Residents object to Forest Hills development

FOREST HILLS—Developer Fred Starikov of City Realty Group presented plans to turn 38-42 Hyde Park Ave., at the intersection with Weld Hill Street, into a four-story, mixed-use building during a community meeting May 22.

Local residents voiced opposition to the fourth floor, which would need a variance as the area is zoned for three stories. And some attendees questioned the reputation of City Realty Group, including a displeased former tenant.

About 10 people attended the community meeting at 38-42 Hyde Park Ave., which is currently a one-story building that used to be the home of Yang’s Martial Arts Association. It has been vacant since that business moved to Roslindale in November 2012.

The proposal was scheduled to go before the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) June 3, but Starikov’s lawyer, George Morancy, said City Realty Group would ask for a deferral. He said that the company had been trying to have the City host a community meeting, but to no avail.

“We will work with you,” Morancy told the attendees. “There is no way this will go forward June 3.”

He said with the deferral, a hearing in front of the ZBA would probably be rescheduled for sometime in September. Morancy said that would give City Realty Group time to hold a community process and go before the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s Zoning Committee.

The proposal presented at the community meeting would demolish the existing structure and replace it with a four-story building. The first floor would have commercial space towards the front facing Hyde Park Avenue, while the back would have a seven-car garage with an exit on Weld Hill Street. The next three floors would house nine residential units.

“It is a shell of a building [right now] and we will do something nice with it so the area benefits,” said Starikov.

But local residents immediately objected to a variance allowing a fourth floor, saying to do so would set a precedent for other developers to follow.

“If we allow one, then it opens it to others,” said Michael Wheeler.

Tess Pope echoed Wheeler’s sentiment.

“I, and many other people, feel hostile to a fourth floor,” she said. Pope said later that if Starikov agreed to do only three floors, “you will not have a fight.”

Other attendees questioned City Realty Group’s reputation, citing poor Yelp reviews and noting that the company has owned 38-42 Hyde Park Ave. for a year, but did not remove snow during the past winter.

Starikov said that City Realty Group had a contract with a snow removal company that was paid and was unaware that snow was not removed at the property.

Starikov called the Yelp website an “online mafia” and said that many of the reviews were for the real estate agent business part of City Realty Group. He said City Realty Group used to have 60 brokers and now only has about a handful.

But Julia Ryan gave an in-person review of City Realty Group. She said when she was a tenant at its property at 3907 Washington St. in Roslindale, there were bedbugs and other sanitary problems and that the company tried to evict her.

Starikov responded that that property had a renovation done after City Realty Group acquired it from a bank and that Ryan was part of the first batch of new tenants at the building. He said that bedbugs are a sexually transmitted disease, but before he could continue, he was shouted down by chorus of “no” from the audience.

At that point, resident Eben Kunz interceded and said that whether “you are a dirtbag does not matter.” He said that Starikov could do anything “as-of-right,” meaning a proposal that did not need a variance, but noted that if he wanted to do the four-story building, he would need to garner the attendees’ support.

1 comment for “Residents object to Forest Hills development

  1. Othemts
    June 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

    I live in the area and think it’s a waste that the main streets of JP (Hyde Park Av, Washington St, South St, and Centre St) have so many single story commercial buildings. I think it would benefit the neighborhood to have those replaced with buildings that hold commercial/retail property on the ground floor with 2-3 floors of residential space above. This would help address issues such as the shortage of affordable housing at a time when many more people wish to live in the city and housing costs are skyrocketing, while providing a level of density that will support local business and encourage improvements to public transit. And four stories is not unprecedented in the area. Fordham Court near the intersection of South St and New Washington is four stories high and several houses on Hyde Park Av have basement levels above the sidewalk and are essentially four stories as well. The Forest Hills MBTA station itself is even taller than a four-story building. So if a door is opened to allow 3-4 story buildings on JP’s main streets, I think that would positively address some real problems without adversely affecting the character of the neighborhood.

    I think the real problem here is the sketchiness of the City Realty Group. There needs to be a way to identify ethical developers and property managers and lure them to Jamaica Plain, while excluding ones that have a bad track record. Ultimately, this is a good plan with a bad planner.

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