Boston’s Planning and Development Agency is reviewing a proposal from a United Kingdom-based developer to build private student housing in the city’s Fenway neighborhood.
The proposed project, currently being referred to as 1252-1270 Boylston, would also include ground-floor retail and a 120-seat theater called Boylston Black Box as part of an “LGBTQ-centric” performing arts venue, according to documents filed with the planning agency.
The British developer, Scape, said the entire project — standing at 15 stories with about 235,095 total square feet of space — would create 533 “professionally managed academic accommodations.”
“The Project will serve as a beacon of innovation in the U.S. private academic accommodations sector, paralleling the model that Scape has pioneered and proven over the past decade in the U.K., Ireland and Australia,” the company wrote in its documentation to the city. “At each of its locations, Scape focuses on the power of placemaking and endeavors to deliver an integrated onsite ecosystem which allows its academic residents — graduate and undergraduate — to participate in a positive way in the neighborhoods in which they live.”
The developer said it chose Boston for its headquarters in North America because the city “embodies the Scape philosophy” that academic populations should be embedded in the fabric of a city.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh set the goal in 2018 of getting 18,500 new dormitory beds and 69,000 new housing units in the city by 2030. Scape emphasized in its letter to the planning agency that its development would help the city achieve its goals, and presented the project as addressing the “acute” housing challenges in the Fenway neighborhood for both undergraduate and graduate students.
“Scape perceives the need for graduate academic accommodations in the Fenway neighborhood as particularly severe — and often overlooked — and, therefore, the Project will include environments to serve the graduate-level scholars driving the City’s research and intellectual exploration,” the company said.
The 533 units would be fully furnished, and the building would be operated 24/7 by full-time, “extensively trained” Scape employees, according to the company, which said it would recruit “many” from the Fenway neighborhood for the positions.
To build the new student housing, Scape would redevelop the two current properties at 1252-1269 and 1270 Boylston St.
“The Project will replace the decaying, nondescript existing structures — which have exhausted and exceeded their useful lives and inhibit the public realm — to construct an architecturally-compelling, contextual building which combines elements of the neighborhood’s design heritage with contemporary components,” the company wrote.
Retail space on the first floor would house culinary, lifestyle, and “experiential tenants.” The proposed nonprofit arts and performance venue would have a main entrance on Boylston, with Boylston Black Box taking up about 6,000 square feet. Scape says the planned theater space will embrace the “longstanding LGBTQ heritage” on that stretch of Boyston, the former sites of venues such as 1270 Club, Quest, and Ramrod. “The Boylston Black Box will seek to honor the history of the LGBTQ community’s important relationship with the Project Site and with The Fens and will serve as an iconic location for the LGBTQ community going forward,” the company said.
Additional storage and 15 parking spaces would be below ground. Pending city approval, Scape hopes to begin construction on the project in the fall of 2019 and complete the building in 2021.
The Planning and Development Agency has scheduled a public meeting on the project, hosted by Simmons University, for April 22. Public comments on the project are also being accepted through the agency’s website.
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