It was high noon for the 3200 Washington St. LLC development team on Tuesday.
At exactly noon the Zoning Board of Appeals opened testimony that lasted over an hour for and against the largest development in the history of Egleston Square, estimated to cost $23 million: Three buildings from 5 to 6 stories high with 73 rental apartments and three for-sale townhouses on a sloping 3/4 acre site at Washington St and Montebello Road.
At 1:15 pm the ZBA voted to grant the requested variances 6-1. ZBA member Bruce Bickerstaff voted no.
At the hearing elected officials took their stand through surrogates.
City Councilor Matt O'Malley, who lives in and represents JP, said yes.
City Councilor at-large Michael Flaherty said yes.
The mayor's office said yes.
State Sen. Sonia Chang Díaz, D-Second Suffolk, was neutral. She wanted the project deferred until after the Washington Street corridor planning process was complete.
City Councilor at-large Stephen Murphy said no.
State Representative Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain, was also neutral about the project. The only elected official to appear in person and the only one to attend all the public meetings on the project, she also wanted it deferred until after the Washington Street corridor planning process was completed.
As in the past, the development team of Paul and Justin Iantosca and Dan Mangiacotti did not speak. Their spokesman was attorney Joe Hanley. In his opening presentation he reiterated what he has said throughout the Article 80 process. "The site is a complex one but a very good opportunity for this section of Egleston Square."
"One of the unique aspects of it," he said, was that the topography gives an "opportunity to mitigate the height of the buildings."
He went on to say, "My client is very proud that he can move an existing business, E+J Auto to another location [1891 Columbus Ave., now Santana's Auto Service]. There will be no displacement and we will provide much needed housing."
Hanley said "there are 170 letters of support, including Egleston Square Main Streets and area businesses... the entire development has been through an intensive 14-month long Article 80 process with 20 community meetings."
He added that he "respects those who have advocated for 100 percent affordability, but we have 18 combined affordable units - 12 on site - in excess of the city requirement."
These are marketed to those earning 67.5 percent of the area median income.
"I don't make the rules," he added. He went on to say that the three townhouses would be for sale at $183,000 aimed at those earning $57,000 a year.
Hanley emphasized that this was a privately financed development with private investors.
Architect Kevin Deabler of RODE Architects called 3200 Washington St an "edge development that will add to the vitality of Egleston Square."
ZBA chairwoman Christine Araujo asked about the breakdown of the rental units.
- 17 studios at 650 square feet
- 11 one bedroom @ 850 s.f.
- 36 two bedroom @ 1050 s.f.
- 12 three bedroom @ 1250 s.f.
- He added that 60 percent of the units would be two- and three-bedroom apartments.
In closing remarks Hanley said that his client has made modifications to address the neighbors' concerns about height and parking; notably the reduction in height from 76 feet down to 67 feet.
ZBA member Eugene Kelly said, "this project is not out of bounds with other projects in the area that we have supported. It's in keeping with what already has been approved on Washington Street [referring to The Commons at Forest Hills and the Flanagan and Seaton site.]"
Chairwoman Araujo said she would limit public testimony for and against to four speakers each after elected officials spoke. She said she would pass around a sheet for anyone to sign their name and address and whether they were opposed or in favor. [This writer saw the sheet which seemed evenly divided between for and against. However it was not certain if this sheet was reviewed before the vote was taken 30 minutes later.]
Jullieanne Doherty from the mayor's office of neighborhood services representing Jamaica Plain said Mayor Marty Walsh supported the development. She noted that there had been "a good amount of extensive Article 80 review process [that] resulted in multiple changes." She said that Chief of Neighborhood Services Jerome Smith "encouraged the development team to continue working with the community."[This writer learned before the hearing started that Egleston Square residents had met with Doherty and Smith Friday to discuss the neighborhood opposition to the buildings.]
Speaking through Rosy Gonzales, the community organizer for 3200 Washington St LLC, Enrique Nunez, co-owner of E+J Auto Tech said, "We have been treated very well by the developers." He said his garage will get a much better site for their business. "This project is very good for the neighborhood."
Tim Reardon from Beethoven Street spoke enthusiastically in favor of the project as a "15-year resident of Egleston Square." He said that last week the Egleston Square Main Streets voted in support of the development.
"This is a huge step in the right direction for Egleston Square," Reardon said. "The density precedent was set as early as 2003." [Referring to 3033 Washington St., a five story housing over commercial space building on the other side of Columbus Avenue, completed in 2005]
Scoffing at the advocates for 100 percent affordability, Reardon said "that would mean $ 4.2 million in subsidies or 10% of the [state subsidy] budget." He emphasized that the "affordability ratio is double what is required" and makes this development more affordable for most renters than anywhere else.
Resident John Reese spoke in favor of the development and added that there is "nothing inherently expensive about Jamaica Plain."
Joesph Feaster, who said he owned property on Elmore Street in Roxbury, said the development is "extraordinary...it meets all the variances required" and he urged approval."
Malia, JP's longtime state representative, opened for those in opposition in a very pensive mood.
"I'm not opposed to this per se," she said. "But there's a struggle to push back in Egleston Square...It's like the 'Gold Rush' here. I'm concerned about balance and about all the other development going on starting with Forest Hills with Parcel U and The Commons and Flanagan and Seaton; these are all a half mile from this location [3200 Washington St]. Any more needs to be reconsidered; we need to complete the Washington Street corridor study."
Scott Shearing of Brookside Avenue said "only two groups - Egleston Main Streets and Washington Street businesses - support this project. Not a single resident group supports this. The [Jamaica Plain] Neighborhood Council did not support this project. This does not feel [like] neighborhood support."
"They say this will add to the vitality of Egleston Square. There already IS vitality in Egleston Square."
"This is bad for Egleston Square," said an Atherton Place resident. "The Zoning Board exists to protect the public interest...for the people who live here. Do not vote on this today unless it meets the needs of the community."
Resident Alvin Shiggs said,"This is above and beyond any other development in Egleston Square. It will accelerate gentrification by raising rents and obstructing diversity. I beseech you; do not grant these zoning variances. It is not in the best interest of Egleston Square."
In an unusual move, the chairwoman said "we will take a brief rebuttal from the applicant."
Attorney Stephen Miller said his client "has made significant changes. There are many who support this. We respect those who oppose this; but 100 percent affordability subsidies really can't happen."
"We are trying to meet the needs of the community. District Councilor O'Mally supports it. The mayor supports it. It's extremely important that the ZBA support this project."
And it did.
Now this development team - which has not built or renovated anything bigger than a six-family house - has to raise an estimated $23 million, demolish and clean a contaminated site, relocate an existing garage, begin and complete construction and lease out 73 apartments and sell three town houses.
Within the half mile described by Malia are three developments approved within the past year: Parcel U on Hyde Park Ave and Walk Hill St., Flanagan and Seaton at Washington and McBride St. and 3389 Washington St. None have been started yet.
Now there is a fourth.
Jamaica Plain News has extensively covered the 3200 Washington St. development process. Here are all the file articles.