Completion of a Market District Discussed

The advisory committee considered propositions at the 11 North Square Mariners House meeting on May 1st.

Many North End residents, Bostonians, and visitor alike pass by the triangular segment of land sandwiched in-between Blackstone Street and the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway, known as Parcel 9. The vacated triangle, owned by Massachusetts department of Transportation (MassDOT) is highly coveted real estate. Developers contesting for the petite 43,139 square foot parcel -just under an acre- each have a single vision for the downtown hub.

An exceptionally open presentation process was conducted for the four development groups, one of which MassDOT will decide to allocate the space. The course included in depth collaboration with an advisory committee made up of representatives from groups such as Haymarket, neighborhood councils, and area businesses.

Very specific parameters were put into place for the building, including the necessity of community outreach, a 55 foot height restriction, and most importantly the preservation of Haymarket. “Haymarket is important to us, at the same time we do not want the parcel just sitting there vacant,” says MassDOT developer Drew Leff. The four proposals: Boston Museum, Blackstone Market, Haymarket Square Hotel, and Market Square, were discussed at two recent public advisory meetings.

The first proposition offers the opportunity of, “finding America’s History in the Heart of Boston,” through a historical museum featuring, people, growth, sports, politics and innovations of Boston, which would act as a compliment the nearby freedom trail. The big dig did a remarkable job of transforming the region, “but there was a larger vision of public amenities that has failed to come to be,” said Frank Keefe, CEO of the Boston Museum project at the April 25th meeting. Keefe believes the history center is a necessary civic addition to Boston, and would be a pleasing visual and educational addition to the market district.

Blackstone Market, a joint venture by DeNormandie Companies and Cresset Group, is also vying for the local. Philip DeNormandie hopes their vision will complete the regional niche as, “the only area in Boston that is a market district.” DeNormandie says the Blackstone developments would compliment the area by relating each of its three unique elements- Haymarket, the Boston Public Market, and their design. The development would include apartments occupying a third of the building, restaurants, and a visual open rooftop greenhouse with year-long produce.

The third group, who spoke on the May 1st meeting, proposes a hotel along with markets, restaurants, community spaces, and a public garden. “I look at this as a not just a freedom trail but a food trail,” says Robert Brown, head architect for the Haymarket Square Hotel, which is intended to be diverse community gathering space.

The hotel will be a necessary addition to the region, says Justin Krebs of Normandy real Estate Partners, one group collaborating on the project. Krebs emphasizes that there is a necessity for moderately priced accommodations in the area. It will also, “create an environment with a 24/7 staffed area overlooking the greenway,” said Krebs, which would supply a higher measure of safety in the region.

“Compliment, compliment, compliment,” says Bud Upton of Upton + Partners, “We don’t need to create a market – the market is already there.” The forth project, Market Square, intends to work closely with Boston Public Market, parcel 7, to create a unique operation as a part of a greater hub of interconnectivity between the regions of Boston and the district. The Upton project includes residential space and specialty food distributors to create a theme of authenticity, diversity, and character. The group also promises a, “detailed budget of $2.4 million for public improvement,” says Upton.

“There will definitely be some cooperation component between us and whoever the designee is on parcel 9,” says Yanni Tsipis, of the Boston Public Market Association. Creating a greater market district was a specification for any bid to achieve designation of the space. Following a three-year process to allocate the parcel, both the committee and MassDOT members agree each proposal worked well to supersede expectations on cooperate with Haymarket and the community.

The selected design will hopefully be announced sometime in the summer, says MassDOT Municipal Affairs Liaison, John Romano. MassDOT must consider the advisory committee’s pro and con list for each bid. Members of the public are also welcome to voice their opinions on the proposals by contacting MassDOT at: MassDot.RE@dot.state.ma