Parking lots that now stretch along Melnea Cass Boulevard between Washington Street and Harrison Avenue would become new mixed-use buildings with a park, under proposals submitted to the BPDA by three development teams to create a new gateway complex for Nubian Square.
The projects are designed to complement redevelopment of the neighboring and long abandoned Nawn Factory on Washington Street, for which separate teams of developers have submitted their own proposals. The land, one parcel owned by the city, the other by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, is also next to the old Harrison Supply Co. warehouse that the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology plans to replace with its new campus.
The BPDA solicited bids for the parcels, together called Parcel 8 and totaling about an acre in space, in February, specifying they had to include mixed-use buildings and public amenities including a park and historical markers or other ways to tell the history of the site and surrounding area.
A consortium of the New Urban Collaborative, Janey Construction Management and Upton + Partners submitted a proposal for A 14-story terraced tower built out of wood with 92 residential units and office space, a museum, a civil-rights center and a plaza, to be called Gateway Plaza and designed to compliment the planned Martin Luther King memorial in Boston Common, near the spot where King began a civil-rights march in 1965 from Roxbury to the Common.
The ground plane of the Gateway Plaza will recall the 1965 Freedom March Plaza design in the Common, and evoke the garment of destiny - a culturally significant motif that defines the 'Freedom Plaza' in the Boston Common starting off as individual pavers at the edges of the site and slowly building together into a uniform pattern evoking the power of the individual and the collective.
The center of the pattern lands at the corner of the King Center for Economic Justice creating a space for arts programming and performances. The pattern then climbs up the building facade and informs the design of the patterned louvers on the upper levels of the building.
The proposal locates the Gateway Plaza on the corner of Washington Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Anchor institutions - the King Economic Center for Justice, the Museum of African American History, and the Nawn Factory - frame the space. A pathway along the west of the building pulls visitors through the Plaza, past the Eliot Burial Ground, and into the future site of Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology. The path planted with native species and pollinators empties to Harrison Street and connects to the main residential entry and vehicle drop off. Along Melnea Cass a new bike path, sidewalk, street lighting, permeable pavers and integrated street trees create a more pedestrian and bike friendly route along the boulevard.
The building would be the first "mass timber tall" building in Boston, and is one of several environmentally friendly components, the collaborative writes.
The sixth level creates a sensory garden planted with Lavender, Melissa, Mint, Thyme, Begenia, Artemisia and other fragrant and textured species. On the seventh level, provides a garden for meditation garden and on the eighth through fourteenth floors private resident patios are planted to attract butterflies and pollinators garden like Monarda, Liatris, Silphium, Sassafras and fruit trees.
The building would have 132 units - 25 condos and the rest apartments. About 88 of the units would be sold or rented as affordable.
Gateway Plaza proposal (89M PDF). Gateway Plaza design details (37M PDF).
A group led by Urbanica and including the National Center of Afro-American Artists, General Air, Inc., Minority Crowd Fund and the National Housing Partnership Foundation proposed a "Nubian Arts"-focused building that would include 102 residential units - 35 condos, 60 apartments and 7 artist work/live spaces, all geared towards people making between 30% and 120% of the Boston area median income. Three or four of the condos would be sold to a minority-owned investment fund, which in turn would be managed by a minority-owned concern.
The building would include a "satellite museum" for the National Center of Afro-American Artists - which had originally hoped to open a new museum in a now failed complex across from BPD headquarters on Tremont Street - as well as a 7,000-square-foot plaza "framing" the renovated Nawn Factory and incorporating stone markers outlining historic structures that used to be on the site.
The building would have 10,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space aimed at neighborhood entrepreneurs - who would be eligible for grants from a $100,000 entrepreneurial fund the developers would set up.
NUBA proposal (40M PDF). NUBA design details (26M PDF).
Groma, RISE Together and J.Garland Enterprises teamed up for a proposal for a "baobab inspired" 14-story building with 103 residential units, office space, an arts center and a public market as well as office space and a 12,000-square foot park. They have proposed paying $10.5 million for the property.
Our concept leverages inviting open park space to draw in the community and interweaves educational and artistic elements to showcase the rich cultural history of Roxbury at the forefront. The park area is anchored by the Nubian Gate and once passed through, reveals the NuArts Center and the Nubian Public Market. Those two establishments, one focused on art, the other a food and shopping hall, will be the core draws into the new Nubian Square. The Square contains two main building massings. Above the Nubian Market are two floors of commercial office space, bringing good jobs into the area and to its east is the Nubian Tower with a restaurant at its base and 14 floors of affordable and market-rate housing. The programming has been thoughtfully and carefully selected in order to generate public interest and connectivity. All borders of the site are activated to allow the site to be a place with a true mix of public and private live, work, eat, play environments. ...
Our team has had discussions with groups like Artists for Humanity to help create a cultural destination to showcase African American art and history. This space will open up to the outdoor park to help create pull to the Gateway to Nubian Square.
Of the residential units, 33 would be market rate, with the remaining 70 rented or sold to people making between 30% and 80% of the Boston area median income. Some 51% of the spaces in the market would be reserved for minority- and women-owned concerns.
One of the principals at Groma is Seth Priebatsch, who sold his start-up food-delivery concern to GrubHub in 2018 for $400 million.
He has entered the real estate development space specifically to allow him to give back through development projects like Parcel 8. Parcel 8 will drive homegrown economic impact and individual opportunities for the people that make up the community.
NuGateway proposal (41M PDF). NuGateway design details (111M PDF)