Photo courtesy of the BPDA

Conversion of the Sheraton Boston’s south tower into dorms for 856 Northeastern University students and a rezoning plan for East Boston received approval from the Boston Planning & Development Agency.

At its January board meeting Thursday night, BPDA directors also approved 349 housing units and a pair of life science projects in Allston.

Thursday’s vote gives Northeastern permission to occupy the 250,000-square-foot Back Bay hotel tower and approves developers’ plans to add a third-floor amenity level, update the lobby and outdoor plaza, and install a separate dormitory entrance.

Hawkins Way Capital, a Beverly Hills, California-based private equity firm, bought both Sheraton Boston towers in 2022 for $233 million. Northeastern has been renting space in the south tower for overflow student housing for 2018.

The university also continues to seek approval for a 23-story dorm tower at 840 Columbus Ave. to house another 1,370 student beds, said Kathy Spiegelman, Northeastern’s vice president of campus planning and development. After a surge of enrollment coming out of COVID, Northeastern is planning to return to its typical admission of 3,500 first-year students, Spiegelman said.

Heights Reduced in East Boston Plan

In East Boston, a new neighborhood-wide zoning plan is intended to encourage predictable, measured housing production and mixed-use developments in and around business districts and transit stops.

The plan creates new mixed-use districts in Maverick Square, Central Square, Day Square and Orient Heights, each including subdistricts allowing building heights ranging from 4 to 7 stories.

District 1 Councilor Gabriela Coletta, who had publicly criticized the plan last fall, offered her support for the final version. After changes that reduced maximum building heights and plans for elimination of vehicle lanes on some major thoroughfares, Coletta said the final plan reflects the neighborhood’s goals, while diminishing the need for developers to seek variances. East Boston has the city’s highest percentage of projects approved with zoning relief, according to BPDA data.

Coletta asked BPDA leadership to pen a letter to the ZBA cautioning against the widespread future approval of variances.

“It would be devastating for the ZBA to unravel five years of deep partnership, and ultimately wasting city resources, by granting new variances to the rules we created together,” Coletta told board members.

The PLAN: East Boston study also attracted opposition from some residents and neighborhood groups, including the Harbor View Neighbors Association.

Opponents warned that increasing allowable density and building heights could encourage more investors to acquire properties and shrink the neighborhood’s family housing stock.

The plan is subject to approval by the Boston Zoning Commission.

New Labs OK’d

In Allston, two new life science projects were approved for developers IQHQ Inc. and King Street Properties.

IQHQ Inc. plans to replace the former Marty’s Liquors at 103 North Beacon St. into a 265,000-square-foot office-lab building.

Near its Allston Labworks development, King Street Properties is seeking to attract early-stage biotechs to a planned 92,300-square-foot lab complex at 287 Western Ave.

The largest housing project approved Thursday will create 331 apartments at Core Investments’ On the Dot project at 495 Dorchester Ave. in South Boston.

Estimated at $295 million, the 326,000-square-foot project includes a 16-story tower containing 237 market-rate units and a 7-story building including 94 income-restricted senior housing units managed by Rogerson Communities.

Developers agreed to provide subsidized retail space to local businesses and community groups in the 11,710-square-foot ground floor commercial space.

Sheraton Dorm Conversion, East Boston Rezoning Advance

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min