Last Major Piece of Jackson Square Would Bring MIT-Style Architecture to JP

Facade of the high rise facing the parkland. 225 Centre st at far left.

JPNDC

Facade of the high rise facing the parkland. 225 Centre st at far left.

The transformation of Jackson Square would continue with development of the last major piece of the puzzle bringing some MIT-style architecture to this side of the Charles.

“Great work is happening in the past year,” said Richard Thal, executive director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, Tuesday night at a public meeting to describe the final plan for Jackson Square Phase III.  This is two buildings set around a courtyard at Amory and Centre streets. They will be developed by JPNDC and The Community Builders.

“Eleven years ago the BRA [Boston Redevelopment Authority] designated us to put together a viable plan for new a neighborhood that had been torn apart [by I-95],” Thal said.

The scattered site totals 11 acres.

Thal said three buildings have already been built:

  • 270 Centre St. – Designed by Studio G completed in Oct 2012. Thirty units of housing including 10 for the formerly homeless.  [almost 1400 applications were received for those 30 apartments]. Developed by JPNDC.
  • 225 Centre St. – Designed by ADD inc. Completed in 2013. 103 units 68 of which are market rate. Developed by TCB.
  • 1542 Columbus Ave. – Jackson Commons – Prellwitz Chiilinski architects. Opened in Sept 2015.  37 apartments. Developed by Urban Edge.

Under construction is 75 Amory Ave., with 39 affordable apartments developed by JPNDC.

In the last five years, since the January 2010 groundbreaking for the first building of the Jackson Partners plan, $105 million has been invested to rebuild that neighborhood in the aftermath of I-95. And 209 apartments have been occupied.

Jackson Square III site plan of buildings parks and streets. Every space points to the city center

Icon Architects. Jackson Partners.

Jackson Square III site plan of buildings parks and streets. Every space points to the city center

“Site III,” continued Thal, “is the last piece of the puzzle. The largest piece. One of the biggest challenges is new infrastructure torn up for the highway, water and sewer and new streets.”

Noah Sawyer is senior project manager for TCB, in partnership with JPNDC to build out phase III. He said that since the 2014 plan, one parcel is no longer available, the adjacent former tow lot. Since 2011 it has been cleared of junk cars, paved and striped for monthly parking but to date not used.

“So where we’re at [is] less land [26,600 square feet; over an half acre] but we want to build the same number of units.”  The solution he said is two buildings: a tower on Centre Street and walk-up apartment block at the rear of the site.

“In 2007 the plan proposed 189 units but this has been reduced to 183; 108 of which will be affordable,” Sawyer said. “We heard a lot of comments [since the March 2014 community meeting] and one of them was about more green space.  We had to struggle with the spaces  to accommodate everything we want on a smaller site.”

Area plan of Jackson Square showing Phase 3 in context

Jackson Partners.

Area plan of Jackson Square showing Phase 3 in context. Check marks the location of the tow lot originally included in the 2014 plan. O marks 225 Centre St . 270 Centre St is top middle

Architect Kendra Halliwell of Icon Architects said the new plan will be two buildings of 144 apartments and a new roadway. There will be 102 parking spaces; 52 of which under the 6-story tower building (to be numbered 250 Centre St.)

She said there will be a 3,000 square foot plaza that she called the “forecourt of the tower building and the main entrance.” The plaza will face Jackson Square station and also be an entry to the parkland. The park is large; 75,000 square feet of grass trees shrubs and walkway between the tower building and the Orange Line boatdeck.

 Elevation of the 4 story walk up apartment block as seen from Amory St, Centre St is on the far right.

Icon Architects

Elevation of the 4 story walk up apartment block as seen from Amory St, Centre St is on the far right.

250 Centre St. will be a 6-story residential building characterized by five tall, white, overlapping bays with enormous picture windows “to face out to the city of Boston.”  The west elevation facing the park will be built of grey metal paneling broken up by scattered projecting square window bays of green and white metal.

The plaza, the angle windows of the parkside elevation, the metal walls and the five overlapping 6 story bays facing Centre Street and Columbus Avenue will be the most distinctive and certain to be the most controversial building in Jamaica Plain.  An iconic building designed by Icon Architects.  MIT comes to the Latin Quarter.

 The 250 Centre Street and its story overlapping window panels with the entrance plaza. This is the view from Jackson Sq station.

Icon Architects

The 250 Centre Street and its 6-story overlapping window panels with the entrance plaza. This is the view from Jackson Sq station.

The Amory Street facade will be a 4-story attached walk-up townhouse style with rhythmic bays clad in traditional brick on 3 stories and lighter metal walls on the fourth story to give the illusion of a lower building.

The tower building will have ground floor retail and Halliwell talked about outdoor seating and inviting commercial uses in spaces built out with tall windows. The Tower and connecting parkside wing do not connect with the 4 story rowhouse-style walkup block but will create a sheltered arrowhead shaped courtyard. The buildings together point out to Centre Street. The courtyard will be lushly planted, as Deborah Myers the landscape architect explained. the wider end faces south for more sun and  better afternoon light for the apartments. Myers is also designing the parkland the extends from the Centre St plaza to the edge of 75 Amory Ave homes

Sawyer said there is a lot of infrastructure work to be done. The biggest hurdle is an old sewer line that extends diagonally across the site under the location of the 6 story building. This will require moving the sewer away from that foundation.

Jackson Partners have met with Boston Water and Sewer Commission about moving the line closer to the Orange Line boatdeck  parallel with Stony Brook culvert. Sawyer said that “BWSC is comfortable with moving the sewer line” but how and when this is done and who pays for it is big impact on project cost. This is the biggest question facing Jackson Square III.

Sawyer could not answer audience member Nat Hailey’s question about the total development cost for this final design.

“I have no definite answers. We have to find ways to keep the costs under control and increase affordability. This is intended to be two interrelated projects,” Sawyer said. “JPNDC will develop the low rise and TCB will do the mixed income building.”

Another question to resolve is Amory Street.  The motor entrance on a new private road will come off Amory.  Halliwell said it was a public street and the development team has been in contact with the Boston Transportation Department to see how the street might work.

“Will it connect to Centre Street? Will it be 1 way or 2 way?  We would  love it to connect to  Centre Street. It’s a tough intersection for them [BTD],” Sawyer said.

The meeting was sparsely attended but there was a lot of discussion about the parkland. Marc Ebuna of 225 Centre St. was pleased with the building design but hoped the parkland could be less static and have more design uses programmed. He suggested a children’s play space. He did not want just paths, trees and benches; this is not successful open space in his view.

Sawyer said that Jackson Partners will submit a Notice of Project Change to the BRA in December that will outline the new design and the smaller site. He said this will trigger the Article 80 Large Project Review process and neighborhood meetings. He said in the meantime the two partners will  be lining up financing. He said construction should start in 2017.

“Isn’t that overly optimistic?”asked Hailey.

“We didn’t get anything done around here without being optimistic,” said Sawyer. “There is a five year window, but we have a lot of momentum. We will need city and state funding but this is a high priority for them. They have already put a lot of resources” into Jackson Square.

Richard Thal ,Director of JPNDC " A lot has happened ."

Richard Heath

Richard Thal ,Director of JPNDC. ” A lot is happening this year.”

Noah Sawyer Sr Project manager TCB " We have smaller site but we want to build as many affordable units .

Richard Heath

Noah Sawyer Sr Project manager TCB \” We have smaller site but we want to build the same number of  affordable units .”

Architect Kendra Halliwell of Icon Architects.

Richard Heath

Architect Kendra Halliwell of Icon Architects.

Landscape Architect Deborah Myers.

Richard Heath

Landscape Architect Deborah Myers.

Ken Tangvik. Hyde Square Task Force asks a question baout the sewer pipe. "Will public action help?" Left to right. Tangvik; Ann McKinnon Urban Edge board member;Frank Shea, Urban Edge director and Kate Provencher Urban Edge senior staff

Richard Heath

Ken Tangvik. Hyde Square Task Force asks a question about the sewer pipe. “Will public action help?” Left to right. Tangvik; Ann McKinnon Urban Edge board member;Frank Shea, Urban Edge director and Kate Provencher Urban Edge senior staff

Jackson Square III site at Amory Street. , 225 Centre St in the background.

Richard Heath

Jackson Square III site at Amory Street. , 225 Centre St in the background.

Jackson Square IIi site from Centre St. The tower building would be built her. The land is currently leased by the BRA to Interstate trucking Company.

Richard Heath

Jackson Square IIi site from Centre St. The tower building would be built her. The land is currently leased by the BRA to Interstate trucking Company.

1931 property atlas showing in red the sewer line and in blue Stony Brook culvert.

GW Bromley Real Estate Atlas.

1931 property atlas showing in red the sewer line and in blue Stony Brook culvert.

[Editor’s note: We’ve updated the figures for new units and how many will be affordable because incorrect information was given out at the meeting.]

  • Monster

    108 out of 144 units are to be “affordable?” Aren’t there already approximately 10 billion low-income housing units in the Jackson area? Why not some middle-class housing to mix things up a bit?

    • hydesquare

      Because, silly, the more poor people (i.e. people of color) they can jam into Jackson Square means there’ll be fewer of them living in and bringing down property values in precious pond side and moss hill. We like diversity in JP, just so long as it’s nimby.

      • Monster

        So…the JPNDC is actually a covert wing of the monied class whose secret agenda is ghettoizing the poor. Not a very convincing conspiracy theory.

        Obviously JPNDC is taking land where they can get it and building units to meet the needs of the existing population (for obvious reasons, abandoned and unused parcels/properties tend to be found in poor areas anyway). However, I think decades of urban planning have shown that building zones of high-density poverty, no matter how well-intentioned, just isn’t a good idea.

        • hydesquare

          Conspiracy? Well, if you say so (I sure didn’t).
          Consider the Centre St. building across the street from Lakeville Rd. When the JPNDC was renovating it 10-20 (+) years ago and the pondside ‘concerned citizens’ fought tooth and nail to quash the affordable component.

  • Non-Profit Kingpins

    “$105 million has been invested to rebuild that neighborhood in the aftermath of I-95. And 107 apartments have been occupied.”

    Good job non-profit builders: spending $1 million per unit to build sub par housing. Only in JP could this happen without people going to jail…any other developer in America could have built >500 units of housing with that money but Urban Edge needs a shiny new office. Why do nonprofits get a pass with your tax dollars and local builders are the enemies?

    • Matt

      $1M+ to build per unit of affordable housing. That is absurd, not sure the condos in the millennium tower cost that much to build.

      • HoneyFitzer spritzer

        Someone needs to stand up to the non profit mafia. This has gone too far. If they spent $1 million per unit we need to know how much Richard Thal was paid and where he hid the rest of the money!

    • Hugo_JP

      I’m really hoping that the “$105 million for 107 apartments” quote in the article has been somehow taken out of context or misconstrued. If not, the Commonwealth and other funders should really take a long hard look at how JPNDC and its partners are doing business.
      Can Richard double check that citation?

      • The Avenger

        Of course it’s not taken out of context. This is the dirty little secret no one wants to acknowledge. Everyone pounds on all the builders who use there own money to build and then people demand to know why everyone cannot build 100% affordable units. But the reason is Richard Thal and urban edge spent all the subsidy money filling up a pool with gold coins and swimming in it like Scrooge mcduck.

        • concerned citizen

          I find this number very concerning. Why does it cost $1 million to build 1 unit of housing by these non profit builders? If money is being misused by these folks it could set back the whole cause of affordable housing…

    • Monster

      A recent Globe article discussed how land values in Boston have made it basically impossible to build anything other than ultra-luxury housing or subsidized housing, because the only way developers can make a profit is by either selling very high-end finished properties, or by taking big government handouts.

      Of course, the government subsidies help prop up land values for large parcels like the ones near Jackson, so expect more Millenium Towers and more housing projects, and little in between.

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  • Richard Heath

    Thank you all for your comments. I reviewed my copy of the story and there have been 209 units completed NOT 104. The addition was wrong, The total development cots of $105 million is accurate.
    Richard Heath. Reporter

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