The Druker Co., which won BRA approval for an 11-story office building with retail and cultural space in 2013 on East Berkeley Street at Shawmut Avenue, then never actually started construction, today filed plans with what is now the BPDA to put the building up after all, but as life-sciences space.
In a "notification of project change" filed today, the developer says the labs would be limited to "Level 1" and "Level 2" work, on organisms that cannot be spread through the air, unlike the deadly Level 4 bacteria and viruses allowed at the BU Biolab on Albany Street, where special precautions need to be taken to avoid releasing or spreading them.
Druker's renderings for the building, which would replace half of a parking lot, look very similar to the ones the BPDA approved in 2013. But the building will have only ten floors of lab space and ground-floor retail, rather than eleven floors of offices and commercial space in the original proposal, because labs need much larger rooftop ventilation systems.
Such rooftop ventilation systems have become controversial in areas where proposed life-sciences buildings are proposed for areas that include residential areas - which East Berkeley and Shawmut both have. A South Boston building owner is currently suing the Zoning Board of Appeal for rejecting its proposal to convert an office building on A Street in South Boston over the ventilation issue.
Left up in the air in the request for the new use: The cultural space Druker originally promised:
As requested by BPDA staff and consistent with a recent amendment to the zoning code, the Proponent will consult with the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture regarding satisfaction of this requirement for the NPC Project.
80 East Berkeley St. filings and calendar.