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Lab space, affordable housing for parcel over Mass Pike

Anna Lamb
Lab space, affordable housing for parcel over Mass Pike
(l-r) Scott Bosworth, undersecretary, MassDOT; Don Peebles, chairman and CEO, The Peebles Corporation; Cheryl McKissack Daniel, president and CEO, McKissack & McKissack; Whitni Irving, project architect, Moody Nolan; Blake Middleton, partner, Handel Architects. COURTESY PHOTO

Seven years after being selected by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and having development halted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Peebles Corporation is finally moving forward on its plans to develop an air rights parcel over the Mass Pike in Boston’s Back Bay.

The last major progress on the project was back in 2020, with Peebles submitting an official Letter of Intent (LOI) to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for a development including a mix of housing and hotel space for Parcel 13 — located at the corner of Boylston Street and Massachusetts Avenue with developable air rising above the Mass Pike.

Last week, the African American-owned, Florida-based company filed a new LOI with the BPDA for Parcel 13, scrapping the hotel but keeping the high-rise rental housing and adding lab and commercial space. Company representatives say they also have tweaked their plans by making all 125 rental units be affordable.

The lab space is planned to span 300,000 gross square feet. No onsite parking is planned for the site. Instead, developers will be focusing on creating a new “universally accessible” MBTA Hynes Station on the project’s ground floor with a new entrance off Boylston Street. Peebles says it will provide “critical funding and coordination for the renovation of Hynes Station including full accessibility for persons with disabilities, new publicly accessible station headhouses on Massachusetts Avenue, Boylston, and Newbury Streets, and the opportunity for critical infrastructure upgrades to the station power systems.”

Plans also include space for nearly 100 bicycle parking spots and “other pedestrian level improvements.”

The Peebles Corporation also said as part of their new development plans that they hope to exceed both MassDOT and BPDA diversity goals for public parcels — committing to a goal of 51% participation by minorities and women. As part of that, the firm has chosen to partner with McKissack & McKissack construction, a minority- and women-owned design and construction firm out of New York. They’re also bringing in Moody Nolan, an African American-owned architectural firm.

“This project provides a unique ability to create transit-oriented, affordable housing units in the vibrant neighborhood of the Back Bay,” said Don Peebles, Chairman and CEO. “For more than 35 years, The Peebles Corporation has succeeded in public-private partnerships around the country.”

A statement from the company says it will also make an effort to “engage local minority and women owned companies for the long-term management of the development, and all retail opportunities at the site will be offered to minority and women owned restaurants and shops.”

Also notable about the new project is its contribution to the corridor above the highway. Peebles says the development helps fill the ‘hole’ left by the configuration of the Mass Pike, on the north side of Boylston Street, as development on adjacent parcels continues to be halted by legal battles and similarly delayed projects interrupted by the pandemic.

Now able to move full steam ahead, Peebles says Parcel 13 and the other air rights projects in the area will contribute to infrastructure improvements required for the extension of the Prudential Tunnel, “helping to bring that critical route up to current safety code standards.”

Still finalizing details of the development plan, Peebles says it’s been working with MassDOT and the MBTA to come up with transportation investments and other final details. Tentatively, the company plans to start construction in about 18 months and to have the project completed in about four years.

affordable housing, Back Bay, Mass Pike, Parcel 13