The redevelopment of the L Street Power Station will take industrial chic to another level.
The project slated for a grimy stretch of the South Boston waterfront will include renovations to Turbine Hall, a century-old building at the heart of the power plant with a soaring interior, a multistory arched window, and intricate tiling and brickwork. The site also looks onto what’s left of Boston’s working waterfront and the harbor’s Reserved Channel.
Water views from the complex, however, could feature hundreds of heavy trucks a day on a new freight road connecting the nearby Conley Shipping Terminal with the Summer Street bridge. The Massachusetts Port Authority is building the $75 million haul road to remove traffic from East First Street.
The haul road is the sort of complication more real estate projects face as development pushes deeper into odd and underused industrial corners of the city, forcing builders to get creative with how they use space. The power plant’s development team, Redgate Partners and Hilco Global, are still designing the components for the 15-acre site, which will probably be a mix of apartments, offices, retail, and park space.
A rendering released by the developers shows a boardwalk and grassy promenade on the side of property facing the Reserved Channel; a sliver of what appears to be the haul road, sans trucks, is visible in the corner. Preliminary plans include an outdoor market or theater along the waterfront — within earshot of trucks. Design plans filed with the city speak of “buffering” the project from the haul road, though it’s not yet clear exactly how.
There is another complication. The previous owner of the power plant, energy company Exelon, agreed in 2014 to a deed restriction with Massport that prohibits housing from ever being built on the site. Massport didn’t want any future residents to complain about the trucks coming and going to the port on the road beneath their windows, chief executive Tom Glynn said.
“That would be just asking for a problem,” Glynn said.
The restriction also applies to the new owners, who paid $24.25 million to buy the power plant in 2015 and plan more than 1,000 apartments and condos there. Redgate and Hilco were aware of the restriction when they bought it, a spokeswoman said, and have met several times with Massport on the topic.
Massport is open to lifting the restriction, Glynn said, but details such as where, exactly, Redgate and Hilco would locate housing will matter.
Putting it on the side of the property that face East First might make more sense, Glynn said, even if it sacrifices some water views. He wants to see more designs before making a deal, and suggested the developers might pay for additional improvements to reduce noise and other effects of the trucks.
“It’s not our intention to stand in the way of a great project,” Glynn said. “We’re predicting, but not promising, that in the end we’ll work something out.”
The giant project will have to clear other regulatory hurdles, too, such as lifting state rules that require port-related uses on the site.
In a statement, Redgate principal Ralph Cox did not address the truck traffic directly but said the developers expect to work through all the approvals facing the project.
“We have heard consistently from the city and from the neighborhood that this is a change they want to see happen,” Cox said.
‘It’s not our intention to stand in the way.’Tom Glynn
They’ll just have to fit it in to the neighborhood’s industrial past — and future.