Neighbor has issues with Goddard House project

December 18, 2015
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The owner of Olmsted Place at 161 S. Huntington Ave. has written a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) expressing concerns over the proposed Goddard House project and complaining that he was not notified of any public meetings about the project or the S. Huntington Avenue corridor study.

Olmsted Place, which was a controversial development when proposed and was built after the owner settled a lawsuit with the local neighborhood council, abuts the Goddard House property.

A BRA spokesperson said that it’s a “misunderstanding” over the notifications for the meetings and said that the BRA “looks forward” to discussing the concerns over the Goddard House project.

The developers, Eden Properties and Samuels & Associates, have plans to redevelop the former Goddard House property at 201 S. Huntington Ave. into 167 apartments.

Curtis Kemeny, CEO and president of Boston Residential Group (BRG), which owns Olmsted Place, wrote a Dec. 7 letter to the BRA saying that BRG had not been notified about any public meetings about the Goddard House project or the possible rezoning of the area through the S. Huntington Ave. guidelines process.

He said in the letter that BRG met twice with the developers of Goddard House. In the first meeting, BRG expressed several concerns over the project, including height, density, traffic, and construction noise, according to the letter. The developers had not changed anything about their plans when the two parties met for a second time, stated the letter.

Kemeny also wrote that “a consistent standard of affordability should be considered for multifamily residential projects being developed in the area.” The Goddard House is offering the minimum under the City’s affordable-housing policy.

“We strongly object to the proposed plan, and believe that significant further discussion is required before it should be allowed to proceed,” Kemeny wrote.

BRA spokesperson Nick Martin in an email to the Gazette said that the notification for the meetings “boils down to a simple misunderstanding.”

“As we do for all of our public meetings, the public meetings for both Goddard House and the South Huntington Corridor Study were always duly advertised in the newspaper, as well as on our website and on Twitter,” said Martin. “My understanding is that Mr. Kemeny thought he was signed up to receive email notifications, but he had not registered for our list. We have since added him to our distribution list so that he’ll receive email notifications in the future.”

He added that Kemeny and his team “have always been a pleasure to work with,” and that the BRA looks “forward to discussing his concerns as part of the continued public review process for Goddard House.”

Noah Maslan of Eden Properties said through a spokesperson that many meetings have been held on the project, including a publicly advertised community meeting.

“Our team has worked diligently to put together a plan for the Goddard House site that preserves the historic building, maintains important view corridors, and adheres to the South Huntington guidelines developed through an extensive community process,” he said.

Kevin Moloney of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood (JPNC), who received a copy of the letter from BRG, said he found it “ironic” that many of the issues Kemeny raised about the Goddard House are same ones JPNC and the impact advisory group (IAG) had against his Olmsted Place development.

He also pointed to the irony in Kemeny writing that the Goddard House project should be held to the same affordability standards as other projects in the other area. The settlement agreement between JPNC and BRG included raising the number of affordable-housing units for Olmsted Place, said Moloney.

Moloney said that the JPNC Housing and Development Committee recently voted against the Goddard House project because it offers the bare minimum required under the City’s affordable-housing policy.

“The Goddard House is a good project, except for the affordability,” he said.

The BRA held a community meeting for the project on Nov. 23, with most attendees speaking in favor of the project, though some raised questions over the affordability component.

The project would involve the rehabilitation, expansion, and adaptive re-use of the Goddard House, transforming it into a multi-family residence to include 167 rental apartments. The renovated and expanded Goddard House would hold 110 units, while a free-standing building would be built creating the remaining 57 units.

When facing the Goddard House property from S. Huntington Avenue, the new building would be built on the left side. One addition would be built behind the current Goddard House building, while the other addition would be built to the front right.

Additions to the Goddard House would be four stories tall, while the new building height would vary from four to six stories.

The preservation of the Goddard House building is defined as an “exceptional public benefit,” according to the S. Huntington Avenue corridor study conducted by the BRA in 2013.

The BRA is currently using that corridor study to potentially re-zone that area. The developers are banking on that happening, stating in the project notification form that the project is consistent with the zoning proposed by the S. Huntington Avenue corridor study. If that re-zoning does not happen, the project will need several variances to be approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

The project will also need approval and permits from several agencies and departments, including for new construction within the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District.

The Goddard House controversially ceased operations on Sept. 8, 2012. The enormous brick building was constructed in 1927 and housed about 100 seniors.

The project is anticipated to begin construction in summer 2016. For more information, visit bit.ly/1l01M2J.

 

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