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Revised plan calls for 181-room hotel, 82 luxury apartments, retail, offices in Cleveland Circle

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  August 15, 2012 11:57 AM

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(Boston Development Group)

A developer expects to file plans today with city officials in Boston to build a 181-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel and 82 luxury apartments along with space for office, retail, restaurant and parking uses in a five-story building in Cleveland Circle.

The mixed-use building, revised substantially from original plans presented more than a year ago, would be constructed across two sites, replacing an existing Applebee’s restaurant on one site in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood and the abandoned Circle Cinema on the other parcel that straddles the Brighton-Brookline border, according to John Meunier, project manager for Boston Development Group.

The 236,500 square-foot building would include 19,000 square feet of medical office space and 14,200 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, he said. The project would include 141 parking spaces in a garage below the building along with 87 other parking spots in surface lot behind the building.

The apartments would be a mix of one and two-bedroom units, according to a summary of the detailed plans expected to be submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority Wednesday.

All of the housing would be built in Brighton; all of the office space would be on the Brookline side. Portions of the other uses would be built in each of the two municipalities, including at least 40 hotel rooms in Brookline.

Those staying in the hotel portion and those living in the apartments will each have access to an indoor pool and fitness center, Meunier said.

Contingent on getting approval from both Boston and Brookline officials, the developer hopes to start an 18-month construction process in spring 2013, according to the project manager.

Under previous plans for the 2.5 acres of property, the developer proposed building a 180-room hotel with retail, restaurant, office and parking space, but without any residential use. The project was originally slated as a two-phase endeavor with the cinema site being redeveloped first and followed later by work on the restaurant site.

In the latest plan, housing will take up space previously eyed for office use. And, the developer now plans to build the project in one construction phase.

The developer has also retained a new architect, ADD Inc.

Through Boston’s large project review process, the city’s redevelopment authority held a community meeting about the prior proposal last May. Then, the chief concern among residents – from Brookline, Brighton and nearby Newton – was that the development might not live up to its full potential if it were designed as two separate sites and phases instead of one. Some also said they wanted the project to include some residential use.

One month later, developers cancelled development of the second, smaller site and announced they would submit a new, one-site proposal to the city after the deal to acquire the Applebee’s site at 381 Chestnut Hill Ave. fell through due to looming deadlines in the approval process and differences on the deal’s price.

But, in early November, the Boston Development Group was able to negotiate and sign a deal with a trust that owns the Applebee’s site. Since then, the developer has worked to draft the latest plans.

The restaurant chain’s lease expires in May 2014, but it is not clear whether the Applebee’s keep operating there through the duration of its lease or move out so construction could start sooner.

The theater next door closed in 2008 after a 68-year run. That property has addresses of 375 Chestnut Hill Ave. in Boston and 399 Chestnut Hill Ave. in Brookline.

Longtime area resident Eva Webster said she likes that the proposal calls for bringing a hotel, retail space and high-end housing to Cleveland Circle, but she does not think the project’s latest configuration is a good fit.

“I’m excited because it has the potential to improve the area,” she said. “It’s just poorly designed.”

Webster, who lives in Brighton and is a member of a city-appointed group advising the approval process in Boston, said she would rather see the hotel positioned closer to the intersection and the housing pushed further away from where noise from traffic, trolleys and outdoor retail space could affect the development’s residents.

“It’s really important that this hotel is not hidden or obscured,” she said. “It will be inferior housing if it has to conflict with commercial components.”

She also said she's concerned that the medical office space will not work well with the rest of the development and that the housing units will be too small.

“If they build it the way they intend, we’re going to get more of the same. It’s not going to attract the type of tenants this area needs,” Webster said.

“The problem is Cleveland Circle already has a surplus of the kind of housing BDG wants to build,” she said. “But, the neighborhood does not have high-end housing. A neighborhood needs a mix of demographic groups and different levels of housing to be healthy.”

To read more on past community meetings concerning the Brookline side of the proposed development, click here and here.

Update: To see a copy of the 722-page detailed project plan that was filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, click here.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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clevelandcircleproject8712b.jpg

(Boston Development Group)

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