Towers approved to replace Government Center garage

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BOSTON – A piece of Boston’s Brutalist-style Government Center will fall under a plan approved Thursday for two towers on the downtown site.

A 480-foot residential building and a 528-foot office tower will replace the Government Center garage, a hulking concrete structure stretching over Congress Street that opened in 1972 and was expanded in 1990. The facility has parking for 2,310 cars.

Under the plan approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, about half of those spaces will be eliminated. According to the developer, HYM Investment Group, the nine-floor garage, which charges as much as $38 a day, is “underutilized.”

“Conceived at a time when auto-centric policy dominated, the existing underutilized 2,310-space parking garage adds little to the vitality of the area around it and in many ways detracts from the vibrancy of this section of downtown Boston,” HYM said in its development proposal. Tom Palmer, a spokesman, said by email that the available spaces – 445 are set aside for “employee” parking – “are almost never ever full, even on big Bruins or Celtics game days.”

The BRA also has no plans to replace the capacity, according to Nicholas Martin, a spokesman.

“We don’t have plans to replace those parking spaces because it’s not our project,” Martin said by email. “We don’t believe the reduction in parking will be problematic.”

The residential tower will have 486 rental apartments, including 64 units designated as affordable, the city agency said. In its development proposal, HYM said about 570 spaces in the garage would be available for off-site monthly pass holders, commuters and other transient users, or about 70 percent fewer than the current 1,865 spaces.

The towers, which are projected to cost $536 million, are part of a larger project of six buildings expected to cost $1.5 billion by the time all the work is done. The plan includes a hotel with over 200 hotel rooms and ultimately will create 812 new residential units.

A 1960s urban renewal project created Government Center, eradicating a large part of the seedy Scollay Square district and replacing it with buildings including City Hall, an oft-panned example of the Brutalist architectural style and the John F. Kennedy Federal Building. Much of the area now called City Hall Plaza was left as open space, although it is largely bricked or paved over. The project was one that led wags to dub the effort “urban removal” as it displaced tens of thousands of mostly low-income residents.

The garage project is one of several planned in the area. Another, called the Garden Garage redevelopment at 35 Lomasney Way, proposed a 44-story residential tower with about 470 residential units, drew heated protests at a public hearing Thursday night, leading the agency to put off a vote on the project, according to a statement released Friday.

Also winning approval Thursday several other projects, including a 19-story, 691-bed dormitory on the Emmanuel College campus in the Fenway neighborhood, and residential projects in West Roxbury, the BRA said.