By Sara Selevitch
Special to the Gazette
Roughly twenty people gathered in the English High School cafeteria on Aug. 16 to discuss revisions to the 76 Stonley Road project proposal, with most attendees agreeable to the new plan. Development team members Bryan Austin and Lucio Trabucco made their way through several of the community’s concerns over the hour-and-a-half long meeting and addressed their team’s response to each.
One of the biggest concerns addressed was the issue of integration. In response to criticism that the building’s design was not cohesive with the neighborhood’s aesthetic, Austin and Trabucco redesigned the building’s facade.
“Our design was initially more of an industrial nature; now it has more of a triple-decker feel,” Austin said.
The new plan also features expanded balconies, which would allow for more outdoor activity and encourage a community atmosphere. Other changes include lowering the height to four stories, reducing the number of units to 28, eliminating the proposed retaining wall on the Stedman Street side, creating setbacks to allow more green space, and installing sets of steps for each unit on the first floor.
The steps, Austin said, are intended to “[break] the building up into more of an individual unit feel and [make] the building feel smaller.”
The team also decided to relocate the building’s main entrance from the end of Stonley to the Brookley Road side, in the hopes of making it more visible and safer for residents. Along the same lines, they will be adding a sidewalk and crosswalk to reduce traffic and encourage more pedestrian use.
“We also heard that there wasn’t enough family-friendly housing and that families would have to leave the area after growing out of a two-bedroom unit,” Austin said.
Their response is to add 2 three-bedroom units, one of which will be priced as affordable housing.
That led to another change of the plan: adding one more affordable unit. With five affordable units overall, the building is now priced at 18 percent affordability, 5 percent more than the City’s affordable-housing requirement.
“I’d like to congratulate you for lessening the number of units from 31 to 28, while adding an affordable one,” Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) member Fred Vetterlein said.
“It’s beautiful that they are willing to be flexible with the fifth unit,” BRA project manager Phil Cohen added.
Though the addition is certainly a victory, it points to a common question surrounding the neighborhood’s recent development: what “affordable” means.
Cohen explained that affordable prices fall within 70 percent of the area median income (AMI). However, he said, the numbers are based on Boston and several surrounding communities—meaning the AMI is not specifically indicative of Jamaica Plain. Rent for a two-bedroom priced affordably would fall around $1419 per month.
On the whole, those people in attendance seemed satisfied with the new plan.
“I like it now,” Vetterlein said. “I like the height, I think it was brilliant putting in separate entrances…it’s just made the whole thing more accessible.”
General agreement aside, a few issues still need to be worked out. SNA co-chair Jennifer Uhrhane pointed out that the proposed six-foot sidewalks fall below the City minimum requirement. Discomfort was also expressed about the building’s large glass entryway and the lack of a pathway to get to the building’s yard.
The comment period regarding the revised plan is open until today, Aug. 26, at which point the BRA will have an internal discussion and eventually a design review. For more information about the project or to make a comment, visit bit.ly/1UuDJTK.