BRA ‘still listening’ on S. Huntington plan

January 18, 2013
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(Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira) Protest “babies” sit under a map during the Jan. 9 BRA “corridor plan” community meeting at the Hennigan School.

The community again asked the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) for height and materials restrictions for new projects in the S. Huntington Avenue area, along with more local retail space and integrated affordable housing, during the second community meeting Jan. 9 about creating a “corridor vision.”

The BRA is conducting its “corridor study” in response to community demands following rapid, large-scale redevelopment on the street, including high-end apartment buildings at 105A and 161 S. Huntington Ave. and the undetermined future of the former Goddard House at 201 S. Huntington. The study is expected to take a few months and at least one more public meeting, but will still influence the “Serenity” project at 105A, which is currently under review, and the former Goddard House, BRA officials have said.

The second community meeting, held at the Hennigan School at 200 Heath St., was split up into four smaller groups of about a dozen people each so that BRA officials could get more in-depth details from the community.

“We’re here to develop the framework” for the corridor, BRA “corridor plan” team leader Marie Mercurio said at the meeting. “We want to hear from you. This is meant to start the discussion.”

Topics covered included transportation in the corridor, desired physical characteristics, housing affordability, parking concerns and population density. Three of the four groups explicitly requested height restrictions between four and six stories for future developments. All four groups emphasized a desire for greater and better connections between S. Huntington Avenue and the Jamaicaway.

Requests were also made to keep the physical characteristics of the area, asking new developments to use “more brick, less glass.” One of the groups suggested historical plaques to mark important sites in the area.

Mercurio said that the BRA expects to present its first draft of the suggested corridor guidelines at its next community meeting, tentatively scheduled for Wed., Feb. 13.

A BRA official stated that the Veterans Affairs Hospital and the MBTA are now being kept informed of the process.

“Serenity” developer Tony Nader and Curtis Kemeny, developer of 161 S. Huntington Ave., were not present, though a Nader representative was. City Councilor Matt O’Malley and representatives from the offices of state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, state Rep. Liz Malia and City Councilors Mike Ross, Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo were present. Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill neighborhood coordinators Jullieanne Doherty and Shayna Aubourg were also present.

Meanwhile, a “protest” featuring about a dozen children’s dolls was placed in a corner of the room. The “Babies Against Boondoggles Affinity Group,” the group responsible for arranging the dolls and an affiliate of Occupy Jamaica Plain, opposes the construction of 161 S. Huntington Ave. because of the building’s expected high rents.

The Gazette did not witness anyone else noticing the dolls.

Babies Against Boondoggles previously arranged another doll-centric protest outside 161 S. Huntington Ave. in November. The dolls have signs reading “Home For Children Not for Profit,” “Shame” and “Land Expropriation: An Idea Who’s Time Has Returned.”

The BRA’s website for the study can be seen at bit.ly/SHuntCorridorPlan.