The new owners of the former Boston Flower Exchange in the South End unveiled their plan for the site Wednesday night, envisioning four lab and office buildings, with thousands of tech and life sciences jobs, built around a 1-acre public plaza lined with restaurants, retail, and a new cultural center.
The plans, which the Abbey Group shared with a neighborhood group, are preliminary. Abbey is still months and many neighborhood meetings away from filing formal plans with the Boston Planning & Development Agency.
But the presentation gives the clearest picture yet of what the firm — which paid more than $40 million for the huge Albany Street property last year, according to sources familiar with the deal — has in mind.
Abbey is targeting companies that want to be near Boston Medical Center and Boston University Medical School. The cluster of four buildings of lab or tech office space would total some 1.6 million square feet, rising 200 feet or more near the Southeast Expressway. Offices would have large open floor plans, while restaurants and stores would go at street level, as well as a cultural center and plaza Abbey has dubbed “Albany Green.”
“We see it as a sort of European plaza,” said Bill Keravuori, a managing partner at Abbey. “We want to extend public space across the entire ground floor of the project.”
Abbey is also proposing to improve the portion of the South Bay Harbor Trail that runs near the property.
The former flower exchange property sits in a corridor of the South End that has seen a flood of new development since the city rezoned the area — largely industrial a decade ago — for more housing. The Ink Block and other large residential developments are under construction to the north, and earlier this month the BPDA approved an apartment complex with roughly 650 units across the street from the Flower Exchange.
What the neighborhood has lacked, Keravuori notes, is much in the way of new office space. The 5.5-acre site is big enough for a campus that could compete with Kendall Square, Longwood Medical Area, and the Seaport to attract companies, he notes.
“It’s not often you get that kind of space to work with in an urban environment like this,” he said. “We’re creating a new place here.”