WCI submits development plans

David Taber

FOREST HILLS—Local developer WCI Corp. formally submitted its plans for a commercial development project south of the Forest Hills T Station last month, kicking off a public comment period set to end Feb. 17.

WCI’s proposal calls for two 40-to-45-foot office buildings with ground-floor retail on two parcels of land flanking Washington Street on the Arnold Arboretum side of the stations.

The plans—available at the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) web site (www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org) and at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library—are more detailed but largely unchanged from the proposal presented by the developer at a community meeting last summer.

The project is being reviewed by the city because it is over 20,000 square feet, the threshold under city zoning for small project design review. As part of the design review process, another community review meeting will be held Feb. 3, 7 p.m. at the State Lab at 305 South St. [See JP Agenda.]

On the larger parcel, on the Arboretum side of the street, WCI plans to build an approximately 32,000-square-foot, 3.5-story building with a large ground-floor retail space.

Last summer, WCI principal Kevin Walker said financing that project would probably be dependent on finding an anchor tenant for the 7,000-square-foot ground-floor space. He said he would like to attract a small grocer.

Walker told the Gazette last week that WCI has not yet found a tenant.

On the other side of the street, the developer plans to build a smaller, approximately 12,000-square-foot building. That is about 400 square feet larger than WCI proposed last summer. Walker said at that meeting that WCI plans to move its offices into that building and would have no problem financing the construction. “We have strong financials,” he said at the time.

WCI is a Jamaica Plain-based developer and contractor that specializes in office space for non-profits. It has built at least seven residential and commercial buildings in JP. The development team also includes local architecture firm Forte Architecture/Design and local landscape architect Ray Dunetz.

The increase in the size of the smaller building brings the project’s total size up to just over 44,000 square feet. That is still under the 50,000-square-foot threshold that would trigger a more extensive large project design review process under city zoning.

WCI was the only bidder on close to 6 acres of MBTA-owned land around Forest Hills put out to bid last year after a contentious years-long BRA-run community process to develop guidelines for development in the area.

The MBTA previously planned to put the remaining parcels back out to bid early this year, but MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette market conditions are not yet ripe.

“At this point, there is not a great deal of interest on the part of the development community. As economic conditions improve, staff will be looking to re-issue the [invitation to bid],” he said in an e-mail.

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