A former seafood processing plant in South Boston will become the one of the first demonstration projects for Mayor Michelle Wu’s push to slash fossil fuel use in new developments.
Local real estate industry groups are fighting Wu’s proposal to ban fossil fuels at new private developments in Boston, a policy that will require approval by Beacon Hill legislators. But the administration already has free rein to set aggressive green building standards at 320 parcels that it controls within the city, from such landmarks as Faneuil Hall Marketplace to sought-after development parcels in South Boston’s Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park.
“We’ve been incorporating language into requests for development proposals with stricter standards,” said Dennis Davis, the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s deputy director of commercial leasing. “[7 Channel St.] is certainly where we’ll see the most short-term impacts.”
Three Boston-based developers – Lincoln Property Co., Marcus Partners and a partnership of Beacon Capital Partners and developer Richard Taylor’s Boston Real Estate Inclusion Fund (BREIF) – responded this month to a request for proposals for 7 Channel St.
Known as parcel U, the 1-acre property includes a vacant, 27,049-square-foot industrial building most recently occupied by Stavis Seafoods. It’s been eyed by the BPDA as a potential mixed-use redevelopment, including the possible location of the Seaport District’s first fire station. The BPDA sought proposals including office, life science, manufacturing, marine industrial, cold storage and R&D uses, while ruling out a hotel or housing.
At the same time, it asked developers to use passive building strategies to cut carbon emissions 40 to 50 percent below the current Massachusetts Stretch Code.
Another upcoming project on EDIC land that’s expected to incorporate aggressive carbon-cutting standards is 22 Drydock Ave. A partnership of Related Beal and BREIF is scheduled to submit plans shortly for a 337,516-square-foot life science complex. The BPDA selected the team this year to redevelop the 1.8-acre parcel, which currently contains a small office building.
Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings – estimated to generate 70 percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions – is the goal of the draft decarbonization policy for the city-owned parcels, which is scheduled to kick into gear next year. The BPDA is in the process of hiring a decarbonization specialist, who will oversee the details of the implementation.
The new policy also will remove fossil-fuel-based building systems through retrofits at publicly-owned buildings, many located in the Charlestown Navy Yard and Flynn Marine Park, which are ground-leased to private developers. The properties include 13 million square feet of buildings that generate approximately 31,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the city’s estimates.
Boston Seeks to Join Gas Ban
New developments over 20,000 square feet on BPDA parcels – ranging from large commercial developments in the marine park to smaller surplus property dispositions in outlying neighborhoods – will be required to design for carbon-neutral building systems, according to the draft strategy.
The BPDA also is studying potential locations for additional solar energy installations on its properties. One project is scheduled to be installed next year atop its Marine Park garage at 12 Drydock Ave.
But the administration is simultaneously seeking to apply stricter standards to private developments.
Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation this month that gives 10 Greater Boston communities the power to ban new natural gas hookups for new projects and major renovations as a way to test out fossil fuel-free building designs. The city of Boston promptly submitted a home rule petition asking to be added to the pilot program, potentially putting it ahead of suburban communities that face hurdles complying with the program’s affordable housing requirements.
The Greater Boston Real Estate Board, commercial developers’ group NAIOP Massachusetts and labor unions successfully fended off efforts to include lab and medical projects in the pilot earlier this year, saying it would have chilling effect upon the region’s life science development boom given the high energy usage requirements of lab buildings. However, they have raised concerns about the final program’s impact on developers’ ability to build multifamily housing in the towns that do join.
Some BPDA Tenants Will Share Costs
Eversource is conducting energy audits of all BPDA- and EDIC-owned properties to guide the future schedule of retrofits. Two buildings that are operated by the BPDA – the China Trade Building in Chinatown and 12 Channel St. in South Boston – will be among the first to be upgraded.
The China Trade Center’s tenants, which include nonprofits such as the Chinatown Main Streets Program, have leases that incorporate building improvements, so tenants won’t have to pay higher rents to offset the green initiatives, the BPDA’s Davis said.
At 12 Channel St., the BPDA has already started renegotiating and extending leases with several of the existing commercial and industrial tenants. The cost-sharing formula is yet to be determined.
“We know that we won’t be able to capture all of the costs, and it will be a negotiation based upon our beneficial interests,” he said.