Los Angeles-based developers CIM Group have announced their intention to construct a 17-story residential tower atop Back Bay’s Art Deco-inspired Motor Mart Garage at 201 Stuart Street. The project follows close after CIM Group’s completion of the 1,000+ space Stuart Street Garage in 2016.
Boston’s Parking Situation
If the Boston Planning & Development Agency approves CIM Group’s proposal, the number of parking spaces at The Motor Mart will be cut nearly in half. With 1,058 spaces, the garage was once the largest parking garage in the world when it was constructed in 1927.
The nine-level structure houses approximately 50,000 square-feet of ground-floor retail and lower level retail space. The building is set on the border of Boston’s Back Bay and Theater District neighborhoods. Its exterior façade was renovated in 1999 with stone and granite panels added to the ground level.
The proposal raises questions over the requisite for parking garages in these high-traffic neighborhoods. Several proposals from development teams for projects in Allston, downtown and Charlestown were explicitly preparing for a future that included either self-driving cars, automated vehicle parking or converting existing garage space into residential use.
The degree of rapidly-changing transportation technology presents both challenges and opportunities for urban planers. The balancing act that CIM Group has to consider is between building today’s working infrastructure and ensuring that their work won’t be obsolete tomorrow. As principal of Gensler architectural firm put it, “We’re in a transition mode that says, ‘Let’s not use space for parking that won’t be necessary in three, four, five years, and let’s utilize this more efficiently.’ That’s step one.”
The Proposed Tower
CIM Group plans to develop a 233,500 square-foot residential tower with 280 apartment and condominium units that would rise up to the top of the highest floor available for occupancy.
Construction of the tower at Motor Mart Garage would end up cutting the number of parking spaces from 1,058 to 600. The project would further redevelop 205,000 square-feet of the existing garage “to integrate the structural core of the new tower” and develop 106,000 square-feet of residential and retail space.
The garage’s prime location places it just a few blocks from Boston Common and the wealth of shops, restaurants and theaters known to the neighborhood. CIM Group co-founder Avi Shemesh reflects, “Motor Mart Garage serves a multitude of office workers, neighboring hotels, theatergoers, tourists and shoppers who visit this area every day. This prime operating parking asset represents one of the target sectors of our infrastructure strategy, which focuses on public goods and services that support urban communities”.
CIM Group anticipate that the project will create a significant number of new housing units, provide affordable housing opportunities in accordance with Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy, and create public realm and streetscape improvements for the Midtown Cultural District area of Downtown Boston.
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