Group forms over Wachusett St. project

April 11, 2014
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A neighborhood group is forming around the Wachusett and Wenham streets area over concerns with proposed developments, especially a project to demolish at historic house at 57 Wachusett Street, according to local resident Tess Pope.

Meanwhile, Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA), said he has spoken to the developer of that project, Stephen Ballas, and he has expressed a willingness to meet with BPA to discuss alternatives to his original plan. BPA is a nonprofit that advocates for historic preservation projects in the City.

Ballas plans to demolish the 115-year-old Victorian at 57 Wachusett St. and replace it with eight townhomes in three new buildings, which has drawn the ire of neighbors. The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) imposed a 90-day demolition delay on March 11, asking Ballas to seek neighborhood consensus on its fate. The developer is free to obtain demolition permits after the 90 days.

Ballas did not respond to a request for comment.

Pope, who lives on Wenham Street, said a community meeting was held April 3 where the 57 Wachusett St. project and the forming of a neighborhood group were discussed.

She said with several proposed multi-unit developments within a quarter-mile radius of the neighborhood, many residents feel the need to have a neighborhood group. Pope said that many other streets already have their own neighborhood associations. She said that Bernie Doherty, head of the Asticou-Martinwood-South Street Neighborhood Association and a Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member, spoke at the community meeting about how to form one.

Pope said attendees at the meeting also discussed having a “strong voice” in regards to the 57 Wachusett St. project and figuring out “what does the neighborhood want.” She said the neighborhood is not “anti-development” but does not want a development that fails to take in neighbors’ concerns, which include the demolition of a historic building.

“Can we have any type of influence with the developer? That way we can get a win-win situation,” she said, meaning that both the developer and the neighborhood could get what they want.

Galer, who also spoke at the community meeting, said in order to get anywhere with the developer, the neighborhood will need to have a unified position and not have “25 different opinions.” He said that there are “many options” for the project and that “the best solution isn’t always saving the historic building.”

“The end result is unclear at this stage,” said Galer. He said he is “reasonably optimistic” that a solution can be had between the neighborhood and the developer.

But, Galer said, the “bigger story” continues to be the lack of a master plan for the entire City that would have an “inventory of historic buildings” and include zoning changes. He said he is optimistic about that type of plan forming under the new Walsh administration.

For more information about the group, email Pope at coramohu@gmail.com.

The historic house at 57 Wachusett St. slated for demolition. (Photo by Kate Sosin)

The historic house at 57 Wachusett St. slated for demolition. (Photo by Kate Sosin)

 

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