Reaction mostly negative at Green Street dev. meeting

November 9, 2018
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Reaction was mostly negative at a Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) meeting on the proposed 23-unit, mixed-use development at 197-201 Green St. with much of the animus directed at the developer of the project, City Realty.

About 30 people attended the Oct. 25 meeting at the Egleston Square YMCA.

City Realty has plans to tear down a single-family home that is currently on the site and building a 20,480-square-foot building with four floors; a mix of studios, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units; six parking spaces; about 700 square feet of retail; and a bike room.

The 23 residential units would consist of 4 live/work units, 4 studios, 12 one-bedrooms, and 3 two-bedrooms. Four of the units would be marked as affordable, which meets the affordability requirements of the Plan: JP/Rox. Three of the units would be listed at 40 percent of area median income (AMI), while one unit would be listed at 70 percent AMI.

The project was originally filed as part of a larger development that included space along Washington Street, but City Realty has since withdrawn that proposal and is attempting to sell the Washington Street parcels. City Realty bought the Washington and Green streets site from Walter Craven, who unsuccessfully sought to develop the area.

City Realty received a lot of criticism at the meeting, with members of City Life/Vida Urbana and Keep It 100% for Egleston speaking out against the real estate company and holding up signs, such as one calling for City Realty to sign an anti-displacement plan.

“City Realty is displacing Latino families and Latino businesses,” said Alex Ponte-Capellan, a community organizer at City Life.

He said the City Realty “is the most hated developer” in the area and that the Green Street development can’t be viewed as a single project, but what the company is doing as a whole. Ponte-Capellan said there needs to be an agreement on paper that City Realty would stop displacement.

Josh Fetterman of City Realty said that the company has met twice with the Egleston Square Neighborhood Association (ESNA) to discuss community benefits and City Realty continues to seek feedback. He also said that the company is already dispersing community benefits, including giving money to local community centers.

What followed was a back and forth between attendees and BPDA project manager Lance Campbell about what said feedback constituted until George Lee of Keep It 100% for Egleston said a list would be compiled and sent to BPDA.

A letter from the Green Street Renters Association addressed to the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, BPDA, and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals was read aloud at the meeting by group member Amy Arrington. Reading from the letter, she said the group opposed the development until City Realty comes to an agreement with ESNA over its business practices, the fate of the Washington Street site becomes known and whether it will be turned into luxury housing, and concerns over how the development will affect the safety of pedestrians and cyclists are addressed.

But the reactions were not all negative at the meeting, with several supporters appreciative of the project meeting Plan: JP/Rox affordability and bringing much-needed housing to the area. Zack DeClerck said he appreciates the lack of parking in the proposal and said the site is a vacant lot now that is not serving anyone—though several attendees shouted that people who lived at the single-family home were evicted.

“I support the project,” he said.

Some attendees raised concern over the loss of the single-family house currently on the site. Jenny Nathans, who said she has done research on the building, said it was mostly likely built in the mid-1800s. She said that the structure is an Italianate cottage with Greek Revival details and marks the neighborhood’s transition from farmland to a more suburban setting.

Nathans spoke later in the meeting about JP having beauty and character, but that the “more you demolish what’s here, the more we lose that. We are losing our culture.”

Marie Turley of Union Avenue said she was “generally favorable” to the project, but had concerns, including with how the process was playing out and how emergency vehicles leaving the police station across the street would be affected by the new development.

The comment period for the project ends Nov. 12. To make a comment, or for more information, visit bit.ly/2SEY8gE.

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