The proposal for the Ink Block development has been made public and a new vision for this area of Boston’s South End neighborhood is a drastic departure from the current state of the area once known as the New York Streets. The New York Streets neighborhood was Boston’s first victim of urban renewal in the late 1950s, a vibrant multi-ethnic neighborhood turned into an unwelcoming industrial wasteland in order to keep the Boston Herald from leaving Boston.
After fifty years at the site, the Boston Herald closed down their production at the South End location known as One Herald Square. The sounds of reporters on the phone and typing out stories ceased. The print presses were shut down. The company moved their offices to the new Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport and began paying The Boston Globe to print and distribute their newspapers circulated in the Boston area.
With the Boston Herald site shuttered, the focus turns to what will become of the 6 acre site they left behind. The site, which runs along Harrison Avenue from Herald Street to Traveler Street, is owned by National Development, which bought the property five years ago. National Development is based in Newton and has been involved in many local developments such as Station Landing, a residential and retail complex in Medford; the Kensington project, a 27-story residential building across from the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown Boston; the Marriott Residence Inn in Charlestown’s Navy Yard; and Longwood Center, a life-sciences building in the Longwood Medical Area. National Development plans to develop the project known as Ink Block with Patrick Purcell, Boston Herald publisher, as a minority investor.
Last week, National Development went before a group of local residents at Project Place to discuss the Ink Block proposal it had submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Ink Block proposal requires the demolition of the current building known as One Herald Square and envisions in its place four new structures with a total of 475 apartments, a grocery store, retail shops, restaurants, and over 400 parking spaces. The completed Ink Block project will total 550,000 square feet total with 85,000 square feet allocated to ground floor retail. The four buildings will be metal, glass, and brick, each distinct in appearance from the others. One building will be five stories tall, two will be eight stories, and the fourth nine stories. The Ink Block plans were designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects.
The Ink Block apartments will be spread out over all four buildings and will include lofts, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom apartments. Rents have not yet been determined for the apartments, but 15% of the units will be affordable. All the affordable housing will be on site.
Ink Block apartment amenities will include a roof deck with pool, theater, fitness center, cyber lounge, bicycle storage, shared car service (Zipcar), shared bike service (Hubway), and electric car charging stations. The garage will offer around one parking space available for every two residential units.
30,000 square feet of the project is allocated for a grocery store. Community members were pleased with this announcement, saying the area has a void when it comes to nearby grocers. The news was tempered when National Development said the desired Whole Foods was not among the grocers currently in talks despite the developer’s pursuit of the national upscale chain. It was mentioned that an urban Stop & Shop has experience in similar locations.
New York based Wegman’s supermarket has expressed interest in opening a Boston store and Danny Wegman, the chain’s chief executive, toured the Ink Block site during the last week of March. Wegman, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said, “We believe we belong in Boston, not just in the suburbs.’’ He also toured sites in the Fenway.
LATEST UPDATE: Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor the retail portion of the Ink Block project with a 50,000 square foot store, which will be the largest Whole Foods Market in the Boston area. The store will feature a full selection of organic and natural foods, a wine selection, prepared foods, a gelato bar, and an outdoor cafe seating area on Harrison Avenue. In a prepared statement, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, ”This is a huge milestone for the neighborhood, and I am proud to welcome Whole Foods to the South End.”
National Development said the goal of the Ink Block project is to create a more inviting pedestrian-friendly area and to this end the proposal calls for wider sidewalks and the bulk of parking to be hidden in the interior of the structure. The vision of a human-scale development is the result, in part, of a proposal National Development submitted last spring for a smaller project that was derided by neighbors as uninspiring and suburban. Since that last proposal, approval of the Harrison-Albany Corridor Strategic Plan allowed for bigger development. The community wants Ink Block, as the first new development in this part of the South End, to set a tone and it appears National Development is listening.
Although most of the reception for the new Ink Block proposal was favorable at the recent Project Place pitch, some questioned National Development’s choice to not buy three adjoining properties along Albany Street. Those three properties appear empty, recently vacated by an insurance company, a taxi stand, and F.W. Webb. The detractors claimed National Development missed the opportunity to develop the site to its true potential, but the company said their analysis showed the current market would not bear the larger project.
The finished Ink Block project will be one of the largest residential developments in Boston, built on one of the few large plots available for development in the city. The plan is for Ink Block to be built in phases. The first building will be a nine-story building on Herald Street, followed by a five-story building facing Harrison Avenue and housing the grocery store, and then an eight-story building facing Harrison. The fourth building, facing Traveler Street, may be delayed until construction and occupation of the first three buildings. The entire Ink Block project is projected to be completed before 2016 and cost around $125 million.