64 Allandale project heads to the BRA board despite objections

The controversial 64 Allandale St. is heading to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board despite overwhelming objections raised during two community meetings.

Letters to the BRA for and against the project were split down the middle, according to spokesperson Nick Martin.

The BRA board will review the project during its May 12 meeting, which is after the Gazette deadline, and will likely approve it. The BRA staff only submits projects to the board when they consider the plans ready for approval. This reporter has never seen a project voted down by the board.

A spokesperson for the development team said they are pleased that the project is going before the board.

“We are pleased that the BRA board is considering for approval our nationally recognized model of sustainable development.  We believe it will set a new standard for neighborhood housing and development.  We look forward to continuing to work with our neighbors on a shared vision for protecting and enhancing Allandale Woods,” said spokesperson Susan Elsbree.

Jacqueline Nunez, a Dorchester-based developer, plans a $20 million 20-unit project at 64 Allandale St. The site at 64 Allandale St. is on the border of West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. It is part of the West Roxbury Neighborhood District, as a matter of zoning. Nunez has altered the project, slightly enlarging a buffer zone after the state Department of Environmental Protection ruled that a portion of the site falls under the Wetlands Protection Act.

The project would abut Allandale Woods, which is an “urban wild” of about 100 acres of City- and private-owned land in Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. The woods is roughly formed by Allandale and Centre streets, the VFW Parkway and Hackensack Road.

The project had many critics at the community meetings who voiced concerns over density, impact on traffic, and the affect it would have on Allandale Woods. Some people spoke in favor of the project, citing it being energy efficient and bringing much needed housing to the city

In the memo being sent to the BRA board by the BRA staff, it says Nunez has agreed to give the Friends of Allandale Woods $50,000. The Friends of Allandale Woods is a group who opposes the project.

Frank O’Brien, a member of the group, replied to the BRA board and BRA Director Brian Golden about the money.

“On behalf of Friends of Allandale Woods we are writing to inform the Boston Redevelopment Authority Board and administrators that we do not accept or wish to have the City solicit on our behalf any money from the 64 Allandale project proponent,” the letter states. “While we have numerous objections to an offered contribution, not least that it was negotiated without our knowledge or consent, please be aware that such financial consideration does not in any way resolve the questions of unjustified zoning variances, potential for substantial, lasting harm to the Allandale Woods Urban Wild and the area’s natural resources, as well as the other serious procedural and substantive flaws of the 64 Allandale proposal being considered by the City.”

Tony LaCasse, another member of the Friends group, said in a separate statement that “if the BRA board approves this project to move forward, then zoning in Boston truly means nothing. Boston Parks Department has called the area downslope of 64 Allandale one of the most sensitive ecological sites in Boston. If this can get approved, then it is a green light for anyone with property abutting any Boston park or landmark to propose to build what they like. I am not sure if we are now Boston or Houston.”

BRA spokesperson Nick Martin, who the Gazette spoke with before the project was put on the BRA board agenda, said that despite the opposition at both community meetings, letters to the agency have been split down the middle, with about 120 in support and about 120 in opposition. He said there were about 35 to 40 in between.

Martin said that at that time the BRA was leaning to putting the project on the agenda, noting the changes the developer made to protect the wetlands and Allandale Woods by slightly enlarging the buffer zone. Asked about the concerns with density, Martin replied that the developer made the case that it would be “financially unfeasible” to reduce the density of the project.

The developer’s proposal calls for building 16 new townhouses and creating four units at an existing house already on the property. The townhouses would be built in five different clusters, snaking down towards Allandale Woods and replacing a verdant landscape. The townhouses would range from three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half stories. The project would have 47 parking spaces, including seven spots for guests. The project would need several variances, such as for building height, floor area ratio, and setbacks.

Nunez has stated she has three objectives for the development: to build 20 townhomes at net-zero energy efficiency, to have the homes certified as green buildings to the LEED Platinum status, and to use fortified construction standards built to withstand extreme weather conditions.

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