Concerns remain for 3193 Washington St. proposal

July 22, 2016
By

By Josie Grove

Special to the Gazette

Despite City Realty making changes to its 3193 Washington St. development proposal, attendees at a July 11 community meeting continued to express concerns over the project, including its impact on gentrification and the project proceeding without having to follow the Plan: JP/Rox guidelines.

“It seems like every week we’re here, hearing about a new luxury condo or luxury apartment,” said Jeremy Gutierrez, one of many residents growing impatient with what they see as the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s (BRA) reluctance to intervene in the gentrification of Jamaica Plain. As the neighborhood and the BRA grind through a contentious neighborhood planning process, also known as Plan: JP/Rox, that could result in new zoning to address that and other problems, developments are moving along under the current zoning regime.

Neighbors’ doubts about the plan were on full display at the public meeting on July 11.

“If Plan: JP/Rox has teeth, how can the BRA let these things go forward?” asked Gutierrez.

Gary Uter of the BRA said he hopes Plan: JP/Rox will address those issues, but the process has been postponed for three months. Meanwhile, he said, development continues.

Seventy neighbors gathered at the Egleston Square YMCA to hear developer City Realty’s revised plan for a five-story condominium building at 3193 Washington St., formerly the home of Jackson Glass and currently hosting a pop-up art space. An initial public meeting about the development in June showed a sizable gap between what City Realty and neighbors wanted from the development. The developers responded with changes to the project.

In the plan presented in June, the proposed building held mostly one-bedroom units, and only 3 three-bedroom homes. There are now 40 total condos, down from 46, and they are roughly evenly distributed between one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Six feet have been shaved off the height of the building, and it was pushed back from the edges of the lot.

Five of the units will be affordable to households making between 80 percent and 100 percent of area median income (between $70,650 and $88,300 for a three-person household). While the initial proposal included eight affordable units, the affordable units have more bedrooms, and will be available to people with lower income levels than those units in the initial plan. Josh Fetterman of City Realty said an affordable two-bedroom condo would cost between $206,000 and $265,000. The affordable housing units are not as affordable as some would like.

Danielle Summers was part of a group advocating for more affordable housing, and felt the BRA was complicit in creating higher housing costs.

“Why does the BRA advocate for developments like this?” she asked about the condo project.

Uter said that without new housing coming to market, the situation will only get worse.

“We have a housing crisis in the city of Boston,” Uter said.

“But what you’re advocating is gentrification,” Summers replied.

City Realty already had a fraught relationship with the neighborhood before proposing the development. Some current City Realty tenants read positive testimonials about the developers, but another tenant spoke at the meeting detailing her negative experience as a City Realty tenant. She has lived in a City Realty property since April, but the developers took three months to draw up a contract—in English, which the tenant does not read.          “Don’t you respect the six families in the building?” she asked through an interpreter.

Josh Fetterman of City Realty agreed to make a contract in Spanish for the tenant and to set up a meeting with her. City Realty said previous attempts at meetings between it and the tenant had “been rescheduled.”

City Life/Vida Urbana also tangled with City Realty in 2015 over its sharp rent increases to subsidized tenants. While the two groups signed a memorandum of understanding last year to resolve the issue, and the developers promised they would to contribute some kind of community benefit amenities to the neighborhood, Maria Christina Blanco, of City Life/Vida Urbana, was unimpressed, saying “a number of displacement issues” have been created by City Realty.

“From my perspective, it’s not so much about giving back to the community as not taking out in the first place,” she said.

City Realty did not respond to Blanco.

The comment period for the project ends July 29. For more information or to comment on the project, visit bit.ly/1NRR2LW.

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