parcel is directly across Tremont Street from the Boston Police Department headquarters and across from the Whittier Street public housing development.

The Boston Housing Authority is currently seeking federal department of Housing and Urban Development funding for a $300 million rehabilitation project that would raze and rebuild the Whittier Street development and build housing and commercial space in the neighborhood around the development.

In addition to Nelson and board member Kevin Cherry, community members including developer Fred Fairfield and former City Councilor Chuck Turner urged support for the extension of P3 Partners’ designation.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the community was not given the opportunity to voice their support,” Turner said.