Tear-down plan gets historic review

John Ruch

JACKSON SQ.—The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation’s (JPNDC) plan to tear down a late-1800s apartment building to build new affordable housing will be the focus of a Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) hearing next week. [See JP Agenda.]

The six-unit building stands at 266-268 Centre St. at the corner of Lamartine Street, across from the Bromley-Heath housing development. The JPNDC plans a four-story mixed-use building on the site, which includes the vacant lots surrounding the building between Lamartine and Wise streets. The plans include 30 units of affordable rental housing and a new home for the Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street office.

JPNDC Executive Director Richard Thal told the Gazette that the current plan is for a fall start on new constructions.

At the hearing, the BLC will consider imposing “demolition delay,” or a 90-day waiting period to consider ways to preserve the building instead of demolishing it. If demolition delay is imposed, the JPNDC could still demolish the building sooner if it convinces the BLC that preservation is infeasible. Otherwise, demolition is allowed after the 90-day wait.

The building appears to have no historic protections. The strongest form of protection would be landmark status, which residents can petition the BLC to impose.

The JPNDC’s original plans, more than a half-decade ago, included saving the building.

“Initially, we hoped we could renovate the existing buiding site,” Thal said. “It turns out, for a number of reasons, it wasn’t feasible.”

A major obstacle is that the building doesn’t meet various current building codes, including unit size.

The three-story building is made of wood, with a partial mansard roof. It retains decorative details on the windows and other areas.

Thal said three of the units remain occupied. Tenants forced to move out because of the demolition reportedly will get priority in renting units in the new building, if they’re income-eligible. One tenant complained to the Gazette last year that he didn’t understand the plans and didn’t want to move.

The overall redevelopment covers 266-270 Centre St. and combines seven small parcels along with the existing building. Known as the Centre Wise Lamartine project, it is part of the so-called scattered sites redevelopment, in which the JPNDC is turning former city lots around Jamaica Plain into affordable housing. It is not part of the larger Jackson Square redevelopment that JPNDC is also involved with. [See related story.]

“That site’s been vacant for decades, most of it,” Thal said, adding the JPNDC is ready to start putting it in use again.

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