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New housing policy triggers year-end rush to City Hall

With tougher new affordable housing rules set to take effect in Boston on Friday, developers rushed to City Hall this week to file building projects under the old guidelines.

On Thursday morning, big builder Related Beal told the Boston Redevelopment Authority that it plans to put 300,000 square feet of housing on the site of the old Quinzani's Bakery on Harrison Avenue in the South End.

Ninety minutes later, a New York-based team of developers filed plans for 75 condos on Beacon Hill.

That came after Boston Properties' notice Wednesday of plans for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex on top of Back Bay Station, and a new condo tower along Seaport Boulevard last week.


By filing their letters of intent with the BRA before the year closed out, these projects will skirt Mayor Martin J. Walsh's new affordable housing policy, which takes effect Jan. 1. That policy increases the fees developers must pay into city housing funds if they choose not to include affordable units in their projects in high-end neighborhoods, especially for pricey condo buildings.

The last-minute filings could potentially save the developers millions of dollars.

Walsh administration officials thought they might see a year-end rush after they announced their new Inclusionary Development Policy on Dec. 8, so they included a requirement that developers have 90 days to file a more detailed project notification form — which triggers public review — to qualify under the old rules.

"This is something we anticipated," said BRA spokesman Nick Martin. "It's why we built in a safeguard that requires [the form] within three months."

This week's filings, though, remain vague.

Boston Properties has been working on its Back Bay Station plan for at least a year and a half, but its letter of intent Wednesday specified only a 1.4 million-square- foot development, with no details on height, shape, or how it might split the space between housing, office, and retail. The company had no comment this week.


Related Beal — which specializes in affordable housing and used Inclusionary Development Policy funds to help pay for an affordable development near North Station that broke ground this week — had few details, either. It bought the Quinzani's site and neighboring Ho Kong Bean Sprout Co. for a combined $28 million several months ago. Its filing Thursday said only that it plans a 300,000-square-foot mix of housing and street-level retail.

A proposal on Temple Street on Beacon Hill shared just a few more details. There, a group of developers led by Dedham-based David Raftery wants to turn two former Suffolk University buildings — the Archer Building at 61 Temple and the Donahue Building at 33-51 Temple — into 75 condominiums, with 60 parking spaces. In July they paid $43.5 million to buy the two six-story buildings from Suffolk. They're also planning a condo tower at 171 Tremont St., along Boston Common.

Their attorney, Sean O'Donovan, did not return messages seeking comment Thursday. In a letter, he told the BRA that more specifics will come within 90 days.

Developers of high-end condos, in particular, stand to benefit by skirting Walsh's new housing policy, which would nearly double the fees they must pay if they choose not to include affordable units in their own projects.

It wasn't just BRA filings that came in at the end of the year. In a deal that closed Wednesday, a development team led by Cabot, Cabot and Forbes paid $21 million to Steward Health Care for the 12-acre site of the former St. Gabriel's Monastery in Brighton, according to Suffolk County property records. Cabot chief executive Jay Doherty declined to comment on plans for the site, which sits next to St. Elizabeth's Hospital between Brighton High School and Washington Street.


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.