Community wants apartment projects reviewed together

April 27, 2012
By

S. HUNTINGTON—Community members said they would like two apartment projects proposed for S. Huntington Avenue to be reviewed together at a Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA)-organized meeting on April 11.

The developers presented various demolition alternatives for the Home for Little Wanderers site as required by the Boston Landmarks Commission’s (BLC) process. About a dozen community members asked the developers to preserve at least part of the 1914 building.

While the meeting was scheduled to discuss the proposed luxury apartment building planned for 161 S. Huntington Ave., concerns over the proximity of a very similar project at 105A S. Huntington Ave. dominated community comments.

“To even consider this without knowing what’s behind the curtain” of the 105A S. Huntington Ave. project is “really difficult,” said Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) member Joseph Wight.

“The BRA should wait to have both projects filed and consider them together,” said JP resident Kevin Wolfson. “I’m asking the BRA to exercise its authority and protect the community.”

“It’s really unfair to the community to comment on one project without having information on the other,” said JPNC member Francesca Fordiani.

BRA spokesperson John Fitzgerald said that conflating the two projects is not possible—the project proposed for 105A S. Huntington Ave. has not yet been filed—and not fair to the developers.

A Letter of Intent for 105A S. Huntington Ave. has been submitted to the BRA, outlining a proposal for 190 to 200 luxury rentals, featuring mostly one- and two-bedroom units.

The project under review for 161 S. Huntington Ave., the current site of Home for Little Wanderers complex, proposes 190 to 200 luxury rentals, mostly studios and one-bedrooms.

The developers also announced the projected range for the rentals. A 550-square-foot studio would rent for $1,900 to $2,200. One bedroom units would range from $2,000 to $3,500, depending on the square footage—the developers are planning for three different sizes. A 1,100-square foot two-bedroom would rent for $2,500 to $4,000.

Twenty-six units, or 13 percent, are planned to be affordably priced, per the City’s guidelines.

Various community members asked the developers to increase the number of affordable units to 25 percent, per the JPNC’s recommended guidelines.

Curtis Kemeny, president and CEO of Boston Residential Group, the developer of the project, said he is “willing to talk about” that increase.

As part of the BLC process, the developers also presented three different alternatives that attempted to preserve and repurpose the existing buildings to varying extents, from keeping only the façade of the 1914 building to repurposing as much of the existing buildings as possible.

The developers said all the alternatives were not fiscally feasible, as they paid “a significant financial sum” to buy the land from the Home for Little Wanderers, Kemeny said.

“If the land were cheaper, we’d be able to do something smaller,” he said.

The site was assessed by the city last year as worth over $8 million.

Sarah Kelly of the Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA) asked the developers to create at least one more alternative plan in an effort to save at least part of the historical buildings. About a dozen other community members asked the developers to preserve the buildings.

The complex, known as the Knight Children’s Center, appears to have no official historic protections. Demolition review is required by the BLC due to the buildings being more than 50 years old. The BPA frequently advises the BLC on its decisions.

The developers, who have hired an arborist to manage the trees on the property, said the two dozen mature oaks along the Jamaicaway side of the property will be protected as much as possible during and after construction. Fifty-three other trees would be cut down and replaced by 73 new trees.

The developers have meetings scheduled in May with the Jamaica Pond Association and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee.

Information on both S. Huntington Avenue projects is available on the BRA’s website, bostonredevelopmentauthority.org.

Tags: ,