Long term, New Balance presented a lot of big ideas including:
- New office space for New Balance
- A 125-room hotel
- A 2 acre park
- A commuter rail stop
- New on and off ramps connecting to the Mass Pike
- An athletic facility for sports like indoor soccer and lacrosse
- An ice skating facility with two separate skating surfaces (there was some discussion about how the Skating Club of Boston would like to move from their current site on Western Ave (so they could sell it to Harvard??) but want a new facility with 3 ice surfaces)
- 600 construction and 3,000 permanent jobs
Obviously the timing and funding of many of these pieces is highly uncertain. The only piece that New Balance seems to be somewhat able to do in the near future are the new office building and park.
As the devil is in the details, I was most concerned with their ideas for access to the Pike. Some kind of ramp connecting Lincoln Street and the Pike seems highly questionable, and I am inclined to agree with other neighbors who commented last night that adding new ramps and overpasses could exacerbate the "scar" that the Pike already creates across our neighborhood. As someone who lives North of the Pike, I wonder about a plan that seems to create positive new development south of the Pike and supports it by building more highway-related roads on the north side of the Pike.
Tim McHale noted at the meeting last night our community's desire for a more residential stability and more homeownership, and the retail/office/residential mix of the future phases is an important question, but maybe one that doesn't need to be fully answered now because these future phases are not exactly right around the corner.
If New Balance does build a new office building, I hope that its will be more public and urban. The current New Balance complex is 535,000 sq ft of office space with 30,000 sq ft of retail below the parking garage (the Bally gym and New Balance outlet). But on the north side of Guest Street, the large office buildings are pushed back from the sidewalk and the first floor offers no public use. The large cafeteria is upstairs on the 2nd floor, and the building and Guest Street would, in my opinion, would have been better served by public restaurants and other retail on the ground floor instead of the office-park type building that was built.
I also learned last night that it was New Balance who renovated the charming old factory building at 38 Everett Street that is now the Warrior & Brine Outlet Store for lacrosse, soccer and hockey equipment.
Considering all the unknowns, I'd summarize my thoughts that more New Balance in our community is a good thing. If NB has office buildings at either end of Guest Street they will be pretty motivated to improve the area around and between their buildings.