The Boston Planning & Development Agency board on Thursday approved PLAN: Charlestown, a planning framework that will guide the addition of around 18 million square feet of new space and up to 8,000 residential units in the neighborhood over the next three decades, along with a residential tower on a former Sullivan Square junkyard and a three-building lab and residential project off Roland Street on the Somerville line.
Four years in the making, PLAN: Charlestown guides future growth and development to mostly industrial zones west of Rutherford Avenue, south of Cambridge Street, east of Medford Street, and around Sullivan Square, along with recommendations such as an affordable grocery store and a greenway looping around the historic neighborhood.
“This is growth in areas that are not currently residential, and that will not cause any residential displacement,” said Aimee Chambers, the BPDA’s director of planning.
BPDA planners used real-time mapping software for residents to specifically pinpoint areas during planning discussions, and even created “A Day in Charlestown” comic book to break down the complex and often dull topic of zoning into something more relatable and easier to understand for residents — particularly Charlestown’s youth, said Jason Ruggiero, a community engagement manager with the BPDA. The agency partnered with Boston Public Schools and youth-focused nonprofit Turn It Around as part of its community engagement, and also completed a community needs assessment.
“This signifies a new direction that we will take our planning work in the future,” Ruggiero said.
The plan was approved over the objections of City Councilors Gabriela Coletta and Erin Murphy, along with state Representative Daniel Ryan. Coletta, who represents the neighborhood, contended the growth west of Rutherford Avenue in particular, where the plan calls for building heights of up to 280 feet along an elevated stretch of Interstate 93, was too much for Charlestown to absorb.
“It is paramount that, moving forward, the BPDA operates the vehicles of zoning and regulatory powers, private development review, and capital planning process, under a lens of promoting the public’s interest, rather than developers’,” Coletta said at the meeting.
The plan will now head to the Boston Zoning Commission for final approval.
The BPDA board also approved a change in the zoning code that would make child care an allowable use in all city neighborhoods, smoothing the path for day cares to open in the city.
Both changes come as the BPDA and city are gearing up for a rezoning process to overhaul the structures of what gets built where in the city.
The BPDA board also approved One Mystic Ave., a 22-story apartment tower on what’s currently a polluted junkyard just north of Sullivan Square, along with two six-story apartment buildings and a nine-story lab on a 4.4-acre site along Roland Street on the other side of I-93.
Proposed by an affiliate of Fulcrum Global Investors LLC, One Mystic will be one of the largest net zero carbon buildings of its kind in the US, said Aeron Hodges, a design principal at Stantec. The all-electric tower will also be constructed to Passive House energy standards.
“We’re hoping to set an example for all of the new buildings that are to come to this neighborhood,” Hodges said.