One developer under fire puts heat on another

October 12, 2012
By

The developer behind a controversial luxury condo plan for the former Blessed Sacrament Church is rallying the opposition to another controversial luxury project at 161 S. Huntington Ave., according to emails obtained by the Gazette.

Peter Roth, whose New Atlantic Development is at the center of a gentrification debate over his church plan, is also chairman of the board for the Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA), a nonprofit historic preservation advocacy group. Wearing that hat, he is opposing Boston Residential Group’s plans to build high-end apartments at the former Home for Little Wanderers site on S. Huntington.

“Sounds like they’ve decided to ignore community support [for changing the S. Huntington plan],” Roth wrote of the Boston Redevelopment Authority in a Sept. 6 email to BPA staffer Judy Neiswander, calling for activists to show up to a City meeting “en masse to speak passionately in opposition to the project.”

And when the project heads to the City’s zoning Board of Appeal, “you/we also need to gather a crowd to vocally oppose the project,” Roth wrote.

Roth did not return a Gazette phone call.

Roth and his Blessed Sacrament partner, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, have been criticized for a lack of public input into their own development plans. They recently apologized publicly for that.

Neiswander, a JP resident, forwarded Roth’s email and other comments to members of a citizens review group advising the City about the S. Huntington project, as well as to some elected officials and other activists.

“I have received approval from the chairman of my board [Roth] to clear my desk and devote myself to defeating this…,” Neiswander wrote in a Sept. 24 email about the S. Huntington project.

Historic preservation is at the heart of Roth’s stance. His church plan preserves most of the exterior of the historic building. Boston Residential Group’s S. Huntington plan involves demolishing a historic building.

The BPA has voiced support for Roth’s church plan.

Edit: A previous version of this article stated that Neiswander had bolded and underlined part of her email. Those highlights actually were added to the email, without notice, by the source who provided the email to the Gazette.

Best of JP 2014