4-Story Building at James’s Gate Site Wins OK From Neighborhood Group

Rendering of proposal for multi-use building at 5 McBride St., as of Dec. 7, 2016

Stefanov Architects

Rendering of proposal for multi-use building at 5 McBride St., as of Dec. 7, 2016

The old James’s Gate Pub will become 11 condos plus ground-floor retail in a four-story building approved this week by a key neighborhood group.

The Zoning Committee of the JP Neighborhood Council voted 8-2 with one abstention to recommend support for a plan by local developer Stephen Ballas to transform the site at 5 McBride St. The proposal has been on the table for roughly a year.

Wednesday marked at least the fifth community meeting about the project. While condos are nothing new in JP, the size of the proposed development and fact that it takes the place of a well-known pub have focused attention on the project.

The initial proposal had five stories – not the four that passed muster with the JPNC at a Wednesday meeting held at Farnsworth House, a senior living facility just over a block from the parcel in question.

Rendering of previous proposal for The Gate, 5 McBride St.

Stefanov Architects

Rendering of previous proposal for The Gate, 5 McBride St.

The development is slated to have the same name — “The Gate” — as a new pub to be opened soon in Egleston Square by a former co-owner of James’s Gate.

The proposal now goes to the Zoning Board of Appeals. That downtown board holds actual power to accept or reject the project. The JPNC, while elected, serves as an advisory panel. Its recommendations are usually – but not always – adhered to by City Hall.

The developer agreed to increase the affordability of one of the units as a condition of gaining the JPNC’s blessing. Two of the 11 units will be offered at what Boston considers “affordable” prices. Specifically, both units would be offered for sale at a price affordable to someone making 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The developers had previously said one unit would be at 80 percent while the other would be sold at 100 percent of AMI.

The development’s ground floor will have retail space. Architect Doug Stefanov said no tenant has been secured for the commercial space. Plans call for 12 parking spaces.

The approved design includes a feature variously called a “parapet,” “crown” or “prow” by meeting attendees. The feature juts up from the fourth floor so that the peak stands roughly where a fifth story would have ended. The city’s design review board will have to agree to the proposed look.

The JPNC committee voted in support of the project over the objections of several residents who attended the meeting. Dick Monks, for instance, said he would like the building to keep to the three stories allowed by current zoning.

“I continue to be very opposed to this project because it’s doing to change the neighborhood forever,” Monks said. “Having a big box like that means that the next people who come in are going to build a big box like that.”

Julie Voss, who lives on McBride, echoed Monks’ concerns.

“That doesn’t look like my street,” Voss said of the renderings on display at the meeting. “That doesn’t look like my neighborhood. I know we’re not in the old JP … [but] it’d be nice to see some softer architectural details.”

While opinions differed among those in the room about the aesthetics of the proposal, many attendees agreed it was a step up from a previous five-story plan floated by the developer.

“I think it’s much improved from last version that we saw,” said resident Marie Turley. “This is still larger than what the community is asking for and they have concerns about the materials. It isn’t Manhattan, it’s JP at the point of a turn.”

The lot, at 5 McBride St., sits along South Street, just down from St. Thomas Aquinas Church and the South Street housing development.

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  • EHA11

    I personally like the look of this building. Excited for some new growth and life on South Street, which is in my back yard. It’s been very sad looking for a long time, especially after the closing of the Gate.

  • resident

    Any chance the retail space could be a grocery store? I’d love a mini stop and shop or something reasonable