City Realty developers made slight alterations to their proposed development at 3193 Washington St., but were still met with hostility from community members who raised concerns over gentrification and City Realty’s reputation during a community meeting.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) held the June 6 meeting at 3134 Washington St. for City Realty to present its updated proposal and for the community to ask questions and make comments. The changes since the project notification form was filed include three fewer housing units, one more parking space, and a different location for the parking entrance.
The updated proposal calls for demolishing a one-story commercial building and replacing it with a five-story, 12,992-square-foot building with 25 parking spaces and 58 bicycle spots. The 46 units would consist of mostly studios at roughly 520 square feet and one-bedrooms at 650 square feet. There would also be 3 three-bedrooms. The condos would all be sold at about $620 per square foot. The project would be 17.4 percent affordable, which translates to eight affordable-housing units, slightly more than what is required under the City’s affordable-housing policy.
The ground floor would have 3,290 square feet of retail/office space, which has increased since the original plan. Parking lot access has also changed from the original plan, and would now be off Montebello Road instead of off Washington Street.
The project will need several variances, including for excessive height and not meeting the minimum parking requirement.
City Realty, working with Embarc Studio, filed the project with the BRA on April 21. Due to demands from residents at the meeting, City Realty has agreed to another follow-up meeting and the comment period has been extended.
Josh Fetterman of City Realty began the presentation with a 20-minute summary of the company’s previous well-doing in the community. The summary was met with contention from several audience members who argued that it was a waste of time and that other BRA meetings had followed a similar trend where the developer speaks at length, but the meetings get cut off before every resident has a chance to ask a question or make a comment.
Residents also expressed disapproval of City Realty’s professional behavior in the past, specifically related to 26 School St., a decrepit property that City Realty bought and redeveloped. A tenant from the building said that she and her family had been in the unit for two months not knowing exactly how much the rent would be, and expressed displeasure over the fact that there had been no official rental agreement signed between tenant and landlord.
“If you want community support, you need to provide a long contract and rent that tenants can afford,” she said.
City Realty has a spotty reputation in Jamaica Plain. The company bought two buildings at 3106 and 3152-3160 Washington St. in 2014 and engaged in lease negotiations with businesses in the buildings, while simultaneously initiating eviction processes. Following public protests and a City Council hearing, the businesses and City Realty were able to resolve the situation.
Gary Utler of the BRA said that the 26 School St. problem was a discussion that needed to happen between the landlord and the tenant, and is not related to the 3193 Washington St. project discussion. Many other community members in the room disagreed, and thought that previous landlord experience should be taken into account in assessing the project, and therefore should be discussed.
Several residents pointedly asked the developers how the development benefits the community. Fetterman said that it funnels revenue to the City for infrastructure and increases the housing stock. He also said that nobody would be displaced from their homes as a result of the project.
The community overall was dissatisfied with the answer.
“This is destroying the community,” one resident said. “There aren’t families living in one-bedroom micro-units; you’re not interested in building a community at all.”
There was significant demand for more three-bedroom units.
Another issue that was brought up was whether or not the review process for the development would be subject to the pending guidelines of the ongoing JP/Rox planning process, which would introduce new zoning for developers to abide by.
Uter said “[the developers] will not be faulted for failure to comply with the JP/Rox process.”
Sarah Horsley, a resident on the advisory group of JP/Rox, questioned why the BRA was green-lighting so many condos. Another resident mentioned the BRA rebranding process, saying “maybe [the BRA] shouldn’t spend $600,000 to improve your image, maybe [the BRA] should do less green-lighting and more planning.”
Several representatives from “Keep it 100% for Egleston,” a group of mostly young people fighting gentrification in the area, also attended the meeting.
For more information about this project, visit bit.ly/1NRR2LW.