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Developers announce new plans for Fenway, potential library

A $600 million development project aiming to enliven the Fenway neighborhood with the development of a new office building and potentially a new library was approved by the Boston Planning & Development Agency board last week.

Two cranes tower over Time Out Market in Fenway. A $600 million development project to build office space and potentially a branch of the Boston Public Library in Fenway was approved last week. MOLLY POTTER/ DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

The potential project involves the replacement of the Star Market and defunct gas station at 1400 Boylston St, with 531,000 square feet of office and laboratory space designed to function at net zero carbon emissions. The ground floor of the development will be used for retail and dining.   

The project’s developers, Samuels & Associates Development LLC, plan to dedicate 5,000 square feet of the  “underutilized” 2.4 acre lot to the construction of a civic space, which is intended to contain a branch of the Boston Public Library. 

“This project and its benefits are a direct reflection of a robust community process,” Peter Sougarides, the principal of Samuels and Associates, said in a statement. “It was imperative that we use this opportunity to create additional open space that is adjacent to the Emerald Necklace, create a new civic space and support the region’s affordable housing priorities.” 

The half-acre of new publicly accessible green space fronting the nearby Emerald Necklace would encompass the potential library branch. 

Tim Horn, president of the Fenway Civic Association, emphasized the importance of increasing the number of green spaces in Fenway. 

“So any little bit that we can get to expand on what we’ve got, is a good, positive thing,” Horn said. 

In a letter to the BPDA expressing her support for the development, City Councilor Sharon Durkan said the project would serve the needs of the neighborhood. 

“I am extraordinarily excited that this public green space will be complemented by another much needed component of a healthy neighborhood — a branch of the Boston Public Library,” Durkan wrote in the letter. “The Fenway neighborhood will, at long last, receive a public institution that cultivates lifelong learning, arts and culture and community.”

While Samuels and Associates is committed to building a civic space, the city would be tasked with converting it into a functioning library, Horn said, who said there is currently “no permanent city service” in Fenway.  

“We don’t have a library. We don’t have a youth center,” Horn said. “They’re normal things that occur in every other neighborhood in the city, but they don’t happen in the Fenway.” 

When construction starts, the Star Market is expected to relocate across the street to 421 Park Drive, a new 13-story building currently undergoing construction, according to Diana C. Pisciotta, a spokesperson for Samuels and Associates.

“We don’t anticipate interruption in Star Market service,” said Pisciotta. 

The project also includes plans for the development of 48 affordable housing units at 165 Park Drive, led by Transom Real Estate. These units will be reserved for middle-class families. 

“That solid workforce housing, that gives us a chance to actually get people an investment into the neighborhood,” Horn said. 

Horn said in past years middle-class Fenway residents have increasingly fallen victim to gentrification. While there are plans to rezone the neighborhood to increase workforce housing, Horn said “none of it has happened.”  

“Low-income affordable housing [is] there,” Horn said. “What’s really happened is that we didn’t get any middle class housing.”  

Durkan described the housing developments set to occur at 165 Park Drive as a “significant benefit” to the Fenway community, which is “sorely” in need of affordable housing. 

The timelines for the construction projects at 165 Park Drive and 1400 Boylston Street are yet to be established.

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