Abundant displeasure voiced over new design for 64 Allandale St. project

April 29, 2016
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The developer for the 64 Allandale St. project presented a revised proposal during an April 25 community meeting, but most of the 100 attendees continued to oppose the project, citing concerns about the abutting natural resource, Allandale Woods, and density.

Jacqueline Nunez, a Dorchester-based developer, filed a project notification form last summer with the Boston Redevelopment Authority for a $20 million 20-unit project at 64 Allandale St. The site at 64 Allandale St. is on the border of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. It is part of the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, as a matter of zoning.

The BRA held the first meeting on the project in October 2015. After considerable dissent from the community at the meeting, the developer and the BRA held talks about project.

During that time, the Boston Conservation Commission (BCC) ruled that a portion of the 64 Allandale St. project fell under the state Wetlands Protection Act. Nunez appealed that decision and the state Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) confirmed the BCC ruling that a portion of the property falls within a 100-foot buffer zone under the Wetlands Protection Act.

Nunez has stated she has three objectives for the development: to build 20 townhomes at net-zero energy efficiency, to have the homes certified as green buildings to the LEED Platinum status, and to use fortified construction standards built to withstand extreme weather conditions.

“I really do care, and I want to build a great project,” Nunez said.

At the meeting, the development team presented the changes to the initial project. In response to the Wetlands Protection Act ruling, the new proposal has moved a cluster of townhouses farther away from the wetlands to be in compliance with the ruling. There is also a change to the parking lot, which would be more hidden from the street than the previous proposal.

The changes do not include reduced density, which was a main community problem voiced at the previous meeting. The area is currently zoned for one-family housing, and the existing proposal would require a variance to build multifamily townhouses.

Will Holton, who lives at the abutting Springhouse Senior Living, said that the new proposal is “more dense, not less.”

“The second plan shows a lot of disrespect to those of us at the previous meeting,” Holton said. “It’s insulting to us. Five-and-a-half months later, and the plan is worse.”

Holton was not the only community member to express his dissatisfaction with the new proposal. A vast majority of the attendees at the meeting were in firm opposition to the project as presented. When Tony LaCasse, a member of the Friends of Allandale Woods group, which is opposing the project, asked attendees who are against the proposal to raise their hands, more than 80 percent did.

A handful of those who publicly commented did support the project.

“What’s being proposed here is laudable and positive,” said Dan Jamis, a JP resident in support of the project. “If this doesn’t get approved, another development will. The option here is not this development or nothing. It’s this development or some other development, which could be much worse.”

Other attendees expressed their approval of the project, but admitted their personal ties to the developers.

“We need more housing to meet the needs of a growing population,” said Mike Loconto, West Roxbury resident and friend of Nunez.

Some residents of Springhouse Senior Living expressed dissatisfaction that the developer had not tried to engage with them since the previous meeting to come to a compromise. Elizabeth Whittaker, the architect on the project, claimed that she had visited Spring House several times, but Georgia Buck, the president of the board at Springhouse, said otherwise.

“We have not heard from [the developer] in about five months,” Buck said. “[The developer] misrepresented us working together. I don’t feel like [the developer] have dealt with us in a genuine way.”

Other residents pointed out that the development of such an expensive property highlighted income inequality.

“Do we need more housing for really wealthy people? Probably not,” said Pat Newman, a Roslindale resident. She demanded to know the proposed pricing of the units.

“I don’t know. Market rate,” Nunez directly responded. When pressed from the attendees, she estimated that the units would be sold from the low $700,000s to $1 million, and noted that she would be required to build 2.6 affordable units, according to the City’s affordable-housing policy. The BRA has a commitment from the developer to do two affordable units on site, with the remainder as a buyout to the City’s affordable-housing fund.

There were also several comments expressing distrust of the BRA process of approval.

“Zoning is to protect individuals, not to protect developers,” said Chip Bradish, a JP resident. “Twenty units on a small parcel of land abutting wetlands is greedy. He asked the developers to “please scale it down.”

In response to several comments about the developer’s greediness, Don Wiest, attorney for the developer, said that “any house on this site would sell like hotcakes,” but the goal is to “give a quality product back to the city and meet the rising needs of the population—that’s not greedy.”

Alan Wright, a Roslindale resident who is in favor of the project, noted that climate change is a problem, and it’s a progressive European style to live in dense areas surrounded by nature.

“Any accusation of selfishness is unfair—what’s selfish is single family buildings being built on the spot,” in regards to the environment. “I think the changes the developers made were respectful.”

Chris Tracey, senior project manager at the BRA, said that his committee at the BRA did not feel like the project was ready to present to the BRA board, and that the next steps have not been determined.

The comment period is open for the project until May 5. To submit a public comment, write to Chris Tracey at Christopher.tracey@boston.gov.

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