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    Developer Ron Druker proposes 11-story South End building

    Druker Co. has proposed an 11-story office and retail building at 80 Berkeley St. in the South End.
    Elkus/Mandfredi Architects
    Druker Co. has proposed an 11-story office and retail building at 80 Berkeley St. in the South End.

    Judged against its current surroundings, Ron Druker’s proposed building in Boston’s South End fits in about as well as a spaceship in a cornfield.

    The 11-story office and retail building at 80 East Berkeley St. is designed to be modern and bold, and it would tower over the low-rise industrial and residential buildings that surround it.

    But within three years — about the time it would take to build it — this corner of Boston is slated to be transformed. Scrubby lots will be replaced by several large-scale buildings with more than 1,400 new homes, restaurants, shops, and a Whole Foods grocery store.


    “Our building will be contextually compatible with the new zoning and all of the proposals under consideration in the neighborhood,” Druker said of his $150 million project.

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    “We intend to be the gateway to a new part of the South End.”

    Redevelopment of this part of the neighborhood between Washington and Albany streets was painstakingly planned during three years of community meetings held by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The process resulted in new guidelines to allow buildings as tall as 200 feet. Now, Druker and several others are following through with proposals for major developments.

    Some projects have already been issued permits and construction has begun.

    National Development is building Ink Block, a multibuilding complex with 471 residences, a Whole Foods supermarket, and shops at the former Boston Herald headquarters.


    Work is to start soon on 380 homes and stores at 275 Albany St., and another developer is seeking approval to build 560 apartments at 345 Harrison Ave., currently occupied by the Graybar Electric building.

    Each of those projects would feature multiple buildings between five and 20 stories, meeting many of the goals of the planning study, which called for “opportunities for a broad range of business development, including retail, office, manufacturing, and related commercial uses.”

    Druker, who hopes to start building next year, is the only developer so far to propose an office building. During a community meeting Wednesday, his plan did not sit well with everyone. Several people complained the building would overshadow their homes and create more traffic problems. Others praised the proposed design and said the building would bring welcome activity to a dead spot.

    Druker previously developed Atelier 505, a residential and retail complex on Tremont Street in the South End, and Heritage on the Garden, residences and stores on the edge of the Public Garden, among other projects.

    His plan for 80 East Berkeley St. fits within the new zoning limit of 150 feet. The property sits on the corner of East Berkeley and Washington streets, where the residential South End meets parking lots and buildings from a bygone industrial area. It is currently occupied by an auto detailing business.


    Druker and architect David Manfredi, of Elkus Manfredi Architects, outlined plans Wednesday for a 308,000-square-foot building with ground-floor retail spaces. One or more of those spaces could house restaurants, with seating spilling onto the sidewalk.

    No office tenant has been signed, but Druker said the building is designed to attract a technology or “creative economy” type of company whose employees would be drawn to nearby retail, entertainment, and cultural amenities in the South End.

    He said the building would include 5,900 square feet for start-up companies. “Our hope is to spawn new ideas in the building,” Druker said, adding that it could serve as a magnet for companies looking for alternatives to Kendall Square in Cambridge or the South Boston Innovation District.

    The project would also result in new landscaping and street trees, although several neighbors urged Druker to add more green space to the project. The building would also contain two levels of underground parking with about 200 spaces.

    The BRA has set a Sept. 30 deadline for public comments on the proposal. It will then go to the authority’s board for a final vote.

    Casey Ross can be reached at