Written by Betsy Walsh Frissora
The Distillery Project Status
The proposed Distillery project, located on 516 East 2nd Street could bring many exciting things to Southie, including art, music, transportation, eco-friendly living, business, and aesthetically pleasing landscapes. In 2007, the BRA published the plans of intent for the Distillery building project. The project was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in September of 2009. However, the approval brought about a lawsuit with a neighbor over the zoning issue of the project, claiming that the 6 story building was too high, and went against the zoning codes in the area. In 2011 Fred Gordon put his project on hold, while fighting it out with a neighbor of the building in court over the zoning of the new Distillery additions. As of September 9, 2013, the project plan has been resubmitted with the “building height varying” codes. What kind of new development in Southie comes without a couple of blips from local residents along the way anyways? Zero.
The Distillery building has a rich history in the core of South Boston as (what else?) a brewery, and rum distillery. The Building was first built in 1848, and has existed primarily as a rum distillery, although it was originally built to serve as a Brewery. In 1908 the building was bought by Felton and Sons, and was transformed it into a rum distillery called Felton and Sons Crystal Springs. Since both brewing beer and distilling rum call for large amounts of water, the building was conveniently built over a natural spring that still exists today and can pump up to 80 gallons of water a minute! The Distillery served as a rum distillery from 1908 until it was purchased in 1982 by its most recent management and owner Fred Gordon. In 1984, the Distillery began to transform into studios and studio apartments, which have created a community full of culture for musicians, artists, and small businesses. These businesses and artists currently occupy most of the Distillery building.
The Development Plan
Overall, the project intends to preserve the existing Distillery building, while adding significant development to the property adjacent to the Distillery. The project calls for the demolition of the former 1966 Bottling Plant, as well as a cooper shop adjacent to the Distillery, and it will replace these old buildings with two new wings, and attach them to the current Distillery, while adding a courtyard in the middle. The two new buildings (wings) will total 179,384 square-feet and contain 65 new units, and 147 parking spaces in a two level garage, as well as artist live/work studios, loft style residences, underground music practice rooms, an open courtyard, venue for outdoor art and music performances, a cafe, a market, a greenhouse, galleries, retail space, an artist residency program, rooftop gardens, open green space, and public artworks. Not to mention, the streetscape surrounding all four sides of the project site will be improved. The sidewalks will be widened, and trees will be planted. Wow! This sounds promising and exciting for music, art and environment lovers of Southie. What exactly is the outside venue for live music? This could be the best part about the entire development! Maybe the beautiful new landscaping will even inspire Southie dog owners to pick up their dog’s poop!
The newest building plan on the BRA for the project splits the development up into two phases (Phase I and Phase II), both of which were voted on and approved by the BRA in 2009. Phase I was expected to start in the end of 2013, and be completed by the end of 2014. There has been no mention of Phase II start or completion dates at this time.
Phase I of the Distillery project is located on 455-457 East 1st Street and involves parts of the existing Distillery building. It is anticipated to include one wing along East 1st Street that wraps around onto Dorchester Street. This wing will include 33 residential units. Of the 33 units, 15 will be loft-style units, 14 will be conventional units, and 4 will be artist/live work units. Phase I will also include a 30,000 square-foot cafe, a 780 square-foot art gallery, four small retail/commercial spaces totaling 2,000 square feet, and approximately 46 parking spaces.
Phase II of the project will allow the construction of the second wing of the project, located along Dorchester Street, and it will also be connected to the first wing (from Phase I). The two wings will have an open courtyard in the center that will be used as an outdoor venue. The wing that will be developed in Phase II will consist of 32 residential units, 4 small retail/commercial spaces (located on the first level of Dorchester Street) a convenience store, a greenhouse (located on Dorchester and East 2nd Street) and approximately 101 parking spaces.
The Distillery is Going Green
The term “Passive House” has become a huge trend in Europe, but has been slower to catch on in the United States. The Passive House concept represents today’s highest standard of energy, slashing heating by 90%. The Distillery plans to be Passive House certified, and the largest Passive House in the United States! The new building will use approximately 10% of the energy of an ordinary new building, which puts U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system to shame! In addition to these energy reduction figures, the building will incorporate numerous other green technologies such as cogeneration of electricity, recycled gray water, drain heat recovery, strategic daylight shading, community gardening and food production, and composting.
The Distillery Project promises to be an enormous draw for both residents of South Boston and beyond. So how will the transportation situation play out? This is one of the most exciting parts of the project. Project leaders are talking about improving the efficiency and environmental impact of transportation to and from The Distillery. They are even in collaboration with the MBTA to reroute a downtown bus line to stop at the Distillery, as well as additional Zip Cars, new electric car charging stations, and networked community carpooling.
Stay tuned on the
BRA website for updates on the progress of the Distillery Project as it moves (hopefully soon!) from “Board Approved” to “Under Construction”.