WGBH, a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) system affiliate and the nation’s largest national PBS content-provider decided to consolidate its entire operations from 12 scattered buildings in Allston to one $85 million state-of-the-art headquarters at Brighton Landing. The building, designed by the Polshek Partnership, of New York, marks a strategic gateway for Boston along the Massachusetts Turnpike corridor. Along with television, radio, and internet programming, the building design itself incorporates a fourth medium of content – a “digital skin” that uses slow-moving LED displays that ultimately enhance this gateway experience. In its new home, WGBH continues to be a major employer within Brighton and Allston and has opened its operations to providing meeting and function spaces to the local community.
VHB provided strategic permitting assistance for all site-related local and state project approvals, as well as site/civil and traffic engineering, planning, and survey services. Integrating these disciplines, VHB navigated the “alphabet soup” of permits, including the BRA’s Article 80, Boston Zoning Commission, Boston Civic Design Commission, Boston Landmarks Commission, Public Improvements Commission, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Water & Sewer Commission, Boston Environment Department, Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review, and Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation review.
Like any complex multi-disciplinary project, consolidating WGBH’s operations is not without challenges. As a dual-site facility, the building design includes a two-story connector that spans Guest Street and a “digital skin” displaying dynamic programmed images. Although City guidelines discourage these design elements, the WGBH team convinced all regulatory agencies, commissions, and stakeholders of their merit, resulting in unanimous project approvals. In addition, in the final stages of permitting, a critical land acquisition emerged when it was discovered that the CSX Railroad Corporation still held underlying ownership of Guest Street. Working with project counsel, VHB prepared the necessary plans and documentation to help negotiate a nominal fee purchase of Guest Street from CSX.