Huge parking lot set to be auctioned

February 5, 2010
By

David Taber

City has long anticipated redevelopment

FOREST HILLS—The nearly 2-acre Fitzgerald parking lot across from the Forest Hills Orange Line T Station is scheduled to be put out to bid in a foreclosure auction March 3.

The lot has long been eyed by community members and the city as a possible site for redevelopment, and was the subject of a three-year community planning process establishing guidelines for new development in the Forest Hills area.

It was scheduled to be put out to bid at a foreclosure auction Jan. 28, according to a legal notice that appeared in the Boston Globe Jan. 6. The decision was made to postpone the auction on Jan. 28 prior to the commencement of bidding, said Bruce Barnett, a lawyer from local firm DLA Piper, which is representing LNR Properties, the Florida-based company that called the auction.

According to the notice, the lot owner, FitzInn Parking Systems—known in the property deed as Parking Lots SPE LLC—is in default on repayment of a 2006 mortgage. Three other companies—LNR Massachusetts Partners, a local subsidiary of LNR Properties; Countrywide Commercial Real Estate Finance and MA Parking Lots LLC—are listed on the public notice. Countrywide is acting as a “trustee” for a third party that holds the mortgage, according to Jefferson George, a spokesperson for Bank of America, which owns Countrywide.

George told the Gazette LNR is acting as the “special servicer” for the mortgage, which has been “securitized,” meaning it is owned by multiple investors. LNR Properties called the foreclosure auction, he said.

Barnett told the Gazette that Countrywide initially issued the loan, and MA Parking Lots LLC was formed to represent the investors in the loan.

Barnett and George both said the loan may have been “bundled”—included in an investment package with a number of other loans.

Another legal notice that ran in the Jan. 6 Globe indicates another Boston parking lot owned by Parking Lots SPE LLC was scheduled for auction at the same time.

According to records from Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, the lots are owned by a group of five people including W. Kevin Fitzgerald, head of FitzInn Parking Systems.

No one picked up when the Gazette called the number listed on the FitzInn web site, and Fitzgerald did not respond to a Gazette e-mail to an address listed for him on the site by press time.

The eventual fate of the Fitzgerald lot was the topic of intense community discussion between 2006 and 2008 as part of a Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA)-led community planning process known as the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative (FHII).

That process, which resulted in Use and Design Guidelines for five large parcels, including four MBTA-owned parcels in the Forest Hills area, recommends 135 units of housing in multiple four- and five-story buildings with ground-floor retail at the Fitzgerald site.

No one from FitzInn ever participated in the process. The Fitzgerald lot, the only privately-owned parcel included in the process, has been the subject of community redevelopment concerns since at least the mid-1990s.

If it is redeveloped, any proposed project will almost certainly be subject to BRA design review—a process that includes community review. The Use and Design Guidelines are intended as a preliminary guide for the BRA and the developers in that process.

Currently, only the two smallest parcels considered in the FHII process are being actively targeted for development. Local contractor and developer WCI Corp. is in the midst of its design review process for two proposed commercial and retail buildings on either side of Washington Street—on the Arnold Arboretum side of the Forest Hills T Station.

That proposal is significantly different from what was proposed in the FHII guidelines, which recommended up to 46 units of housing on the site, along with ground-floor retail. The height and massing of the building are similar to what was proposed in the guidelines.

A public meeting to review those plans was scheduled to for Feb. 3. [A report on that meeting will appear in the Feb. 19 issue of the Gazette.]

While the Fitzgerald lot is on a roadway sometimes referred to as Hyde Park Avenue, its address, according to Suffolk Deeds records and the foreclosure notice, is 3694 Washington St. The roadway in question is named Washington Street on the north side of the Arborway’s Casey overpass, but turns into Hyde Park Avenue heading south into Hyde Park. Washington Street continues on the other side of the Forest Hills T Station after South Street veers off to the west next to the station.

In another piece of potential nomenclature confusion, Kevin Fitzgerald is also the name of a late state representative from Jamaica Plain. His son, John Fitzgerald, is a project manager with the BRA who handles some projects in JP. John Fitzgerald is not involved with any projects in Forest Hills.