Neighbors of 76 Stonley Road project want triple-deckers instead of proposed development

June 24, 2016
By

By Josie Grove

Special to the Gazette

The words “We want triple-deckers” were repeated at least a dozen times from attendees during a community meeting about the decidedly non-triple-decker development proposed at 76 Stonley Road. But the developers shot down those calls, saying it would not be financially feasible to build triple-deckers.

The public meeting was held on June 15 at the English High School by the Boston Redevelopment Authority as part of the small project review process.

Thirty neighbors listened to developers John Morrissey and Bryan Austin and Lucio Trabucco of Nunes Trabuco Architects discuss the proposed 31-unit apartment building at 76 Stonley Road.

Situated just behind the MBTA’s bus depot and among several small service stations, the five-story building would be the first residential building on Stonley Road. Trabucco, after meetings with nearby residents last month, tried to make the building look more like the neighborhood of triple-deckers. The building would be covered in clapboard, he said, and many of the units would have balconies.

Those initial meetings brought more than just facade changes, said Trabucco. The building’s average height was reduced by six feet when Trabucco cut half the building down to four stories. The building now includes a second three-bedroom apartment, and a fifth affordable apartment out of the total 31, which is slightly more than the minimum under the City’s affordable-housing requirement. But those changes were not enough to win neighbors’ approval.

Residents who spoke at the meeting thought the building too tall, too big for the lot, and with too many housing units.

“It’s too large,” said Lucinda Brown, a concern that was echoed by many of the neighbors. “It’s an attractive building, but it’s a little too large for the footprint.

Ruth Page was concerned about the height of the building, but even more about the car traffic that would come from 31 new households in a neighborhood of narrow streets.

The developers explained that finances were such that they had to find a way to fit a lot of apartments onto the lot.

“If it would have to be triple-deckers, you wouldn’t make any money,” said Morrissey. “Nothing would happen, and it would stay like this for another 50 years.”

Austin said, “We’re taking a chance here, bringing in residential.”      Among those chances include up to $1 million in environmental remediation to make the site healthy for residents, according to the development team.

Phil Cohen, the BRA’s representative at the meeting, echoed him.

“It’s about the balance between what the neighborhood wants and what can be financed,” he said.

Morrissey insisted it would not be financially feasible to build triple-deckers on the lot, or even three-story row houses.

“There are going to be changes,” Austin said. “We are more like Washington Street and the bus yard than the three-family homes.

But residents at the meeting disagreed vehemently.

“Maybe it’s complementary to what’s going to be there in five years,” said Chris Wallingford. “But not what’s there now.”

Neighbors also hoped that the JP/Rox neighborhood planning guidelines, which aim to create a cluster of maker spaces and residences in three- and four-story buildings, would shape the project.

“If we have a plan, and the plan becomes zoning, they will have to take that into consideration,” said Cohen.

But the three-month extension to that planning process means new zoning will probably come too late to make a difference for the project.

“We care about these industrial parcels. They’re part of our neighborhood,” said Page. But many expressed doubt that the BRA cared as much.

“I don’t trust the BRA,” said Nancy Allen.

The BRA is accepting comments about the project until June 30. For more information or to make a comment, visit bit.ly/1UuDJTK.

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