With the Boston Herald having decamped to the city’s Seaport Center, the newspaper’s former home is being converted into a series of mixed-use buildings designed by Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects. The developer, National Development, hopes to spur revitalization in an up-and-coming south Boston neighborhood known more for industrial superblocks than walkability. On February 1, National Development unveiled its latest plans for what it’s calling the “Ink Block,” a complex meant to honor the history of the newspaper operation on the site at the corner of Harrison Avenue and Herald Street; the new concept comes after the community derided previous plans for a building set back from the street as too “suburban.” A massing of four structures ranging in height from five to nine stories and containing 471 apartments is planned to replace the existing two-story newspaper property and create a varied pedestrian-friendly streetscape.
Elkus Manfredi’s new design has taken the neighborhood’s request for increased density to heart with a signature metal and glass nine-story residential tower forming a gateway into the neighborhood. “We chose to be good listeners. We went back to the drawing board and tried to come up with a program and design that was more responsive to what we were hearing,” National Development managing partner Ted Tye told the Boston Herald. Buildings have been pushed up to the sidewalk and 411 parking spaces are hidden in a mid-site underground garage, which had been salvaged from the original structure. The new $100 million six-acre complex differentiates individual structures clad in wood, metal, and glass to create a varied streetscape with 85,000 square feet of retail space lining the sidewalk, including a large grocery store. "We wanted to understand the organic history of the blocks and reflect that in the new buildings, while still using modern materials,” said David Manfredi, principal at Elkus Manfredi. “We were trying to get to the historical rhythm of the neighborhood context in the south end.”
The City of Boston has been trying to revitalize this industrial section of south Boston into a walkable mixed-use neighborhood and began working on a strategic plan for the area, including the Ink Block site, in 2008. Guidelines promote dense development and walkability in the South End neighborhood and the final plan was adopted on January 18.
National Development must gain approval from various city agencies before construction can begin. The Ink Block is currently under review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. At press time, a public meeting was scheduled for February 23. If passed, construction could begin by the end of the year.