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A major Roxbury development touts its proximity to the T

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Plans for the Rio Grande development in Roxbury call for 48 affordable units and 193 market-rate units. Courtesy of BPDA

The team behind plans for one of the largest developments proposed for Roxbury in modern history will update officials and the public at a virtual meeting scheduled for Oct. 13.

The limited liability company behind the project at 2343-2345 Washington St. in the Nubian Square area wants to create a 25-story tower with 241 apartments. The development would occupy much of the block that Shawmut Avenue — as well as Washington, Roxbury and Marvin streets — borders, and would incorporate into its construction the former Roxbury Institute of Savings and Boston Consolidated Gas Co. buildings. The limestone facade of the bank building in particular would be a feature of the project.

It would also consume a parking lot for that 25-story tower, marking yet another Boston parking facility repurposed as part of a larger development — a trend playing out in Fort Point, Back Bay, Dorchester, Bay Village, and downtown, among other areas. Think: the 691-foot Winthrop Center going up where the Winthrop Square Garage once loomed or the mixed-use project with laboratory space slated for parking lots next to Gillette’s headquarters.

The Nubian Square proposal  — dubbed Rio Grande Tower — would include 193 market-rate apartments, with the rest designated as affordable, according to the latest plans from the Boston Planning and Development Agency. Those plans also call for 68,366 square feet of commercial and community space, including a plaza accessible to the public and what is described as a “mix of destination and neighborhood retail.” The apartment count would include two-bedrooms averaging 1,000 square feet each and one-bedrooms averaging 748 square feet.

The development team — which Lisa Guscott, CEO and president of Roxbury-based Long Bay Management, leads — has billed the project as potentially “transformative” in its impact on the surrounding area. In the same April 2017 letter from Guscott first proposing the project, the team also talked up its proximity to Nubian Station, one of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s busiest hubs.

“Rio Grande Tower is expected to be a national, regional, and local model of the transformative and catalytic impacts of transit-oriented development projects in densely populated urban neighborhoods,” wrote Guscott, whose late father, Kenneth Guscott, and his brothers started Long Bay in the early 1970s in part to help revitalize Roxbury. (Guscott did not return requests for further comment.)

In fact, the development team has said that the proximity to public transit means the city can waive the ratio of 0.7 parking spaces per unit to which the project would otherwise be subject. During a BPDA-organized presentation in July 2019, the team said it was negotiating with Nubian Square property owners to secure off-site parking for Rio Grande, the Bay State Banner reported.

With one-fifth of its housing units designated affordable, the project would also exceed the city’s requirements for its inclusionary development policy, the team said. Rio Grande also is proposed amid a long-term public-private push to revitalize the Nubian Square area.

The BPDA virtual meeting in October is the first regarding the project since summer 2019, and was scheduled after a Sept. 22 one was canceled due to health concerns.

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