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New Balance hopes to extend Guest Street, eyes new commuter stop

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  April 11, 2012 01:19 PM

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(Matt Rocheleau for Boston.com / Google Maps)

In red on the map above are a series of new roads New Balance hopes to add as part of its development proposal. The roads include an eastward extension of Guest Street connecting to Everett Street and a series of service roads looping around, and one cutting through, the northern development area. Outline in yellow are the proposed development sites.

New Balance and Stop & Shop disclosed plans Tuesday night that aim to ease traffic around the shoe maker's recently announced development proposal in Brighton by extending Guest Street.

Under the proposal, Guest Street would continue eastward over adjoining properties owned by the businesses to connect the roadway to Everett Street.

New Balance officials also said that the company is “committed to looking at all options” to add a commuter rail station near the proposed 14-acre project along Guest Street.

The development plans call for a new company headquarters, hotel, sports complex and three office buildings along with retail, restaurant, parking and green space.

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a commuter rail stop here at Everett Street,” said Jay Rourke, project manager for the proposal’s developer, New Brighton Landing, LLC, a sub-entity of New Balance.

Representatives for New Balance presented the company’s proposal Tuesday night before a crowd of more than 75 at the WGBH headquarters. It was the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s first community meeting in the city agency’s public review and approval process for the project.

Rourke, a former project manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority who joined New Balance last July, said an ideal spot for a commuter rail stop would be behind the Stop & Shop, west of Everett Street and east of the shoe company’s proposed project.

The MBTA’s Framingham/Worcester Line runs directly behind the proposed New Balance development site and Stop & Shop’s property. Hugging the Massachusetts Turnpike, the commuter rail line has a stop at Newtonville about one-and-a-half miles west of Brighton.

In its most recent project filing with the city, the developer said: “Should the MBTA decide to construct a new station, the proponent [New Balance] will support the concept and assist in funding the station design, permitting and construction.”

City officials have said that reviving direct railway access to the Allston-Brighton area without major private financial support is likely to be decades away from happening.

In February, a state transportation department spokesman said adding a commuter rail stop in the neighborhoods: “is not off the table … [but] presently, this area has access to public transportation services in multiple locations, so at this point in time, we are not pursuing this project.”

A few residents expressed concern Tuesday that New Balance’s proposal to construct 1.4 million square feet of building space could cause a strain on local traffic.

But, Guy Busa of Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates, said that project leaders hope to take number of short-term steps along parts of Market and North Beacon streets, including improved traffic signal timing, sequencing, the addition of proper road markings, signage, turn lanes and right of way indicators.

And, New Balance also hopes to extend Guest Street about one quarter mile past where it ends at Arthur Street to connect it to Everett Street, he said. The current idea is to have Guest Street continue east by running along the perimeter of Stop & Shop’s parking lot and through properties controlled by the grocer and shoe company.

Development officials said extending Guest Street could help ease east-west traffic in the area by steering some drivers to use Braintree Street, which has existing outlets that connect to Cambridge Street.

Bill O’Brien, a consultant for Stop & Shop, said that the supermarket supports New Balance’s overall plans and that the two companies have been collaborating on the idea of extending Guest Street throughout the development’s design process.

New Balanace spokeswoman Amy Dow said extending Guest Street would be subject to approval from the city’s transportation and public works departments.

Contingent upon that approval and the New Balance development starting as scheduled in spring 2013, the Guest Street extension is expected to be complete within the next two years, O’Brien said.

More details about the development proposal:

Under plans released in early February, New Balance envisions creating a “health and wellness district” across a 609,000 square foot site that is among the top 10 largest proposed or ongoing development sites in Boston, according to a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The development, next to the company’s current headquarters, would overtake an area currently occupied by surface parking lots and low-level warehouse buildings.

Rourke, his colleague at New Brighton Landing Kevin Craig and David Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi Architects, said the project would include:

  • A 130-foot-tall, 250,000-square-foot new company headquarters that mimics the shape of a running shoe located on the north-east corner of the project area.
  • Three 165-foot-tall office buildings with 650,000 square feet of space on the north-west corner of the project area.
  • A 205-foot-tall, 140,000-square-foot boutique hotel with about 175 guest rooms on the south-east corner of the project area.
  • A 95-foot-tall, 345,000-square-foot sports complex with an 85,000-square-foot hydraulic-banked track and field facility with 3,000 seats, a 125,000-square-foot, NHL-regulation ice rink with 1,000 seats, an 83,000-square-foot fitness club and 30,000-square-foot medical office. The facility may include venues for basketball, tennis and general recreation. It would be the only building south of Guest Street. The complex is intended to be accessible to the public and local athletic groups with some aspects reserved through memberships and contracts.
  • About 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail along each building lining Guest Street. The retail space would include a New Balance retail store and restaurants that would be open past 9 p.m. and likely until about 11 p.m.
  • Nearly one acre of green space throughout the site.
  • About 1,750 garaged parking spots altogether. About 1,550 spaces would be in three levels of parking – one below-grade, one at-grade and one above-grade – underneath the headquarters building site. About 200 more spots would be in one below-grade level of parking underneath the sports complex.
  • An east-west service road looping behind the new development that would run parallel to the turnpike and connecting to Guest Street at the development’s western edge and, at the project’s eastern edge, to where Arthur and Guest streets meet. A north-south service road would also cuts in between the section of development north of Guest Street.
  • Sidewalks along Guest Street would be 15-feet wide with trees; there would be bike lanes and public on-street parking along Guest Street.
  • Creation of about 400 full-time construction jobs and 600 peak construction jobs.
  • Creation of about 3,000 new, full-time jobs, including an about 10 percent increase in its current headquarters staff to 660 workers.
  • New Balance’s current 10-story headquarters would be vacated to rent that space out to new tenants. The existing Massachusetts Electric Construction Company building on the site’s eastern edge would be razed. The site at 180 Guest St. houses one of the national electric contractor’s two headquarters.

The project would be built in six phases starting with a three-month demolition and site preparation phase scheduled to begin this coming fall and new construction slated to start in 2013.

Portions of the below-grade parking garage structures north of Guest Street would be built during a second phase followed by construction of the company’s new headquarters and the sports complex in the third phase. The fourth phase would entail the hotel construction. The remaining below-ground parking space north of Guest Street would be built in the fifth phase. The sixth phase would see up to three office buildings built.

The plans were well-received Tuesday. Several residents at the meeting urged development leaders to consider doing what they can to add a pedestrian walkway over the adjacent turnpike to help connect to the neighborhood north of the highway. Rourke said that would likely be a longer-term project.

Concern was also raised that, if a new commuter rail stop were to be added nearby, it would need designated parking spaces to go with it. Rourke said that a potential station would not have its own parking, which would be in line with other commuter rail stops in urban settings. Instead, the station is expected to be accessed by people walking, bicycling, riding other public transportation or those being dropped off, he said.

The area where New Balance hopes to develop is a key section of a 100-acre area of Brighton that the city, in conjunction with local residents and various representatives from local business stakeholders including New Balance, studied over the past year.

In three separate deals – two last March and the third in October – that grew the company’s landholdings along Guest Street five-fold within seven months, New Balance spent a total of $33.8-million to buy the commercial properties that it hopes to develop.

Next community meeting planned

A second community meeting on the project is scheduled for Mon., April 23 at 7 p.m. in the WGBH auditorium. The public comment period on the project’s planned development area filing will end Mon., May 7. For more information on submitting comments, click here.

Another and separate public review and comment period will begin once New Balance files a more-detailed project notification form, expected in the coming months.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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