Community responds to revised plans

October 20, 2006
By

LOU MANCINELLI

JACKSON SQ.—Jackson Square Partners presented updated Jackson Square development plans and listened to comments and suggestions from a crowd of over 70 community members comprised of youths and adults at Bromley Hall Oct. 11.

The crowd questioned the group’s ability to finance the development and also praised the hard work and vision of the developers.

“These are plans to create a beautiful new community at the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury border that can be a proud home for 1,500 to 2,000 families,” said Richard Thal, executive director of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) as he welcomed community
members.

Jackson Square Partners repeated what they told the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council last month: they plan to file the master plan with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) by the end of November, activating the official process of raising funds and city approval. “Before the next step we want to share the plan to make sure what has been said in small meetings has been captured,” said Mossik Hacobian, of Urban Edge.

Plan changes
“We have done a lot of work since the last time we talked to you,” said Bart Mitchell of Mitchell Properties, referring to the technical engineering studies that have been completed on the Jackson Square land over the past year. Technical engineering studies analyze the land and ask questions like, “Can we build here? Is it clean? Is it damaged? If so what do we need to do to repair it?” said Mitchell.

The changes are a response to the information gathered from the studies, according to Mitchell. Specific plan changes include reconfiguring the youth and family center and parking, as well as Amory Street. The core of the original plan calling for just under 400 new homes and 60,000 square feet of retail space for the development of the 6.5 acres of land still remains.

The youth and family center, which had been figured at 40,000 square feet, has been cut to less than 20,000 square feet. The change was made in order to increase the building’s efficiency and to curb costs, according to the JPNDC.

What was underground parking for 530-600 cars is now two two-to- three-story above-ground structures for around 500 cars. This change was necessary due to underground sewers and water pipes where the underground parking would have gone, according to Jen Faigel, community development director at the JPNDC. The final change would expand Amory Street one-way into Centre Street, allowing for the creation of small stores.

The rest of the Jackson Square plans presented last week remained as in the past, with proposals for buildings on both sides of Columbus Avenue with ground floor retail and mixed income housing on the upper levels and plans for an indoor recreational facility that may house an ice rink part of the year. Mitchell said the team is still discussing how to activate the facility year-round.

Community responds
“Are there any plans for permanent job creation?” asked one audience member. “Is there any sort of development beyond retail?”

“It is a hard question,” said Faigel. “The JPNDC has a variety of different small business development programs… There are construction jobs… You can put local people in the businesses… We even had the idea of empty market space in some opening spaces.”

“I have a tremendous respect for your effort,” said Steve Meacham of City Life/VidaUrbana. He asked the team if they were going to get any closer to the 70 percent affordable housing availability the original plans and community suggestions designated. The overall percentage of affordable housing has been lowered to 58 percent.

“Most of our work at the JPNDC and at Urban Edge is dedicated to affordable housing,” said Faigel, “but part of the plan is making the vision real, and to be real, we have to pay for the project.”

“If I don’t have a car, how does this work for me? What makes me choose walking or public transportation?” asked Debbie Lubarr.

“We plan to redevelop the sidewalks and public spaces where the result will be a fantastic, safe, pedestrian-oriented area,” said Mitchell.

One audience member questioned the lack of funding.

Partners representatives said think they will receive needed state dollars as well as other charitable donations. They said they have talked to possible funders and showed them redevelopment plans. Discussions are continuing, said Faigel.

Another audience member asked if there was a way to showcase the art of youths and members in the community, perhaps with a mural.

Faigel said that was a possibility but was something to be discussed at future meetings.

The next step
Partners plans to file a project notification form with the BRA by the end of November. This will begin the permitting process, according to Hacobian.

“We know there are a lot of challenges ahead of us,” said Thal in closing, “but we know there is a wonderful community pushing and supporting us.”

Best of JP 2014