DND To Solicit Development Bids for Charlestown Armory
With the fourth and final public comment session held Monday, the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development is looking to send out an official 'request for proposals' by late March or early April.
Charlestown residents could see specific plans for redevelopment of the old Armory building as early as June.
The Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, which owns and manages the property at 374-398 Bunker Hill St., wrapped up the community review process on Monday night, March 4. It was the fourth and final meeting where residents could help craft the DND’s “request for proposals,” or RFP—a call for developers to submit redevelopment ideas for the building.
The DND expects to publish that document in late March or early April, with hopes of beginning to review whatever proposals are submitted and accepted by June, according to Reay Pannesi, DND senior project manager.
Close to 50 residents attended the March 4 meeting, held at the Schrafft Center, where they were able to review a draft version of the RFP and suggest changes before the final document is drawn up.
Residents at many of the meetings have expressed a desire to limit redevelopment to residential uses, with possible small daytime professional uses such as offices. But a few residents submitting comments via the DND’s online forum have suggested that a small coffee shop or restaurant, similar to Grasshopper Café at 229 Bunker Hill St., would be acceptable.
When she took an informal vote of the residents gathered at the final meeting, Pannesi found that about two-thirds felt a restaurant use should be prohibited in the RFP. Those who spoke against a restaurant use worried about the smells and other issues associated with cooking and disposing of food, as well as parking and delivery concerns.
There also were quite a few concerns about the existing rodent problem on the property, and worries that construction would displace some of those animals into neighbors’ yards.
Pannesi noted that any developer would have to submit a rodent control plan along with traffic plans and other documentation required by the city.
The draft RFP notes that the “preferred” use for the old Armory is residential, ideally owner-occupied units, and that limited commercial uses might be acceptable as long as they have limited noise and traffic impacts on the neighborhood.
The draft RFP also calls for a “reasonable number of family-sized units of three or more bedrooms” and notes a preference for two parking spaces per residential unit.
Some residents on Monday suggested that the language note that two parking spaces are “required,” but no decision was made to change that part of the document.
Armory Street resident Kathy Murphy asked whether the DND would consider a proposal for a parking garage at the old Armory, saying the idea had been raised at every meeting in the past but had never really been addressed.
Pannesi said the DND had no interest in turning a “beautiful, historic building” like the Armory into a parking garage.
However, she said the DND would rate parking considerations high on the scoring of any development proposal because it is an issue the community clearly feels strongly about.
Scoring criteria also includes the following:
- How well does the development concept achieve the objectives set out by the city and the Charlestown community in the RFP?
- How well does the design fit into the community, and does it provide for quality construction and energy efficiency?
- Does the developer’s funding proposal appear reasonable and feasible?
- Has the development team demonstrated that they have the financial capacity and the sufficient relevant experience to successfully execute the proposed development plan?
- Does the developer propose to execute the development plan in an expeditious manner?
Proposals that meet these criteria and are accepted by the DND will go before the community again for further review—possibly as early as June, with the final reviews occurring around September, Pannesi said.
“Our job is to listen to what you want and then to screen [the development proposals] very thoroughly,” Pannesi said.
Once a project is selected, the developer will then have to go through the city's large project review process with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which provides additional opportunity for public comment. They might also need to go before the Zoning Board of Appeal to request variances or special permits.
A draft copy of the RFP can be viewed as a PDF in the image gallery above or on the DND Active Projects page (look for Charlestown Armory under the project list tab).