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Dock Square Garage redevelopment approval underscores major trend in Boston building

It’s yet another repurposing of an old Boston garage—a repurposing that in this case includes 209 condos

Rendering via Boston Globe/Stantec

The Boston Planning and Development Agency’s approval June 13 of a redevelopment of the Dock Square Garage at 20 Clinton Street next to Faneuil Hall underscores an ongoing trend in the city: the slow end of the conventional Boston parking garage.

Make no mistake: The plans that the BPDA approved retain about 450 of the garage’s 698 parking spaces. But the plans are designed to make it easier to convert the parking part of the complex to something else should demand for parking wane.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based Fortis Property Group intends to advance construction of a six-story addition atop the Dock Square Garage with 209 condos—including 27 designated as income-restricted—giving the building a topmost height of 124 feet and 8 inches.

The construction is also due to include a ground-floor residential lobby, which would mean reconfiguring the existing commercial space—including new space fronting on John F. Fitzgerald Surface Road, according to a release from the BPDA.

The redevelopment is not without its critics. The Boston Civic Design Commission, which advises the BPDA, did not sign off on the project because of its design and scope. The BPDA, for its part, says the size conforms to guidelines that the agency’s board adopted in 2010 for properties along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. (Fortis is contributing to the conservancy that operates the Greenway, for artwork along it, as part of the project.)

Whatever the qualms, with the BPDA approval in hand, Fortis is that much closer to shovels in the ground. The project still needs the BPDA Zoning Commission’s approval. If the developer gets that, construction could start in mid-2020. Fortis acquired the garage, which dates from 1980, for $170 million in 2017.

Demolition work on an old, brutalist-style garage in downtown Boston. HYM Investment Group

And, if the Dock Square Garage is reimagined (and reimagined again should demand for parking tank), then it will join a meta-trend in Boston of other garages getting redeveloped. Look no farther than the nearby redevelopment of the Government Center Garage into the giant 2.9 million-square-foot Bulfinch Crossing complex (the above photo shows some of the demo work involved there). Stay tuned.