CPCAY: T plans to sell Arborway Yard

FOREST HILLS—The community organization that helped the MBTA create a long-stalled plan for a new bus yard in Forest Hills has concluded that the T intends to sell the land rather than ever build the facility.

Instead, the Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard (CPCAY) is calling for the MBTA to stop spending any more money on the Arborway Yard site, and will ask the City to conduct a master plan that includes fresh development ideas for the site.

“We really believe that the T will not move forward with a permanent facility,” CPCAY member Pam Bender told the Gazette. Instead, CPCAY believes the T eventually will sell the entire property and move the bus yard elsewhere.

But, Bender added, CPCAY has not met with the MBTA in “some time” and has no direct evidence of the agency’s intentions.

“Our conclusion about the T not moving forward is just our opinion,” Bender said.

MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo did not respond to Gazette questions.

For the same reasons, CPCAY has decided to “take no position” on member Allan Ihrer’s alternative plan to move the bus yard to American Legion Highway. Bender said CPCAY considers the alternative moot since it believes the MBTA will not build a facility at all.

The Arborway Yard, at the Arborway and Washington Street, is currently home to an MBTA administration building and a decade-old “temporary” bus maintenance facility. After 15 years of stop-and-start planning with CPCAY, the MBTA has yet to build a permanent bus facility there.

The plan includes a garage priced at well over $200 million, as well as handing about 8 acres of the site over to the City for new parkland and development.

The project remains unfunded with the MBTA in a perpetual budget crisis. But in 2011, the MBTA unsuccessfully sought federal grant money to complete the bus yard, a move made with CPCAY backing. And this year, the T began spending $33 million budgeted for Arborway Yard site preparation, including demolishing the 500 Arborway office building.

In addition, the MBTA told the Gazette earlier this year, in response to Ihrer’s alternative plan, that it will not move the bus yard due to the cost increases that would result.

However, Bender said that CPCAY does not believe that any of those moves mean the MBTA intends to build a permanent facility in Forest Hills.

The federal grant application, she claimed, was “put together by the City…The T did very little work on it.”

As for the rest, Bender suggested the MBTA is simply delaying until it can sell the Arborway Yard to take advantage of the booming real estate around it.

“What will make the T move [forward on any plan] is when that property gets too valuable for the T to keep using it as it has been,” she said.

The CPCAY will ask the City to conduct a master plan for that area so that “when the T finally decides to do something, we can be ready,” Bender said.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is already considering conducting a Washington Street master plan at the request of the local Stonybrook Neighborhood Association. That group, which counts Ihrer among its members, strongly supports his alternative plan to move the facility.

It is unclear how a new master plan would affect the existing Arborway Yard plan. The part about redeveloping the 8 acres of land is detailed in a legal agreement between the City and the MBTA. And the existing plan was folded into the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative, a previous BRA project that established some development guidelines for the Forest Hills area.

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