Real estate today: City: Norbert School project needs variances

March 29, 2013
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HYDE SQ.—The City has ruled that the plan to turn the Norbert School building into 21 apartments needs two zoning variances. But the developer, Norbert School Associates, still says that is not the case.

Meanwhile, the developer has agreed to include two affordable units in the project. Who will subsidize the units is still being worked out, according to Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) spokesperson Sally Swenson. The JPNDC co-owns the former Blessed Sacrament Church campus where the 20 Sunnyside St. Norbert building is located.

The project is in violation of dimensional application (two or more dwellings on the same lot) and forbidden use (dwellings in basement per inconsistent plans), according to an Inspectional Services Department (ISD) letter dated March 11.

Dave Traggorth, project manager for the proposal, said he has not seen the letter, but said that  “we’ve done the math on all of the issues” and “we are in compliance.”

“We have an as of right project,” he said, meaning a project that does not need variances.

Traggorth said discussions will continue with ISD and that he hopes to get the issue resolved as soon as possible.

“We don’t think we need to go in front of the [Zoning Board of Appeals],” he said.

If the project does need variances, more public meetings and hearings are required.

Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) spokesperson Melina Schuler said once that ISD issue is resolved, the BRA will make a decision whether to hold the developer to the City’s requirement of having at least 15 percent affordable housing in residential projects.

Targgorth agreed that that issue should be addressed after the ISD matter is settled, but revealed that the developer has already agreed to two affordable units.

Norbert School Associates had said at a BRA community meeting in November that, given the purchasing price, offering affordable housing is not a viable option, but that the developer would look at it. There was significant public opposition during the November meeting to not having any affordable housing.

The Norbert building is located at 20 Sunnyside St. on the Blessed Sacrament Church campus. Traggorth said some people know the building as 26 Sunnyside St., but that ISD lists the property at the former address.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and New Atlantic Development purchased Blessed Sacrament Church campus in 2005. The Norbert building originally housed the COMPASS School, but it left in 2009, leaving the building empty.

Damola Curtis contributed to this article.

This article has been updated with JPNDC comment on the affordable units.