The Zoning Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on July 20, where it narrowly voted to approve a proposal at 3409 Washington St. to build a 29 unit, four story residential building with six affordable units, seven parking spaces, and a small commercial space on the ground floor.
The project is proposed to be sited on the Stanley Tow Lot, which is within walking distance to the Green Street T stop. Dave Traggorth of Traggorth Companies and architect Kevin Deabler presented the proposal and fielded comments and questions from the committee and residents who attended the meeting.
The team said that this proposal has been through a public process and has been approved by the BPDA. It began as a boutique hotel, then was proposed to be a five story residential building, and what has been approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) is a four story residential building consisting of 14 studio units, nine one bedroom units, six two bedroom units, and about 400 square feet of ground floor commercial space.
The team also said that six of the units will be affordable, and the proposal complies with PLAN: JP/Rox. Variances required are for multifamily residential use, as the site is located in a light industrial district; excessive building height; excessive FAR; and a variance is needed for the seven parking spaces as well as for no loading bay.
Traggorth said that the original plan had “changed in response to community and BPDA feedback we received to make it compliant with JP/Rox,” and the result of that is what was approved by the BPDA early this year.
Deabler went through some of the elements of the design for the building, saying that the portion to the right will include “brick masonry at varying sizes” to “continue this character and flavor of Washington St.” There would also be a screening element on the right hand side for the parking, in front of which can be benches and planting.
On the left side of the building, the proposal includes “more of a quilted metal panel system” as well as the residential lobby entrance and the community space entrance with brick masonry there as well.
The seven parking spaces will be located behind the screen wall on the ground floor, with buffering around the entire building as it abuts residential districts in the rear.
Though the team does not have a specific use outlined for the 400 square foot community space, they said it could “potentially be leased by a tenant,” and could be used as a small coffee shop or even an art studio. Also on the ground floor is mechanical space, bike storage, and two units in the rear.
Residential units are located on floors two and three, and on level four, portions of the facade are pushed back up to seven feet in certain areas.
Traggorth then spoke about JP/Rox compliance in the areas of affordability, energy, and transportation, and also spoke about the team’s contribution of about $150,000 to the city “to make it fully compliant on the affordability.”
Additional community benefits include things like job creation as well as environmental benefits. The building is proposed to be all electric, the team is studying solar PV, and seeking LEED Gold certification.
Next steps for this project include continued review of the design of the rear facade and general design review with the BPDA and neighbors, and to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA), though no date has been set yet.
Several questions were raised by committee members, including one from Bernie Doherty who asked how the seven parking spaces are allocated if there are 29 units.
Traggorth said that “generally when we have a situation like this, we do charge a little bit extra for parking.” Those seeking parking spaces will be required to pay extra to rent them.
There was also some confusion around the proposed 400 square foot community space, since it was referred to as both “community” and “retail” space. Some folks had questions about its use.
The team said that they had discussed the use of this space and having it there in the first place, but they said it will likely serve the very local community since it is such a small space. Nothing has been officially defined, but it could be used for something like an art studio or a coffee shop.
Another large portion of the discussion was whether or not the committee should vote on this proposal now, because there are still outstanding concerns about the rear facade design and the desire by some to step the fourth floor back further. The team said that if they were to do this, they would lose two units.
Committee members Andrea Howley and Bernie Doherty felt that it was too early for the committee to vote on the proposal, as there is no ZBA date set yet and there are things that still need to be worked out on the rear facade design. Committee member Kevin Moloney agreed, adding that “putting this off until the beginning of September will not prejudice anybody.”
“I think this is critical,” said committee member Omer Hecht. “I’m not sure I agree with Bernie.” He said that meeting with the committee is a step that should happen before going to the ZBA. Others agreed with him, including Kevin Leary and Lee Goodman.
Committee member and architect Kendra Halliwell said that the fourth floor step back as it’s proposed right now is “in the spirit of the intent of JP/Rox,” and that she thinks this proposal should move forward. She encouraged the use of all-electric utilities in the building, and also suggested that a bathroom be installed in the ground floor commercial space.
Committee chair Dave Baron said he also feels this should move forward because the team has shown commitment to continue working on the rear facade design and especially because the affordability complies with PLAN: JP/Rox.
In the end, the committee voted seven to six to approve the project with the proviso that the developer continue to meet with abutters about the design.