Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Giant Apt Project Will Have Tallest Building in South End

One of the largest residential projects in the city is being prepared for construction on a block between Albany Street and Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End.

Leggat McCall Properties is preparing to build a giant apartment project at 575 Albany Street, part of a wave of development transforming a neighborhood that serves as the southern approach to downtown.

The 710-unit, two-building complex between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street near Boston Medical Center will be the tallest new construction in the neighborhood, with one building reaching 19 stories and the other 11 stories.

The 3.1-acre development, between East Dedham and East Canton Streets, will also include about 14,000 square feet of retail space and 40,000 square feet of office space, along with new open space and an underground garage.

Presently, there are five buildings on the site; three of them are slated to be demolished, while the ones at 575 Albany and 660 Harrison Avenue will be retained and integrated into the project.

It will be the latest development to spring up along Harrison, turning a low-slung industrial neighborhood into one of Boston’s hottest markets for high-end housing.

“There are a lot of buildings coming there and a lot more that could come, depending on owners’ appetite and timing,” said a real estate consultant. “It’s easily one of the busiest stretches of development in the city.”

The property, today mostly parking lots and small office buildings, was bought last year from Boston Medical Center, along with a neighboring office building.

“This is an opportunity to take an underused site and create a substantial residential presence there,” said Bill Gause, an executive vice president at Leggat. “It’ll create a lot of vibrancy.”

Builders have been drawn to the area because it’s close to downtown and the Back Bay. Development got a boost from a 2012 rezoning that enabled taller buildings along Harrison and Albany.

A few blocks up Harrison Avenue from Leggat’s project site are the recently opened Ink Block, with 315 units spread across three buildings, and the Troy, a 19-story complex with 378 apartments. There’s a 160-unit building under construction at 600 Harrison, and site work has begun on a 602-unit complex farther north, near the Massachusetts Turnpike.

In between are brick warehouses and old industrial buildings that have been converted to lofts, boutiques, and swanky restaurants. On many Sundays, thousands of people flock to the weekly South End Open Market.

And more is coming.

Developer Related Beal has an agreement to buy the site of Quinzani’s Bakery, a key parcel at the corner of Harrison Avenue and East Berkeley Street. Across Albany from Leggat’s property, the 5.6-acre site of the Boston Flower Exchange is reportedly near a sale for more than $40 million, although no buyer has been disclosed.

The apartments at 575 Albany Street won’t come cheap. One-fifth — as many as 140 units — will be set at rents affordable to low- and middle-income tenants, as dictated by zoning in the area, though some of those may be off-site.

The rest will be priced at rents comparable to those in other new buildings nearby, Gause said. Studios at the Troy, for example, run between about $2,600 and $3,000 a month.

Gause predicts strong demand for the units, in part because of the proximity to Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine.

The company plans to build in two phases — a 410-unit building first, then a 300-unit building. The developer expects to begin construction later this year.