Condos without parking proposed near TD Garden
A luxury condominium building next to TD Garden in Boston would not include any parking spaces, setting up the first test of whether a city notorious for traffic-clogged streets is ready to embrace housing developments that discourage automobile use.
The proposed project, from Related Beal LLC, would have 175 units. Residents would rely on public transportation or park in an existing garage nearby. The condo plan is part of a bigger project by Beal that would include a new corporate headquarters for Converse Inc.
In neighborhoods across the city, Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration has begun backing away from requirements that developers construct large amounts of parking for every new residential building. In some areas, those decisions have met strong resistance from residents who fear more competition for on-street spaces.
Related Beal executives said they do not need to build parking facilities because of the project’s proximity to public transportation and ample garage parking in the area.
“We want to be a responsible developer leading the way with respect to what the new Boston will look like,” said Bruce Beal Sr., chairman of the company. “We feel that a responsible development doesn’t add significantly to the city’s traffic burden by adding a multistory parking garage.”
The project, known as Lovejoy Wharf, is located at the congested junction of the West End and North End, where it can be difficult to find street spaces.
One resident said the area’s parking supply is being overwhelmed by new and proposed development projects.
“We have five major construction projects proposing to add offices and residences, and they’re only providing 40 percent of the parking, at best,” said Scott Nogueira, who owns Porters Bar and Grill on Portland Street.
“I don’t see how that mathematically adds up,” he said.
A developer is proposing to build a 600-foot-tall complex of offices, stores, and hotel rooms in front of TD Garden. Another is seeking to replace most of the nearby Government Center Garage with offices, residences, and stores. About half the garage’s parking would be eliminated.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority declined to comment on the Related Beal proposal Wednesday.
Initially, Related Beal had planned to build apartments on the site, which is off Causeway Street next to TD Garden and the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. But in documents released Wednesday, Related Beal asked the BRA to approve multiple changes — switching its planned apartments to condominiums and eliminating a 315-space parking garage that had been approved under a prior development scheme.
The developer is already renovating a brick building to be the new headquarters for Converse and constructing a public park on the Charles River.
Typically, the city requires developers of residential buildings in downtown neighborhoods to supply at least one parking space for every two homes constructed. But regulators are constantly reevaluating those requirements and have signaled an openness to proposals with fewer spaces.
The Lovejoy Wharf plan is particularly bold, because the developer is proposing no on-site parking for what are likely to be high-priced condominium units.
The median condo price in Boston has risen in recent months to $538,000, and the high-end units planned for Lovejoy Wharf will probably be considerably more expensive than that.
“I question whether the people spending that amount of money for condos are going to be the same people jumping on the T,” said Jim Zahka, who lives with his wife in a condo building adjacent to Lovejoy Wharf.
He said he does not oppose the project, but “it’s not as saleable without parking as they think.”
Beal noted there are many public parking garages and lots nearby, and that the site is within a 10- or 15-minute walk from all of the city’s central neighborhoods.
He also said that Boston, increasingly, is catering to an urban lifestyle that is less reliant on individuals’ automobile use.
“I think we’re brave enough and bold enough to say that this is what we believe a busy thriving urban area should look like,” Beal said. “We’re quite excited to offer a product which presents the Boston of tomorrow.”
Related and Beal, which have formed a Boston-based development firm, previously teamed up to build luxury condominiums and apartments at the Clarendon, a 32-story tower in the Back Bay. That building has about 50 parking spaces for more than 100 condos.
Parking remains a problem in many of the city’s neighborhoods, making it impossible to implement a one-size-fits-all approach to development projects.
Earlier this year, a proposal for a small, parking-free apartment building in Allston generated significant community opposition. Similar disputes have rattled through Charlestown, South Boston, and the Back Bay.
There is, however, evidence that automobile use is declining among Boston residents. The number of vehicles registered in the city has dropped by nearly 14 percent in the past five years, from 362,288 in 2008 to about 311,943 today, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Meanwhile, the city’s population has been increasing. More than 19,000 people have moved into Boston since 2010, bringing the head count to about 636,000.
Beal Related is hoping to be part of the first wave of condo building in Boston since the economic downturn. While several residential buildings have been constructed near North Station in recent years, all include rental units.
Beal said the company has not finalized the mix of unit sizes in its condo building. But he said he expects it to include studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms.
The slender, 15-story building is being designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects.
It would be surrounded by new restaurants and the park along the Charles River.