As reported in the Forecaster and Press Herald, Donald Sussman, the owner of several lots along Hampshire Street in East Bayside, has shelved his hybrid parking garage/condominium development proposal in order to re-evaluate his development options.
The 2-level parking fortress at the base of this project wasn't merely aesthetically clunky and hostile to the neighborhood's sidewalks — it also turned out to be a ball-and-chain to profit margins for the high-priced condos above. A competing project down the street, the Bay House, also went under construction this fall — but it will include 20% fewer parking spaces per unit, and will thus offer lower costs to buyers for a similar-value home.
Not reported in the newspapers was another possible motive for this decision: the imminent final planning effort for the Franklin Street corridor. City Hall has reportedly selected a preferred planning/engineering team to work with, and a contract could be signed any day now to finally begin the planning effort that will result in a shovel-ready construction plan for a new, reconnected Franklin Street.
That plan is almost certain to reduce Franklin to a smaller 2-lane street between Congress and Commercial. That, in turn, will free up a lot of surplus city-owned real estate on either side of the new street. The new Franklin Street could end up giving Sussman 10% to 20% more developable land to work with on this same site — and that, in turn, will give his developers more room to screen parking inside the lot, provide rentable, active ground-floor retail spaces, and offer more attractive terms to condo buyers.
That's a smart return on investment for waiting a year or two. And it makes it likely that the neighborhood will end up with a better-designed building, with active ground-floor uses that (unlike a parking garage) will engage the street and improve surrounding property values.
I should add a final disclosure: I've begun a day job at the Press Herald, which means, in a very indirect way, that I work for Donald Sussman (who is the paper's majority owner). Obviously that won't prevent me from lamenting his taste in architecture in this blog.