Two Affordable Housing Proposals Underway for JP

The Housing & Development Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met on August 20 to discuss two housing proposals for the neighborhood, one at 3368 Washington St., and one at 1595-1599 Columbus Ave.

3368 Washington Street

At 3368 Washington Street, Pine Street Inn, along with The Community Builders, proposed a six story, mixed use building with office space and 100% affordable housing. The proposal has been previously presented to this committee in March, but has undergone some changes since then.

Lydia Scott, a project manager with the Community Builders, said that the $89 million proposed building will go up where an existing building owned by Pine Street Inn and used for offices sits on Washington Street. Since the meeting in August, Scott said that on June 6, formal filing for the project was submitted and the first public meeting with the city was held on July 18, and another on August 22.

The original proposal had parking below grade with 20 spaces directly at grade. Based on feedback from the city, which said that two curb cuts is not ideal, “we made the decision to make the curb cut on the right and remove the parking spaces that were at grade,” Scott said. As a result, they were able to move additional studio units down to the ground floor and make the proposed community room larger.

The new proposal includes 141 studio units for Pine Street Inn clients, as well as 85 affordable units for a total of 226 units. The new proposal also includes spec for resident services, a management office, resident amenity space, laundry, and a 600 square foot public community room. There will be about 16,000 square feet of space on the first floor for Pine Street Inn’s replacement office.

“The goal is to fund services to all 141 Pine Street Inn residents at about $8,200 per unit or about $1.15 million annually,” Scott said. These services include things such as case management, services supervisor, licensed clinician, and client transportation, among others. The 141 units of supportive housing will also come fully furnished, she said.

The project will create about 480 construction jobs and about 15 permanent jobs in property management, case management, maintenance, and administrative support, Scott added. It will also adhere to the boston Resident Jobs Policy as well as internal contracting and hiring benchmarks, she said.

Several community members invested in clean energy were interested in the sustainability of the building.

“This is an area of the design that is still fluctuating,” Scott said. So far, the team has proposed a rooftop solar array, high-performance appliances, high efficiency building and insulation materials, high efficiency lighting, drought resistant vegetation, finishes that will include zero or low VOC products, and others. Right now, they are looking at a LEED Silver certification, she said.

“We have submitted specific comments on things like going all electric, which would be cheaper in the long run if there is a more expensive upfront cost,” said a neighbor who is an advocate for green energy and sustainability. 

Scott said that all utilities would be paid by the owner of the building, which places more restraint on the capital budget for the project than would be typically seen. “An all electric building is something that has been discussed by the team,” she said.

Several neighbors urged the team to go all electric, as they said electrifying buildings and transportation is the way to achieve carbon neutrality. They said it would be better just to do it now than have to retrofit it later on.

“All electric is better for safety and health,” said a member of Mothers Out Front, a nonprofit that works for a green future for children. “Gas reduced air quality both indoors and outdoors. We need to start thinking about carbon like secondhand smoke. I think that it would be a really good idea to go for an all electric building.”

There was also discussion of making the building net zero carbon, but Scott said “we can’t commit to net zero at this time.”

Overall this is a popular project with the Housing & Development Committee, and they said they are proud to have this affordable housing project in their neighborhood and look forward to continuing work with the development team on creating a building that works best for the community as a whole.

11595-1599 Columbus Avenue

Nonprofit Urban Edge proposed to build 65 units of 100% affordable housing on the lots where the buildings at 1595-1599 Columbus Ave. currently sit. The building is proposed to be six stories tall. Caitlin Madden of Urban Edge said that over the past winter and spring, Urban Edge held meetings with neighbors, as well as a community meeting. This summer and into the fall kicks off the BPDA Article 80 process with more community meetings, and in the fall and winter of this year the project expects to go before the Zoning Board of Appeal and funding applications, Madden said.

The Letter of Intent was submitted to the city, and the project team has plans to submit the Project Notification Form “any day now,” she added. There are no market rate units proposed for this building, and they hope to take meet or exceed LEED standards as well has have non-residential and open space for the building.

Currently, 1599 Columbus is vacant, which is the gray building, but the masonry building does have a tenant and is aware of the plans to demolish the buildings, Madden said. She added that they might be eligible for relocation benefits and would have options available to them once this project is officially off the ground.

Nick Buehrens, an architect with Utile Architecture, said the main residential entrance to the building will be on Amory St., and there will be approximately 21 surface parking spaces. The proposed community room will be located in the back of the building, along with bike parking (one space per unit). The units will be a mix of one, two, and three bedroom units, he said.

Buehrens said they hope to comply with LEED Gold standards if possible, and are “very interested” in pursuing passive house standards, which lower the ecological footprint of a building. “A lot of our new affordable work is trending all electric,” he said. “It’s a shared project team goal to pursue all electric.”

Madden said that this is an “ongoing community process,” and they hope to be funded the first time around. “If that were the case we would be starting construction in early 2021 and completing mid-2022,: she said. If they do not get funded the first time around, they will have to wait a year and try again.

In response to concerns of added traffic in the area, Madden said that “the general consensus was that given the limited number of parking spaces and proximity to the T, this project would not add a significant burden on traffic.”

They are still working out more details, especially on the sustainability front. They hope to include more solar panels, but roof space is limited due to the footprint of the building and the need for rooftop mechanical equipment.

This meeting is the first of many related to this project, and Madden said that “community engagement will continue.”

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