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.
"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."
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.
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 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.
[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.]