We now have design drawings for the proposed Residences at Forest Hills, which would include 260 residential units and 55,000 square feet of commercial space -- and the developer is soliciting input and responding to residents' comments online.
The development would be located in the current LAZ parking lot at the corner of Washington Street and the Arborway across from the Forest Hills T Station. Currently, the 2-acre lot is primarily used by commuters and has parking for 300-plus vehicles. The developer has filed a letter of intent for the project with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
According to Criterion Development Partners writing on the site coUrbanize, the development would include:
- 260 rental apartments in three buildings over a parking garage with 140 parking spaces.
- On-site amenities including a fitness center, yoga studio, clubhouse with teaching kitchen, gathering areas, theater room, bicycle storage and bicycle maintenance areas, and electric vehicle charging stations.
- Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhouses.
- Market-rate, affordable and workforce housing opportunities.
- 5,500 square feet of street-front retail/restaurant space for local merchants intended to complement the neighborhood retail offerings abutting the project site along Washington Street.
"We spent the last several months introducing the project to our residential and commercial neighbors and we received invaluable input regarding the neighborhood and the project context," the developer writes. "We are using the coUrbanize platform as a means to complement our outreach efforts and look forward to hearing from all interested parties."
Among the suggestions the developer has received for the commercial space are an artist space, a foods-to-go establishment, a daycare, a pharmacy and a dry cleaner. "We'd like to hear your thoughts on what will benefit the neighborhood," the developer writes.
In the letter of intent, Criterion Development Partners said the firm has engaged for several months with area residents, including members of the West Roxbury Courthouse Neighborhood Association, and sent a letter of introduction describing the project to 230 homeowners on several nearby streets, including Orchardhill Road, Bremen Terrace, Lennoco Road, Tower Street, Woodlawn Street, Asticou Road, Yale Terrace and Morton Street.
On the Jamaica Plain News Facebook page following our initial story on the proposal, residents on a couple of adjacent streets stated that they did not receive letters of introduction from the developer.
Already, a number of neighborhood residents have chimed in on the coUrbanize platform, which is intended to foster community engagement by bringing residents, real estate developers, city planners, and municipalities together online. Among the comments and responses already registered on the site, with direct responses from the developer:
Resident: "The scale of the project at the rear of the site is too large compared to the scale of the triple deckers behind and the adjacent ranch homes on Orchardhill. The proposed six story appears to significantly scale above the adjacent homes."
"I am in favor of the path from the project up to Orchardhill Road. I would like to see that kept in the design to connect pedestrians to the Forest Hills T and proposed retail. I would like to see more detail about the proposed secondary parking access to Orchardhill Road. This should only be an emergency exit. I would also propose that the drive should be grass pavers and not asphalt so that it disappears into the landscape. The parking garage door should not look like a blank door."
Developer: "The existing homes that back up to the site on Orchardhill Road sit approximately 15 to 20 feet higher than the site. This difference in elevation offsets the relative height of the proposed buildings. We are also dropping the height of the building and eliminating one floor as we get closer to our Orchardhill Road and Tower Street neighbors."
Based on input from our neighbors we made several changes to our original proposal – we moved the buildings farther back from Orchardhill Road, relocated the service activities internal to the site and eliminated the driveway on Orchardhill Road. With these changes, it may not be possible to provide a sidewalk into the site from Orchardhill Road. However, if there is a consensus from the neighbors we can revisit this. We are working with the City to confirm that they are comfortable with the elimination of the driveway on Orchardhill Road. If required to do so, we can accommodate this driveway in the current layout. The suggestions about grass pavers and the garage door design are appreciated and will certainly be considered if we move forward with this access.
Resident: You do not mention the impact on Tower Street's adjacent residences, for whom the line of trees behind 18-20-24-26 Tower provide a buffer from the existing parking area. The current parking lot is a quiet neighbor, especially on weekends, while your project will likely bring noise, lack of privacy, and loss of tree barrier. In addition, your project removes the parking for the funeral home business which is an anchor for our street. [Mike West says he has spoken to you: "Nice guy", is his comment.] It is hard to see any upside for us."
Developer: Thank you for your comment. It is our intent to maintain the existing tree buffer behind the Tower Road residences to maintain privacy for these neighbors. Additionally, we believe there is a benefit to the residents of eliminating the environmental impact of 300 cars. As you’ve also noted in your comment we’ve talked to Michael West and understand that the funeral home uses the parking lot for overflow parking. We are looking at options to accommodate this activity and will work with Michael as we move forward."
Head on over to coUrbanize to read the full discussion and to learn more about the project.