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BRA’s first Walsh-era vote is a major one

The developer says streets near the Landmark Center will get livelier as a Wegmans market, stores, apartments, and restaurants are added.

Elkus Manfredi Architects

The developer says streets near the Landmark Center will get livelier as a Wegmans market, stores, apartments, and restaurants are added.

The first Boston Redevelopment Authority board meeting under Mayor Martin J. Walsh will take up a proposal for a massive development in the Fenway that would include 550 apartments, retail shops, and the city’s first Wegmans grocery store.

Approval of the Landmark Center’s expansion on Thursday would advance the rapid transformation of the streets around Fenway Park. It would also extend the string of large developments approved recently under former Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

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The project, at the intersection of Park Drive and Brookline Avenue, calls for the demolition of a parking garage at the existing office-retail complex to make way for a large, multitiered complex. Buildings between eight and 15 stories would contain the Wegmans, 110,000 square feet of restaurants and stores, 15,000 square feet of additional office space, and 550 luxury apartments.

The developer would also convert the parking lot into a public park and build an underground garage with 1,500 spaces.

Peter Sougarides, an executive with the developer, Samuels & Associates, said Landmark Center’s expansion would build on several developments in the Fenway — by Samuels and others — that have introduced restaurants and modern apartments to the once-gritty streets near the ballpark.

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Thursday’s BRA meeting will also offer the first glimpse of the BRA’s process under Walsh. The new mayor has pledged to restructure the authority and conduct detailed reviews of its operations and finances. But he has given few details about his plans or when he will begin making changes.

The expansion of Landmark Center is being planned in concert with an overhaul of its existing office space. The main tenant, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is moving out in mid-2015, and Samuels is trying to attract a new mix of tenants.

In documents it has filed, the developer has said the expansion will bring new retail spaces to Park Drive, Fullerton Street, and Brookline Avenue, enlivening those streets with daily shoppers, diners, office workers, and residents.

What is today known as Landmark Center was constructed in 1928 as a distribution center and warehouse for Sears Roebuck & Co.

In the late 1990s, it was renovated by Abbey Group into a retail and office complex.

Abbey Group executives launched a different expansion plan in 2008, but ended up selling the property to Samuels & Associates in 2010 for about $530 million.

Elkus Manfredi Architects

The parking lot at the Landmark Center is going to be converted into a public park.

The Samuels plan has drawn support from members of the Fenway Civic Association and the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association.

“We’re going to have a grocery store of very high quality, and it’s going to energize the neighborhood,” said Patricia Johnson, copresident of the Audubon Circle group. “They’re converting all of the parking along Park Drive to green space.”

Johnson said that some members had concerns about the height of the complex and possible traffic problems, but the developer altered the plans to ensure those issues were addressed.

She also said that many neighbors wanted Samuels to build all of the project’s required affordable housing units on the site.

A spokeswoman for Samuels said at least 10 percent of the on-site units will be affordable. That is short of the 15 percent requirement, but Samuels has said it will pay into a city fund to have the remainder of the affordable units built elsewhere.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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