The Forest Hills area might be in line for another massive residential development, as Criterion Development Partners has preliminary plans for a 260-unit project at the LAZ parking lot, which is across from the Forest Hills T Station at the corner of Washington Street and the Arborway.
“The Commons,” a 283-unit development, is currently under construction across the street.
Jack Englert, an owner of Criterion Development Partners, said in a phone interview that he has had six meetings with groups and individuals in the area about the project and that the reaction has been “fairly positive.” He said that Criterion plans to file a project notification form with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in “45 days, maybe 60 days.”
He also said that he has sent out a letter to residents in the area about the project and that the letter hasn’t “had too much response.”
The Gazette first learned about the project from a Forest Hills resident who received a letter from Englert. In the letter, Englert describes himself as a longtime Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury resident and that the project involves about 260 rental apartments in three-, five- and six-story buildings over a single-level underground garage with some additional surface parking spaces.
“This presents an opportunity to turn an open asphalt parking lot which draws cars from outside the community into something that will not only enhance the existing area but activate the highly visible corner of Washington Street and the Arborway,” Englert writes in the letter.
The letter states that the project has several goals, including creating “quality housing at a reasonable market rate,” developing affordable and work-force housing, having family-sized housing, building an “environmentally conscious green building, having 6,000 square feet of retail, and maximizing “reliance on public transportation, ride-share and bike-share opportunities.”
“We understand that our plan will be best informed by those who live closest to our proposal and look forward to speaking with the neighborhood in the future. Our goal has been to do that before we begin any formal process,” the letter states.
The letter also touches on a meeting with the West Roxbury Court Neighborhood Association. Forest Hills resident Jerry O’Connor was at that meeting and said in an email that the project was “fairly well-received.”
“Jack and Criterion appear to be taking what I’d call an ‘appropriate’ path of engaging with the abutters and neighbors before proceeding with formal plans,” he said. “As with any significant development, there will be issues of traffic, parking, affordability and the like. Also with the emphasis on housing and the lack of retail in the current set of ongoing developments, I personally feel that we absolutely have to have an adequate retail presence on the ground floor of this development.”
O’Connor went on to say that it would probably be premature to further characterize the project or the interactions with the neighborhood and developer right now, but “I’d say that things are off to a decent start in general.”
Nick Martin of the BRA said in an email that the agency has had “preliminary” talks with the developer about the project.
“We’re aware of the proposal to redevelop the property and have had preliminary conversations with the proponent,” he said. “While nothing has been filed with the BRA to begin the formal review process for the project, our planning and development review staff are making sure the proponent is aware of the principles emerging from the PLAN JP/Rox process so that the proposal is informed by this information. We look forward to fostering a conversation with the community after we receive a Letter of Intent to start the Article 80 process.”