Business & Tech

Landmark Center expansion will focus on offices, not housing

Updated images of the additions Samuels & So. want to make to the Landmark Center in Kenmore Square. (Samuels & Co)
Samuels & Associates
A rendering of the additions Samuels & Associates want to make to the Landmark Center in the Fenway neighborhood.

Development firm Samuels & Associates has changed its plan for the renovation of the Landmark Center, a nearly 1 million-square-foot office-and-retail complex in the Fenway built in 1928 as a Sears distribution hub.

In a submission to the city Wednesday, Samuels dropped 600 residential units from its original development plan, adding instead 506,000 square feet of office and lab space.

Also gone: a retail podium that would have been built above an underground garage and featured a Wegmans supermarket.

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There are two big reasons for the changes. One is the healthy demand for offices in that part of the city, including in the Landmark Center itself. Peter Sougarides, a principal at Samuels, said Landmark office space has filled much more quickly than his firm anticipated since Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts departed in 2015.

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The other reason? A decision to keep the existing parking garage. Sougarides said the developer realized during the final design process that tearing down the garage and replacing it with underground spaces would be too costly and logistically challenging, as well as too disruptive for the existing tenants.

Instead, Sougarides said Samuels will essentially wrap a 14-story office building around the existing garage. The only significant demolition will involve a two-story section along Brookline Avenue that will come down, although the completed project will include street-level stores there, he said.

Another big change: Samuels is chucking the name “Landmark Center” and replacing it with “401 Park,” the complex’s address on Park Drive.

Samuels still wants to create a “food hall” that features various vendors in the complex, something that was promised in the original proposal. That hall will be built in a 25,000-square-foot space that had been occupied by a Best Buy store, although the specific plans are still taking shape, Sougarides said. The company has also already started converting a former surface lot into a 1.1-acre park.

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Assuming the Boston Planning & Development Agency approves the changes, Samuels and its partner, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, aim to begin construction next summer.

As for that much-anticipated Wegmans supermarket, Sougarides said he hasn’t ruled out finding a home for the retailer down the line. The removal of the retail podium makes that challenging, but not impossible.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.