BPDA turns attention to long-neglected Parcel 3
Environmental remediation will precede new RFP process
February 17, 2021 : Bay State Banner, by Morgan C. Mullings
The long-vacant parcel known as P3 that lies across the street from the Boston Police Department Headquarters in Roxbury is up for another round of development proposals.
Lying mostly vacant ever since much of the area was cleared in the 1960s for a highway project successfully stopped by citizen action, the land has been the target of potential development several times. It’s been a long and winding road of plans that seemed promising but ultimately failed to get off the ground. The last proposal, slated to bring hundreds of apartments, a new Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists and a BJ’s Wholesale Club, fizzled in 2019 when the P-3 Partners team led by Feldco Development failed to secure sufficient financing after eight years of tentative designation extensions.
Now, a series of investigations has revealed lead and other contaminants in the soil. After determining a plan to remove the contaminants so that the land can be sold to a developer, the Boston Planning and Development Agency is now committed to cleaning up the site.
The cleanup over the coming months is expected to cost $1.3 million, involving 450 yards of contaminated soil on the 7.7 acre plot. MassDevelopment has awarded the Boston Planning and Development Agency a grant to start the work. Announced Feb. 8, the Brownfields Redevelopment Grant totals $250,000, enough for the BPDA to get started on the most urgent areas.
The BPDA plans to gather public feedback to create a new Request for Proposals for the site. The resumed planning will start with a virtual public workshop on Feb. 22. In advance of that meeting, the agency encourages interested community members to view a “P3 Toolkit” that explains the parcel’s history, previous development proposals, and considerations for the planning process going forward.
Parcel P3 is part of the PLAN: Nubian Square initiative. Beyond its challenges, the land presents a wealth of opportunities.
“Due to its large size, proximity to public transit, major roads and educational facilities,” the BPDA said in a release, “this site has the potential to contribute to the economic development in the Nubian Square area while advancing the community’s commitments to affordable housing, arts & culture, and equity.”
Among the contaminants found within the plot is trichloroethylene, a pollutant that can cause major health issues.
Kelly Sherman, a planner at BPDA, explained the situation in a PLAN: Nubian Square virtual chat on Feb. 8 covering the environmental conditions.
“It’s not floating in the air,” she said of the contaminant. “It’s not a danger. But it is in the ground … in more areas than originally anticipated. Because we only have this chunk of money right now, we want to use it to clean up the most important part. So I think it’s going to be a very targeted remediation effort right now.”
During this phase of the cleanup, the BPDA will conduct dust monitoring and dust control to prevent contaminants from entering the surrounding area. According to the virtual presentation, “All contamination is contained within the site and we do not expect any risk to the surrounding community.”
The goal is to complete it as soon as possible, and the BPDA plans to complete the work before the end of the year, though there is no specific date set for cleanup yet.
“We are seeking board approval to accept the grant funding this Thursday. So hopefully we’ll start the process of working out our agreement with MassDevelopment,” said Rebecca Hansen, Harvard Leadership Fellow at the BPDA.
During each phase of the site investigation and cleanup, the BPDA will report to the state their findings and plans for cleanup. The agency has already submitted an initial report through GEI Consultants.
“The reports that we prepare are open to public review and comment. We will be filing a report that summarizes all the investigations that have historically been done on the property,” said GEI Senior Vice President Ileen Gladstone.
Community involvement in the planning process begins Feb. 22 when public comment opens and the request for proposals begins. After the Feb. 22 workshop for P3, the BPDA will hold two more workshops to shape the Request for Proposals that developers will eventually submit. Moving forward, they will be seeking more funding for cleanup through the city, BPDA and external sources.