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In Allston, a 262-unit tower project envisions ‘unlocking’ access to future West Station

New Developments News Allston-Brighton
A rendering of the proposed 16-story building at 76 Ashford St. in Allston. —Embarc, courtesy of City Realty

A Brookline developer is putting forth plans to erect a 262-unit, 16-story residential tower in Allston — a project that would provide a link to the envisioned West Station in Boston University’s backyard.

City Realty filed a Letter of Intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency on Tuesday for the 35,806-square-foot site at 76 Ashford St., the current home of a single-story industrial building. The parcel is adjacent the university’s Track and Tennis Center.

Jeffrey R. Drago, an attorney representing the development and management company, wrote that the site could someday serve as the area’s “gateway” to the long-awaited multimodal station the state is eyeing to build in the footprint of the bordering former rail yard.

“The proposed project will completely revitalize this former industrial lot and will serve to invigorate this section of Allston while creating much needed residential rental opportunities, as well as unlocking the full public transit potential of the state’s plan to build West Station abutting this site,” Drago wrote.

Specifically, City Realty plans to reserve 14,000 square feet of land at the site for the state to use as an access point for the station, as well as for connections to the Charles River and any other development in the “Beacon Yards” area, according to Drago’s letter.

The proposed site plan for 76 Ashford St. —Embarc, courtesy of City Realty

Details on how exactly the massive project will handle the aging Mass. Pike infrastructure and straighten out a curve in the highway to break open the rail yard for future development have not been settled yet. The complex endeavor must account for how the state will manage reworking the eight-lane highway, several rail lines, Soldiers Field Road, and pedestrian and cyclist pathways all in a roughly 200-foot-wide area sandwiched between the Charles River and Boston University.

In June, officials released a third proposal centered on rebuilding the roadway aqueduct, though the $1 billion plan was quickly met with concern from neighborhood and environmental advocates.

In his letter, Drago wrote that City Realty has already had extensive talks with the I-90 Interchange Task Force, as well as a host of city and state agencies, about the potential station access the residential project would provide, which would include bus lanes and pedestrian and bike paths.

Clifford Kensington, director of acquisitions for City Realty, told Boston.com on Wednesday that the project was designed with that feature in mind. The building’s height makes up for the space the designers surrendered on the ground floor, he said.

“We’re hoping that the neighborhood as a whole agrees with us, but obviously we have a lot of community outreach to do,” Kensington said.

While 16 stories is markably tall for a neighborhood dominated by three-to-five story dwellings, Kensington pointed to the relatively “high spine” of development along the highway, from the university’s towering student residences to the office and residential buildings that form the Boston Landing complex to the west.

City Realty purchased the lot in 2018 and has been working through different designs since then, Kensington said.

The plan currently calls for a 238,600-square-foot tower with “a large lobby, amply bike storage, and outdoor balconies,” along with 63 parking spaces, the letter of intent says.

“The building will also be designed for the needs of the modern urban resident, with ample, efficient amenity space, such as remote work facilities, a fitness center, outdoor common areas, and full pet facilities, including day care, boarding, and grooming,” Drago wrote.

Amid the work-from-home era ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic, Kensington said, City Realty adjusted the design to move away from communal spaces and toward smaller rooms and areas that residents can use for personal use, perhaps as workstations, outside their apartments.

“That’s been a more recent shift I’d say, kind of like a re-imagining we’re doing” across many projects, he said.

As for apartments, the developer envisions a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units, with 34 affordable homes among them, according to Drago’s letter.

Kensington said the company is also looking to take the money brought in by the sale of the station access portion of the property to the state and donating it to local affordable housing organizations.

In November, the BPDA Board approved a City Realty project slated to bring in 344 residential units and 15,860 square feet of retail space across six buildings near the Harvard Avenue and Cambridge Street intersection dubbed “Allston Square,” about a half-mile west of the Ashford Street project.

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