Boston regulators Thursday night approved the city’s first parking-free condominium building next to North Station, setting a bold precedent in an effort to reduce automobile use in a densely packed downtown.
The 175-unit building is slated to rise at Lovejoy Wharf, a complex of homes, office, and retail spaces off Causeway Street in the West End. A new headquarters for sneaker company Converse Inc. is already under construction there, and the 15-story residential building will come next.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority voted to change previously approved plans, eliminating a 315-space robotic parking garage. Developer Related Beal had asserted parking and transportation demand could be met by surrounding garages and transit services.
“This development is going to seize on that existing infrastructure to create a new way of living in this neighborhood and getting around Boston,” said Peter Spellios, an executive with Related Beal. “I don’t think the parking situation is ever going to get fixed simply by building more garages.”
The Lovejoy Wharf project will serve as a first test of whether Boston can accommodate New-York-style buildings where residents rely more heavily on public transit, taxis, and other forms of transportation. In recent years, Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration has begun backing away from city requirements that all new residential buildings come with large supplies of parking.
Some residents near North Station remain skeptical of the effort. “It doesn’t make sense to have 175 luxury condominiums and no parking spaces,” said Scott Nogueira, a resident of a neighboring building and owner of Porters Bar and Grill on Portland Street.
Nogueira has been pushing the city to build more parking in the area for more than a decade, saying the neighborhood has become inhospitable to short-term parkers and visitors who stay overnight. “It’s now easier to park on the street in the Back Bay than it is in the Bulfinch Triangle,” he said.
Related Beal executives have said there is an ample supply of spaces in the neighborhood to serve 175 new condos. The area contains several large parking garages and is served by commuter rail and the MBTA’s Green and Orange lines. The developers are also adding ferry service to East Boston, South Boston, and other locations.
“The access to public transportation in this neighborhood is second to none,” Spellios said.
Development in the area is booming. In addition to Lovejoy Wharf, a developer is proposing to build a 600-foot-tall complex of offices, stores, and hotel rooms in front of TD Garden. That project is expected to add about 900 parking spaces. Another major redevelopment at the site of the Government Center Garage is expected to take more than 1,000 spaces out of the neighborhood.
Typically, the city requires developers of residential buildings in downtown neighborhoods to supply at least one parking space for every two homes constructed. But regulators are constantly reevaluating those requirements and have signaled an openness to proposals with fewer spaces.
The BRA board also approved changes to a massive residential and retail complex across from the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in South Boston. The changes, involving open space and the orientation of its apartment towers, will allow the projects to proceed early next year, according to the lead developer, Boston Global Investors.
In addition, board members approved construction of an 83-unit condominium building on the former Boston Herald headquarters in the South End. Previously, developers of the so-called Ink Block project had planned to build only apartments on the site, which will also include a Whole Foods supermarket.