Hotel plan croaks another Boston parking lot

February 14, 2020 Tom Acitelli

Aerial rendering of a new building popping up in a dense city streetscape.BPDA

The nine-story addition with 77 rooms off Portland Street is also the latest in a number of Boston-area hotel projects

Say so long to another Boston parking lot.

The Onyx Hotel at 155 Portland Street in downtown will fill a 5,478-square-foot lot adjacent to the inn with a nine-story, 77-room addition under plans that the Boston Planning and Development Agency approved on February 13.

An affiliate of Boylston Properties acquired the lot in June 2019 for more than $46.75 million, and then proposed the addition in September. The expansion will bring the Onyx’s room count to 189, with a total gross floor area of 91,000 square feet, and will also mean what its owner has described as “a reorganization” of the existing lobby.

Interestingly, too, Boylston does not plan to add any on-site parking for the 77 new rooms, but to go with existing spaces. Finally, the expanded portion would also look both au courant and contextual.

“The project building will be distinctly contemporary, but will take cues from the substantial, handsome commercial buildings framing historic Portland Street,” Boylston’s initial filing with the BPDA said.

The Onyx expansion adds to the number of Boston parking lots that developers are repurposing. Lots in Bay Village, Fort Point, Back Bay, Dorchester, Roxbury, and elsewhere are either on the market as de facto development sites or already spoken for. Part of this is due to the sheer value of the land—the lots’ owners are cashing in on a booming Boston.

The other is due to changing parking norms, especially in downtown Boston. The introduction of Uber, Lyft, et al, in recent years has disrupted how those visiting and moving through Boston get around by car, and public policy has swung decidedly against maintaining sweeps of parking at the expense of other uses.

The Onyx expansion is also the latest in a number of hotel projects to advance recently in the Boston area.

These include the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, which will be the largest new Boston hotel since 1984 when it opens next year; the development of a Raffles-branded hotel at 40 Trinity Place; 907 Main, the first boutique hotel in Cambridge’s Central Square; the 391-room One Kenmore Square in Boston’s Kenmore Square; the Newbury Boston, a redo of the old Taj; and a four-month renovation of every room and suite at Back Bay’s Mandarin Oriental.

And why not? Boston’s hotel occupancy rate stood at 70 percent at the end of 2019, according to consultancy Pinnacle Advisory Group, meaning the vast majority of rooms were spoken for on any given night.

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