When it rains it pours on Union Avenue.
A month after a contentious public meeting about one 20-unit mixed use development at Washington and Green Streets, a second one is proposed about two blocks away at 3383-3389 Washington Street.
But rainbows hovered over the latter at the Boston Redevelopment Authority Small Project Review hearing last Thursday as many of the same Union Avenue residents who opposed the first were positive about the second.
Boston Property Development proposes a four-story building with 21 apartments and two ground-floor commercial spaces on a 17,000 square foot lot wedged between Schell Printing and Express Pizza opposite the BMS retail warehouse.
The $3.5 million dollar development would feature a fourth-floor penthouse set back from the lower floors. Plans also include 20 covered parking spaces under the second floor adjoining the retail spaces.
The new building will have strong brick face set back from Washington Street and a distinctive flat roofed bay of lighter materials set at the south corner to emphasize the residential entrance, said Peter McLaughlin of Boston Property explained after he was introduced by BRA project manager Lance Campbell. The building is designed by Studio 47 Architects of Sudbury and Jon Hansen, architect and vice president of design for Boston Property.
McLaughlin went on the say that the tower will be the signature feature of the building and it will break up the solid mass of the brick faced residential over retail building.
"We've held a half dozen meetings throughout the summer with the neighbors. We want to be neighborly," said McLaughlin.
The building will replace what he called "the infamous chicken restaurant," saying that's not the highest and best use for the property.
Hanson, the architect, said he is particularly proud of the set back penthouse that adds a fourth flour while reducing the visual height of the building. Built of lighter materials, it will be attached to the tower. The tower will be provide access to the four penthouse apartments and include one bedroom for unit #20. The setback will provide a deck for the four apartments and include a safety rail.
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Joe Hanley of Boston Property said his development exceeds the city requirement for affordable apartments. Tim Reardon of Egleston Square Main Street asked about the number of affordable units and Hanley said Boston Property is offering four apartments at the city mandate of 70 percent Boston Area Median income ( AMI).
"We feel very positive about this." said Hanley. "That's 19 percent total affordable one and two bedroom apartments."
The city's requirement is 15 percent of the market-rate units should be priced in the affordable range.
Here's a little perspective on what AMI actually means. A two-person household at 70 percent of Boston AMI would need to earn no more than $52,700 a year. A one bedroom apartment would rent for $1,190 a month. A two-member household living in a one bedroom would therefore pay $14,280 a year for rent. That's about a third of their annual income.
As meetings go this was tame. Most people were positive.
"I like the design style. The site lines are so much better," said one Union Avenue neighbor.
Rueben van Leeuwan of Union Avenue, who was very unhappy over the Washington Green proposal a month earlier, was in much better mood in favor of the Boston Property plan.
"I do find you listened to us and met our needs," van Leeuwan said. "I do appreciate that you came back to us.I fully support the project."
Union Avenue residents Janet Yardley and Harlee Strauss both spoke in favor and thought the development was "a vast improvement.. it's come long way from the Dollar store proposal."
"I don't see how anyone can have problem [with this project]" said Union Avenue resident Fred Vetterlein, who said he was pleasantly shocked to see how many of the units would be affordable.
But others had doubts.
Jacob Glickel said " I think this is great project, but you it keep referring to it as a Union Avenue project. This is more than a Union Avenue project. It's a false claim that this will serve only Union Avenue. This is more of a Washington Street project. Union Avenue has gotten a lot but this project has to go forward. This lot could fit a lot more units that it does."
Hanley said Boston Property had met six or seven times throughout the summer with the community, including the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association as well as with the Union Avenue Neighborhood Association.
The Small Project Review application submitted to the Redevelopment Authority on Oct. 22 included minutes of a meeting with the Union Avenue Neighborhood Association on June 6. Appendix C of the Small Project Application was a letter dated June 24, 2014 from the Union Avenue Neighborhood Association, which stated its non-opposition to proceed with the Article 80 review.
Marie Turley agreed that the development should have been part of a larger Washington Street corridor planning process. "We are developing piecemeal," she said.
As for the design, she said it had improved but still needs work. She urged more design review, which Hanley agreed would be done. He also said the plan will go before the JP Neighborhood Council Housing and Development Committee on Dec. 16. The public comment period ends Jan. 9. Go to this page on the Redevelopment Authority's Web site to leave your comments.
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