Saturday, October 9, 2010

LOCAL NEWS: Builder says work on apartments to start in spring if city OK’s increase

After a seven-year delay, the developer of a 29-story residential complex in Chinatown says construction will begin next spring if the city approves a one-third increase in the number of apartments on the property.

Kensington Investment Co. now wants to build 395 apartments in a pair of towers at the corner of Washington and LaGrange streets, the site of the former Gaiety Theatre. The theater was torn down in 2004 to make way for the development, but Kensington has struggled to secure funding.

In a new filing made public yesterday, the company said approval of the additional apartments — a prior plan called for 300 units — will allow it to “re-enter the financial market with a project tailored to the real estate market of the forthcoming decade.’’

Kensington executives declined to comment beyond their filing with the city, which indicated the company plans to close on financing to begin construction between April and June of next year. When the project was first approved in 2003, it was valued at $115 million.

The firm is the latest developer to try to revive a large project in the city by proposing construction of apartments, the only product type that lenders have been willing to finance in recent months. The owners of the nearby Filene’s block are also pitching apartments for that property, as are builders of proposed developments near North Station and in the Seaport District.

“If you are looking at new development, the only thing you can get financing for is multifamily rental,’’ said David Begelfer, chief executive of NAIOP Massachusetts, a commercial real estate association. “I would like to say it’s the sweet spot in the market, but it’s really the only spot in the market.’’

Kensington’s revised proposal was welcomed yesterday by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has been pushing to revive stalled projects. “This project will greatly benefit the city with the addition of hundreds of new construction jobs, taxes, and almost 400 new units of housing,’’ BRA director John Palmieri said.

The apartments would be contained in a pair of towers joined over a common ground floor with space for a lobby, a restaurant, and offices. The project includes upgrades to Boylston Square and Liberty Tree Park.

The new plan also calls for a reduction in parking spaces to 160 from 245. The spaces would be spread among two underground levels and three above-ground levels.

Casey Ross Boston Globe September 29, 2010

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