The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee ultimately approved on Aug. 24 the proposed development at the old Goddard House building on South Huntington Ave with a close 5-4 vote, despite some neighbors’ disapproval.
The project had already been approved by the JPNC Zoning Committee and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), but needs to jump through more review hoops because it is located within the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District (GPOD).
The developers, Eden Properties and Samuels & Associates, have plans for a $62 million renovation and expansion of the former Goddard House nursing home property, transforming it into a multi-family residence to include 167 rental apartments. Of the 167 apartments, 22 units are slated to be affordable. That is the minimum under the City’s affordable-housing policy. A spokesperson for the developers said they are “pleased” with the Zoning Committee’s decision.
The Goddard House project does not require variances under the new South Huntington guidelines, but was required to undergo a public review process to address the concerns regarding the GPOD. The GPOD is an area created by the Zoning Code to protect the area around the Jamaica Pond and the Arborway, and any project in that area requires a GPOD review. The GPOD isn’t technically a zoning variance, but the neighborhood and City review is still required under the Zoning Code, which is why the JPNC hosts a local process and presents feedback to the City regarding any GPOD matters.
The Zoning Committee recommended the proposal to the larger JPNC at the next full Council meeting, and the JPNC will send their recommendation to the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals, the BRA, the Mayor’s Office, and the offices of various JP elected officials.
The Goddard House controversially ceased operations in 2012 and has remained vacant since. The enormous brick building was constructed in 1927 and housed about 100 seniors.
The project would renovate the existing building, which would house 108 units, and add a new 51,000-square-foot building that would have 61 units.
The application and approval process for the project started in 2015, and the proposed plan follows the updated South Huntington zoning guidelines. Since the most recent public proposal, the development team has made some minor adjustments to the design, such as changes to landscaping and soft materials.
Kathy Seaman, executive director of abutting Mount Pleasant Home since July 1 of this year, said at the Aug. 24 meeting that Mount Pleasant home is “vehemently opposed to this project.”
Seaman said that the project is too big and too close to the property line abutting Mount Pleasant Home; that currently there is a 150 foot buffer, and the new addition would be “right on the property line,” or just 10 feet away from it.
“Condos are notoriously poor neighbors, and we have no recourse if management does not control the noise,” Seaman said.
Throughout the planning process, Merlin Southwick was Mount Pleasant Home’s executive director and involved with the project since 2015 as a member of the impact advisory group.
Members of the Zoning Committee expressed that they had not heard until that point that this was a big issue for Mount Pleasant Home.
“I think it’s kind of late in the game to attack this project when your former executive director was involved in the project since 2015,” said Zoning Committee member Kevin Moloney.
“We were under a year-long transition of leadership. This did not take priority at that time,” Seaman responded.
Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said that the conservancy has appreciated the support of the project and is in support of the project. Mauney-Brodek said that the developers have proposed to make contribution to Emerald Necklace Conservancy, up to $50,000, to support the use of the park for the public. The developers of the project have also proposed to donate to Fund for Parks.
Diana C. Pisciotta, spokesperson for the developers, said in an email after the meeting, “We are pleased to continue moving forward with the Goddard House redevelopment; the project is both consistent with the recent approved zoning for the South Huntington corridor and preserves an important building in the community. The BRA approved the plans for the Goddard House redevelopment earlier this summer; based on our conversations with the community, BRA staff and BCDC, we made modifications to the façade materials, shape of the buildings and landscaping.”
She added, “Because of Goddard House’s location within the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District, we need approval for a conditional use permit from both the Parks Department and the ZBA. Our recent meeting with the JPNC Zoning Committee was related to that process and we were pleased to have received their support.”
Pisciotta said some of the changes include a landscaped buffer along the Jamaicaway within 45-foot zoning setback, tree protection zone during construction, a tree survey to identify healthy specimen trees to be saved and diseased or invasive trees to be removed, a new tree planting to supplement existing ones, no curb cuts or entrances on Jamaicaway, and the developers will repair/replace fence and sidewalk along Jamaicaway as needed.