In its last meeting before a new mayor takes office, the Boston Planning & Development Agency board on Thursday gave the green light to an array of projects around the city, adding up to 4.2 million square feet. The plans range from a massive remake of the old Midtown Hotel on Huntington Avenue to a rethinking of the former site of Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain to lab space in Allston, Charlestown, and the Fenway.
But the biggest project to win the BPDA’s approval was a one million-square-foot expansion of Massachusetts General Hospital, which aims to put a pair of patient care towers along Cambridge Street on the back side of Beacon Hill.
As part of the project — which would add beds and facilities to treat cardiac and cancer patients at Mass. General’s main campus — the hospital has agreed to build an entryway to a potential future MBTA Blue Line station and improve sidewalks and bike lanes along the busy stretch of Cambridge Street. Mass. General also pledged financial support to a variety of West End and Beacon Hill civic institutions and to turn over a hospital-owned building for use as affordable housing.
The roughly $2 billion project still needs approval from state health officials, but Thursday’s vote is the key city OK it needs to go forward.
The BPDA board also approved a plan to overhaul the old Midtown Hotel on the edge of the South End and Back Bay. Newton-based National Development, which acquired the site on a long-term lease from the First Church of Christ, Scientist, plans to replace the 159-room hotel with a 10-story, 325-unit apartment building.
Another sizable residential building, this one in the Fenway neighborhood, also won initial approval Thursday. Developer Scape USA is partnering with Boston Children’s Hospital to build a 446-unit building on what is now a parking lot at 819 Beacon St. The building would be mostly rental apartments but would also include 53 units of housing for families of out-of-town patients getting treatment at the hospital. That project will now go to the Zoning Board of Appeal.
Nearby, at 401 Park Drive, the board approved new owner Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ plan to build a 550,000-square-foot life science office and lab space building on what’s now a low-slung garage, and a storefront occupied by Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s the newest piece of a long-running overhaul of what was previously called Landmark Center, and would include space for a 50,000-square-foot supermarket, part of a deal Star Market has with co-developer Samuels & Associates to sell its nearby store on Boylston Street and move into 401 Park.
Another lab project won approval on Western Avenue in Allston, where developers would replace a string of auto shops and other light industrial buildings on either side of the street with the so-called NEXUS project, a mix of life science and residential space. The four-acre site, just west of Harvard University’s growing Allston campus, would ultimately include 524,000 square feet of lab and life science space, 35 housing units, and street-level retail.
The BPDA also approved a condo building — with a new Doyle’s on the ground floor — on the longtime site of Doyle’s Cafe in Jamaica Plain, another expansion of the Hood Park office complex in Charlestown, and several mid-size residential buildings in Roxbury, and allowed the developers of the long-shuttered Alexandra Hotel on the edge of the South End and Roxbury to convert it to condos instead of a hotel as initially planned before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flurry of activity comes as the short-lived Janey administration draws to a close, and many of the BPDA’s senior staff — holdovers from the Walsh administration — remain in place.
The agency scheduled public hearings for several more high-profile projects — including National Development’s re-do of five acres along Dorchester Avenue in South Boston and the addition of lab space to the massive Bulfinch Crossing complex downtown — at its next meeting on Nov. 18. That’s two days after the next mayor — either City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George or City Councilor Michelle Wu — is set to be sworn into office.