Residents voice support for Green Street project

March 21, 2008
By

DAVID TABER

BROOKSIDE—Maple Hurst Builders passed another milestone in its bid to build a 3.5-story mixed-use development on Green Street between Amory Street and Brookside Avenue this month.

The project, proposed for 154-160 Green St., is undergoing design review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). As part of that process, the BRA hosted a community meeting to review the development proposal on March 13. Support for the project was strong among the about 25 meeting attendees.

“I know people are excited about the idea of life after dark [on Green Street],” Cornwall street resident Joe Fallon said of the project, which proposes three street-level storefronts and 13 residential home-ownership units.

Maple Hurst plans to seek out a cafe or eatery to occupy at least one of the retail spots, on the corner of Green and Amory Streets. That space will be attached to a small outdoor patio, said Cheryl Tougias of Spalding Tougias Architects, the firm that drafted the proposal.

The plan was criticized by one meeting attendee, Victor Dibona, controller, or financial manager, at Carlysle Engineering, a fire-safety equipment installation company located around the corner from the proposed development at 132 Brookside Ave.

The neighborhood the proposed development and Carlysle would share is zoned for light industrial use, so Maple Hurst will have to get a variance to build a residential building there. Dibona told the Gazette earlier this month that his main concern about the project is the use. He is concerned that residential encroachment will squeeze out the remaining businesses in the area, he said.

But at the meeting, Dibona’s complaints focused on traffic and parking issues.

Noting that the plans call for 7 two-bedroom units, but only one parking space is being provided per residential unit, Dibona said he thinks the building will not have enough residential parking.

The proposed development site sits catty-corner to the Green Street subway station. In three community meetings it has held since September, representatives from Maple Hurst have consistently said it plans to market the residential units as transit-oriented development and does not expect the units will attract multi-car households. Maple Hurst head Chris DeSisto repeated this argument at the BRA meeting.

“Our experience in development is that such a project will not attract a two-car buyer,” DeSisto said.

Meeting attendee Don Wiest pointed out that while the areas zoning calls for 1.5 parking spaces per unit and 1 space per affordable unit more recent Transit Oriented Development guidelines issued by the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), recommend 0.75 parking spaces per unit in new development near public transportation.

Maple Hurst was on the design team for the nearby City Green condominium development, one of the first in JP to use the 0.75 parking spaces per unit ratio. While all of the condo units there have been sold, all of the parking spaces are not utilized, said Kristen Hunter of Maple Hurst.

One of the spaces is being rented out for canoe storage, she said.

Transit-oriented or not, one community member questioned what could possibly possess a two-car household to purchase a condominium that they knew only had one parking space.

At another point in the meeting, addressing Dibona, Fallon said that times are changing in the Brookside neighborhood.

“I know your company has been here [for decades], and that deserves respect,” Fallon said. But, he said, Brookside has become a predominantly residential neighborhood, and the Maple Hurst project will “improve the neighborhood and the quality of life for residents here.”

In addition to variances for use and parking, Maple Hurst is seeking variances to exceed height, floor-area to lot-size ratio and rear yard setback restrictions in the zoning code. The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee will review the project at its regular meeting on March 27.

The JPNC Housing and Development Committee will also be reviewing the project at its March 18 meeting. The Green Street parcel is formerly MBTA-owned land. JPNC guidelines recommend at least 50 percent of residential units built on publicly owned land be designated affordable. Maple Hurst is proposing that two units, 18 percent of the total, be designated affordable.

Both the city zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) and the JPNC are scheduled to vote on the project on April 29. The JPNC’s opinion on the project is purely advisory, but is usually weighed heavily by the ZBA in approving zoning variances. In most cases, when the full body of the JPNC has not had a chance to weigh in on a project, it requests that the ZBA defer consideration.

The BRA board is set to vote on the project on April 1, completing its small project design review. The BRA’s public comment period ends March 24.