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Plan envisions shops, a 20-story tower for Motor Mart Garage

New Developments News Downtown
A rendering of the proposed project to revamp the Motor Mart Garage, including a 20-story residential tower, at 201 Stuart St. —CBT Architects via Boston Planning and Development Agency

Under a proposed, major redesign of the Motor Mart Garage, housing units will replace parking spaces, and a new 20-story tower will rise over downtown Boston.

The face-lift and expansion of 201 Stuart St. is the vision of CIM Group, LLC, and Boston Global Investors, LLC, who say the project will breathe new life into the 90-year-old garage, once considered the largest in the world.

Plans on file with the Boston Planning and Development Agency call for a mixed-use building housing 306 apartment and condominium units, 31,000 square feet of commercial space, and 672 parking spaces — nearly half the existing 1,037 spaces — on the 1.2-acre lot.

Developers say they’re exploring the potential to bring a 15,000-square-foot grocery store to the basement among the other amenities already planned, including a small pool, fitness center, and a vegetated roof on the ninth floor.

“As part of the overall revitalization of the existing building, the ground floor will be rehabilitated,” a report filed in late March says. “The four major corners of the building will continue to be anchored by retail, with some smaller infill retail spaces along Stuart Street, Columbus Avenue, and Park Place.”

Depending on how the plans move through the city’s review process, developers anticipate construction starting later this year and finishing in 2022.

The Motor Mart Garage dates to May 1929, when work had just wrapped up on the hulking eight-story structure, it’s large frame making it a pioneer in the new automobile age.

Its floors were often occupied by the cars belonging to guests at the Statler Hotel — now the Park Plaza Hotel — built across the street to take advantage of the new parking facility, according to files.

In its early heyday, the Motor Mart included a Texaco filling station, car wash, auto repair services, and a coach bus terminal. The details embedded in its concrete exterior are considered a “relatively early expression of so-called Stripped Classicism,” showing off the Art Deco influence that would come to define the period, developers say.

The design, in fact, earned its architect Ralph Harrington Doane the Boston Society of Architects’ Harleston Parker Medal “for having created the city’s most beautiful new building of 1927,” files show. The building falls under the Park Square-Stuart Street Historic District, but is not on the state or national registers of historic places.

Despite the modern changes proposed, the original facade will remain in tact, plans show. But atop the existing structure, a 20-story residential tower will sprout out, where proponents are looking to house a mix of units, from studios to three-bedroom dwellings.

Additionally, the western portion of the parking levels would become home to 84 units. Of the more than 670 parking spaces that the redesign would retain, the proposal seeks to reserve 144  for residents in the building and designate the remaining 528 for public use, documents show.

That decision could get some discussion next week when the agency takes a look at a recent filing from developers that expands upon the initial plans and addresses concerns and feedback received from the public, neighbors, and other groups in recent months.

In a Oct. 24 letter to the agency, Joshua Weiland, transportation planner for the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), wrote that while the department supports the plan to reduce the number of parking spaces, officials would prefer to see the spots sold or rented separately rather than bundled in with residential unit sales.

“Because after the purchase, monthly parking becomes a ‘sunk cost’ for the person who is weighing whether to drive or not, BTD would like to see all non-residential parking have a maximum rentable timeframe of one day, that is, no monthly parking,” Weiland added. “BTD will also require the project to work with a car share provider to see whether it is possible to dedicate some of the spaces to car share.”

Weiland wrote officials would also like to see developers detail plans to meet city requirements for providing electric vehicle charging stations.

Other commenters requested additional information on potential shadows the new tower could cast, among other factors.

The public meeting is slated for April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Revere Hotel, 200 Stuart St.

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