Apartment plan draws opposition

April 13, 2012
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The high-end apartment building planned for the Home for Little Wanderers site is drawing opposition from the Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA) and Occupy JP.

The influential BPA is against demolishing the existing buildings at 161 S. Huntington Ave. to make way for a 196-unit modern apartment building.

“JP has many fine examples of creative reuse, like the Brewery Complex, that have been embraced by the neighborhood,” wrote Judy Neiswander, the BPA’s advocacy coordinator, in a letter sent today to the Gazette. “Surely a more imaginative solution could be found here as well.”

And Occupy JP is blasting the plan’s smaller units unsuitable for families. In a press statement from the local version of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it called turning a children’s home into a project without families “an ironic testament to the power of the 1 percent.”

“Occupy JP calls for the space to be filled by owner-occupied triple-deckers, a homegrown remedy to poverty with a proven record,” the statement continued. “Spread the wealth or find the homeless, orphans, widows and others sleeping on your doorstep.”

Curtis Kemeny, whose Boston Residential Group is planning the high-end apartment building, previously told the Gazette that the existing buildings cannot be reused due to their age and the difficulty of reconfiguring them.

That includes a 1914 brick building at the core of the complex. Neiswander, a Jamaica Plain resident who said she was writing with the permission of the BPA’s board and executive director, noted that several other S. Huntington Avenue institutions have reused historic buildings. She noted that the 1914 building is “a sturdy brick building of human scale that should be eminently adapatable for residential use.”

The complex, known as the Knight Children’s Center, appears to have no official historic protections. Demolition would require automatic review by the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) due to the buildings being more than 50 years old. The BPA frequently advises the BLC on its decisions.

The Home for Little Wanderers, a nonprofit child and family service agency, is relocating the Knight Children’s Center to a new facility in Walpole.

A community meeting about the apartment development was scheduled for April 11, after the Gazette’s deadline.

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