Parcel U plans short on affordable housing

May 24, 2013
By

FOREST HILLS—Plans for a former MBTA parcel currently do not meet Forest Hills Improvement Initiative (FHII) Use and Design Guidelines for affordability, to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s (JPNC) concern.

Developer Urbanica’s president, Kamran Zahedi, told the Gazette that Urbanica’s plans include developing the site to include 120 housing units, 25 percent of which would be affordably priced. The FHII guidelines, a Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) plan completed with community input in 2008, ask for 150 housing units, half of which should be affordable.

Urbanica agreed to pay the MBTA $1.05 million for “Parcel U,” bounded by Hyde Park Avenue on the east and Ukraine Way on the north and extending just south of Walk Hill Street in January.

Jamie Lionette, a member of the JPNC, expressed concern that the plan for Parcel U did not meet the affordability recommendation at the JPNC’s April 30 meeting. At the March meeting of the JPNC’s Housing and Development Committee, headed by Lionette, there was discussion of sending a letter to BRA Director Peter Meade, though it is unclear whether that letter was actually sent.

Zahedi did not comment on the JPNC’s concern in an email exchange with the Gazette.

BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler told the Gazette this week that Urbanica has not yet filed any plans with the agency. Once it does, the project would be subject to community input as part of its approval process.

Schuler added that the FHII are guidelines, not hard rules, but that they will “certainly be part of the conversation.”

Of the planned 120 housing units, 64 are planned for sale, eight of which would be affordably priced. Fifty-six units would be rentals, 23 of which would be affordable. Urbanica is also planning 10,000 square feet of commercial space and up to 130 parking spaces, Zahedi previously told the Gazette. Construction is planned to begin in the spring of 2014.

The FHII guidelines state that the parcel should include locally-supportive businesses such as hardware stores, bookstores or dry cleaners. The guidelines also state that 4,000 square feet should be set aside for community use, such as a day care facility. They further recommend 130 residential parking spaces; and for 30,000 square feet, or 24 percent of the parcel’s area, to be left as open space.