Housing & Development Committee discusses Article 80 projects

The Housing & Development Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on November 16 to discuss a couple of Article 80 projects as well as a few other matters. The group head from developers before asking questions and providing feedback. 

96-100 ROCKWOOD ST. 

At 96-100 Rockwood St., Matthew Zucker of New Meadow Development proposed 29 residential apartments for the current surface parking lot at the address. The development will have community commercial space on the ground level, as well as seven covered parking spaces, according to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

After briefly describing the design of the building, Zucker and Ken Chase of New Meadow Development talked about stormwater management and other sustainability pieces of the proposal.

Zucker said that there will be a “very significant underground system” for stormwater management, and Chase added that water will be stored for irrigation use on site. Additionally, the units will feature things like low flow fixtures, LED bulbs, and open cell foam that will allow for energy consumption to be down more than 45 percent over other homes built “as recently as 15 years ago,” Chase said.

He also said that areas have been identified on the roof for solar panels as well as “options for all electric utility management.” 

Each unit will feature an electric car charging station, as well as bike racks, which will also be located throughout the building. 

The developers have a goal of meeting LEED standards, but the level is not certain yet.

“This is a very unique project,” Zucker said. The lot is 12 acres and the project has “been designed by right,” he said, so the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) is not applicable. “I’m a firm believer…we need all types of housing,” he said, though the team is unsure what their contribution will be at this point, though they said it will most likely be contributing to affordability off-site. 

Zucker said that this is “not really a transit project,” and they are working with the BPDA to increase pedestrian safety, as well as advocating for bike use. 

There were also discussions about the potential for this development to be gated, and discussion about the private roads and the public walkway proposed between Rockwood and Avon Streets. 

Committee member Carolyn Royce said her request would be to not gate this development, and asked what the developers’ level of contribution to affordability will be.

Zucker said that there is no decision made on what the contribution will be, but he said they are open to ideas and suggestions as well as a conversation about that.

Committee member Sarah Horsley said that the typical request from the JPNC is that 25 percent of a new development be affordable. She said that request was developer “20 yers ago and the need has only gotten greater.”

Zucker also talked about electrification options, saying that is “definitely an option tht we’re going to offer,” though he said that “there are some folks that are likely going to be resistant to that.” He said that they will be “encouraging” people to choose electric over natural gas and the ability to do so will be offered for all units. 

“For me, hearing this is like creating an exclusive development…affordability is really important,” said committee member Kathy Brown. She said that other developers have included affordable units even if they were not subject to the IDP policy.

She said she has “concern about supporting an exclusive community. I don’t think we need any more of those.” Brown added that she wants to see more affordability, particularly on the site but if that is not possible, then somewhere “as close as possible.” 

Committee member Kevin Rainsford asked what the reception from the community has been so far.

The team said that a large piece of feedback has been about access to the development, as the proposal right now is for cars to come into and out of it on Avon St. They did say there was also a good deal of support for the priject.

Chris Tracy said that the unit count has been reduced from 48 to 36 “in response to community members.” 

Andrea Howley, president of the Jamaica Hills Association, gave some feedback from the position of the neighborhood organization, saying that they prefer that affordability be on the site. Another resident on Avon St. expressed opposition on the basis of traffic.

Committee chair Marvin Mathelier said that the committee is “not in a position to support this in terms of affordability,” and suggested the proponents come back next month when they have spoken with the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) “or any other agencies” and can provide more information about the affordability aspect of this proposal.

Zucker said he couldn’t promise it would be next month, but “I’ll keep you up to date on where we are,” he said, adding that additional updates will be provided for things like traffic and sustainability. 

3409 WASHINGTON ST.

Dave Traggorth of Traggorth Companies came before the committee to present updates from the last time the proposal was presented. 

The proposal is for 29 apartment units with ground floor community space in a four story building. The space is currently a tow lot.

Traggorth said that there will be 14 studios, eight one bedrooms, and seven two bedrooms. The community commercial space will be about 410 square feet, and there will be seven parking spaces and 42 bike parking spots.

Originally, there were five affordable units proposed, but now there are six, and the affordability includes a two bedroom unit.

He said that the retail will be leased out to a “community business,” and LEED Gold status is a goal for the project. The team has also committed to installing solar panels. 

Traggorth said that a one bedroom unit at 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AM() would be about $875 a month, and a one bedroom at 70 percent AMI would be around $1250. 

Carolyn Royce asked about a dropoff/pickup area, as well as well as where the garbage cans will go.

Tragorth said that there is “potential” for a pickup and dropoff area, and they are “open to feedback from folks.”

There will be internal trash storage and the team will have to “work with the city in terms of pickup operations.”

Additionally, “we will be providing people with the information and providing some discounted passes for sure to residents,” Traggorth said when asked about public transit incentives.

“I don’t think it’s going to be fully subsidized, but it will be discounted.”

Traggorth also said that “there’s absolutely a market for these units,” as there were concerns raised about the number of smaller units.

“It certainly can’t be everything to everyone,” he said.

Royce said that a comment letter from the committee should include several items. She said that the “outstanding issue is to make sure that this project meets the density bonus affordability required,” which is six units plus a percentage that would get contributed to a fund for affordable housing.

She also said that the developers should continue speaking with abutters about the step back as it relates to PLAN: JP/Rox guidelines “as well as any other issues those neighbors have.”

Positives for the project, according to Royce, are the energy efficiency and the promise to hire locally starting at $20 an hour. She said that additional conversations should be had on the pickup/dropoff situation and trash pickup. Foley added that the lack of outdoor space is “a little concerning.”

The committee voted to send a comment letter with the comments provided by Royce. 

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