Letter: SNA’s ideas for improving Commons at Forest Hills

September 27, 2013
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The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) is excited to engage the development team and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in the review process for the Commons at Forest Hills project proposed for the Hughes Oil site on Washington Street just north of Forest Hills station. (“Commons at Forest Hills comment period extended,” Sept. 13.) We believe the development team’s plan sets a strong precedent for future development on Washington Street by helping jumpstart the corridor’s transformation from an auto-oriented, utilitarian thoroughfare that most of us tend to avoid into a walkable, vibrant main street that we can all be proud of.

To add positive pressure to a project that we feel is largely moving in the right direction but could use some improvements, the SNA has developed a set of priorities and requests that we are formally submitting to the development team, the BRA, and the JP community at large. Because space is short, we will summarize here.

The Washington Street frontage should be designed with an urban character: buildings should line the sidewalk and directly frame public open spaces; parking should be hidden behind buildings; and retail space should be maximized.

The housing mix should include more affordable units and more family-oriented three-bedroom units.

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) easement which runs between the two proposed buildings should be designed as a “community street” that promotes comfortable bike and pedestrian circulation and be designed to allow for a safe and convenient future connection to the proposed Southwest Corridor Park extension.

Massing on the project’s north side should step back to minimize shadow impacts on Burnett Street residences.

The development team should support the following “mitigation” initiatives to enhance their project and maximize public benefit:

  • Creation of Southwest Corridor Park extension along the MBTA corridor behind the property; public access along BWSC easement or “community street” to improve connectivity and link to Southwest Corridor Park extension.
  • Crosswalk and signalized intersection at the south Burnett and Washington Street intersection.
  • Improvement of the southerly MBTA substation’s “front yard” into attractive public open space.
  • Expanded partnership with Zipcar to add more shared vehicles to the parking mix.

The development team, the BRA, and the City of Boston have proven very accessible through this review process so far, meeting with different groups of SNA members on numerous occasions for constructive conversations that we believe are influencing their plans for the better. We would like to continue this dialogue and also invite our JP neighbors to get involved so we can ensure this development brings as much benefit to our community as possible.

Carl Lowenberg and Frederick Vetterlein, Co-Chairs

Stonybrook Neighborhood Association

Jamaica Plain