Developers who once planned two residential towers along Morrissey Boulevard near the JFK-UMass Red Line station in Dorchester have changed up their plans, this time adding four laboratory buildings to the mix.
Center Court Mass this week submitted a master plan to the city outlining a 1.56 million-square-foot development they’re planning across seven buildings at 35-75 Morrissey Blvd., on nearly nine acres of what’s now surface lots and low slung structures stretching from the old Channel 56 building to a Star Market parking lot. The master plan calls for 585 residential units in three buildings, four lab facilities, retail space, parks and a plaza, underground parking, and a new grocery store, with buildings ranging in height from 9 to 22 stories.
Center Court has been eyeing development near the JFK-UMass station for years. David Raftery, a principal with the firm, said in an interview that the changes in the development landscape wrought by COVID-19 — primarily, demand for lab space — prompted the latest shift in plans.
“We see this as kind of a piece of a major puzzle that’s coming together,” Raftery said.
Indeed, the property at 35-75 Morrissey Blvd. sits alongside the former Boston Globe headquarters — once dubbed The BEAT and now renamed “Southline Boston” — that was revamped into creative office and industrial space and then later into lab-ready space. It’s also across Morrissey from the 6.5 million-square-foot Dorchester Bay City mixed-use project at the former Bayside Expo Center.
One prime focus for Center Court, Raftery said, will be “connectivity” — both connecting the site to the neighborhood and finding ways to connect the neighborhood to the waterfront. In its filing to the Boston Planning & Development Agency this week, Center Court committed to a project that “efficiently serves vehicle trips,” improves the pedestrian environment, and encourages transit and bicycle use,” along with rebuilding and widening sidewalks, installing new ramps, improving street lighting, and planning trees along the street. Some 901 parking spaces are proposed underneath the 35-75 Morrissey site.
“One of the things we heard a lot of is this land is so industrial, it’s almost a barrier from the existing neighborhood to the waterfront and university,” Raftery said. “We see this as a great opportunity to put that connectivity back.”
If approved, the three-phase project would start with two nine-story lab buildings immediately adjacent to the former Globe, followed by a second phase including a 10-story, 169-unit residential building with a grocery store to replace the existing Star Market and an 18-story, 188-unit residential building. The grocery store built as part of the second phase would open before demolishing the current Star, as part of the project’s third phase, allowing the grocery store to stay open during construction, the filing to the city said.
“We are setting the stage for future development and at the right point we will work in conjunction with Star to discuss a relocation,” Raftery said.
The third and final phase of development would include two lab buildings, at 9 stories and 10 stories each, along with the 22-story, 228-unit residential building.
Raftery said the development team would meet with community members beginning next week to talk through the newest version of the project — a necessary step as part of the BPDA’s existing Article 80 development-review process. Buildout could take up to a decade, and if the project is approved, Center Court expects to begin work in early 2024. Raftery said it was too early to specify a development price.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” he said. “We have the staying power.”