Contact Us

BPDA Approves Controversial Leather District Lab Project

Rendering of the approved 125 Lincoln St. development in the Leather District.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency approved two major projects at its monthly board meeting Thursday, one of which was hotly debated by the community and its developers. 

The Leather District project at 125 Lincoln St., a proposed 335K SF research and development building with 12K SF of retail from Oxford Properties, received praise and pushback from various community members but was unanimously approved by the board.

“Our proposal is a truly balanced reflection of the significant and valuable feedback we incorporated from community priorities and the need to design a project that attracts the best life sciences companies in the world,” Mark McGowan, Boston vice president and head of development at Oxford Properties, said in a statement Friday.

The project was first proposed in 2017 as a 24-story, 625K SF lab building, but it was later cut down to 11 stories. Oxford is also contributing a nearby building at 79 Essex St. to the Asian Community Development Corp. for a 50-unit affordable housing project.

Pushback on the project came from residents who were worried about a lab building being so close to their homes, criticism that the city has been hearing as more lab development is approved and built.

“This particular circumstance really epitomizes the difficult choices this board has to make where we are balancing many economic and design and community impact factors against each other,” BPDA Board Member Ted Landsmark said before the vote on the proposal.

Some residents also cited a Nov. 1 Boston Civic Design Commission meeting in which the project was surprisingly voted down, The Boston Globe reported. The commission's opposition came because the project's height of 196 feet was almost double what is outlined in the Greenway development guidelines.

“As a former, almost 10 year resident, of the Leather District, I have followed this closely for the past three years and I do want to say that this is the process working," BPDA Chairwoman Priscilla Rojas said. "We heard and we tallied up the letters of opposition and support and it’s split.”

Not all residents criticized the development. Some supporters cited Oxford's willingness to shrink the size of the project and contribute the Essex Street building for affordable housing. 

Also at its Thursday meeting, the board unanimously approved Marcus Partners' proposal for Parcel X in the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park.

Parcel X is a 742K SF project at 310 Northern Ave. in the Seaport consisting of two life sciences buildings. In 2018, Marcus Partners entered into an agreement with the New Boston Sea Food Center to acquire the ground lease for the parcel from the city.

“With BPDA approval, we now look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to advance an R&D project that encourages and supports the Park’s mixed industrial economy,” Blake said in a statement to Bisnow.

In addition to the redevelopment of Parcel X, Marcus Partners also agreed to develop and fund a portion of a new seafood facility for two of the New Boston Sea Food's tenants.