Washington St. project divides community

November 7, 2014
By

A proposed development along Washington and Green streets that has stirred controversy for more than two years continued to do just that during a Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) community meeting Oct. 30.

The proposal by developer Walter Craven calls for two buildings at 3371-3375 Washington St. and 197-201 Green St. that would have four commercial spaces, 20 residential units (three of which would be affordable) and 24 parking spaces.

The project will need several variances, including for excessive height, forbidden use and insufficient parking.

Craven was not at the meeting. His development team said he was in California.

About 40 people attended the meeting at Curtis Hall. More people appeared to be against the development than for it, but just slightly. Those against the project tended to be abutters to it, and complained about its density. Those people for the development mostly pointed to the city’s housing crisis.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Liz Malia criticized the BRA for its “helter-skelter planning process” and the lack of a Washington Street corridor planning study, which she said she has advocated . The BRA had said earlier this year that a Washington Street planning study might be in the works, but nothing has come to fruition yet.

Malia said that it is hard to go ahead with the Washington and Green streets development without a better concept of the other proposed projects in the area and the impact they will have on existing businesses and residents.

“This is not a planning process,” she said. “This project is not taking place in a vacuum. I think there are really valid, outstanding questions that haven’t been answered.”

Shane O’Brien, who lives on Union Avenue next to the proposed site, was on the verge of tears when speaking against the project. He said that the density of the project was the issue he and his neighbors had against the proposal.

“It hasn’t changed in two years,” said O’Brien. “They can give something up. They don’t want to. I can’t see that as acceptable.”

He said that the neighbors are trying to “protect our rights” and that “no one is listening.”

“We are asking to give stuff up and get nothing in return,” said O’Brien.

Brian Murray, a Boston Public Schools teacher who lives in Jamaica Plain, spoke in favor of the project, saying he has colleagues who have had to quit their jobs and move out of the city because a lack of adequate housing.

“Build this and build as much as you can,” he said.

Bernie Doherty, a Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member, was against the project. He said that Craven is asking the community to “entitle him” through supporting his variances and that the “community doesn’t have to accept that.” He said that if this project was happening in other areas of the city, like Moss Hill or Beacon Hill, there would be an uproar.

“People are concerned that they feel like they aren’t getting a fair shake,” said Doherty.

Bill Reyelt, a JP property owner who was involved in a previous City “livability” study of the Washington Street corridor, spoke in favor of the proposal, saying he thought that it was an “important project” because of its location and the chance to add to the city’s housing stock.

“Washington Street is poised to become a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented area,” he said.

The comment period for the project ends Nov. 10. To make a comment, email [email protected], call 617-918-4311 or visit bit.ly/1EfK1AZ.

A sketch of the proposed Washington Street development. (Courtesy Image)

A sketch of the proposed Washington Street development. (Courtesy Image)

Archives