The BPDA board agreed today to let developers of a proposed residential and hotel building on Tremont Street in Chinatown eliminate space for the long awaited BPL Chinatown branch because of funding complications caused by Covid-19.
But the board also approved a plan to issue an RFP for a city-owned parcel between Tyler, Hudson and Harvard streets that would include space for the BPL branch.
Reay Pannesi, a senior BPDA official, said the proposed developers of the Tremont site, known as Parcel P-12C, had financial problems due to Covid-19 that other developers in the city did not, due to their project's unique nature - a joint venture by a hospital, a hotel and a non-profit community group, which depended in part on funding coming from other operations that themselves suffered pandemic-related slowdowns.
The BPDA vote was technically to give the developers another six months to arrange financing for the complex.
The vote came a few minutes after the board voted to issues an RFP for the Tyler/Hudson/Harvard parcel, also known as R-1, which was the former "temporary" home of a YMCA branch that operated for some 30 years.
The RFP requests developers willing to put up a building with more affordable housing than normally called for by city regulations as well as ways to help preserve the culture and community of Chinatown, Pannesi said. She said part of this would include space for the proposed library branch, which would replace a temporary library in the BPDA's Chinatown Trade Center on Boylston Street near Washington Street.
Pannesi said the BPL is "very excited" about the R-1 site, because it is larger than the Tremont Street one, which means more, if not all, of the library could be built on a single floor. Also, it is more centrally located in Chinatown, while the Tremont Street site, if not exactly on the periphery of Chinatown, is separated from the bulk of it by the Theater District, she said.
Pannesi said it is possible that, should something happen to the R-1 proposal, that the library could still go into the Tremont Street building, assuming it's built.
After hearing that, board Chair Priscilla Rojas said, "it's great to have multiple options for that library and great to find one even better suited for it."
The earliest construction could begin on the site is Jan. 1, 2023, after a lease that Tufts Medical Center has to use the parcel for parking expires.
The BPDA board vote did not set any deadlines for the RFP, such as the date by which its sent out or the date by which interested developers have to apply. Once proposals are received, the BPDA would then have to take time to consider them and select one, after which it would then hold a public-hearing process before the board votes on the proposal.