Real Estate Today: IAG meets to review revised Goddard House project

Members of the impact advisory group (IAG) for the Goddard House project met on March 13 to review the scaled-down proposal with most of the group approving of the changes.

The alterations to the project were presented to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) monthly meeting on March 16 and were approved.

The developers, Eden Properties and Samuels & Associates, previously planned for a $62 million renovation and expansion of the former Goddard House nursing home property, transforming it into a multi-family residence to include 167 rental apartments with 22 affordable housing units.

The revised proposal leaves the renovation of the Goddard House intact at 110 units, but reduces the new building to 39 units from 57 units. The number of parking and bicycle spaces are both cut by 18, falling to 65 and 149, respectively.

The height of the new building will be increased by 6 feet, but with the same amount of floors. The revised proposal is within zoning for the area. Developer Noah Maslan said that the impacts are less than before.

With the reduction of overall units, the number of affordable-housings units has dropped from 22 to 19. All affordable housing will be built on-site. Some developers planning large projects have the option to build their affordable units off-site with an agreement with the City, but Phil Cohen of the BPDA said the agency is happy that the developers plan to build all of their affordable housing on-site, and that they are preserving the original Goddard House.

The developers said they needed to alter the project because they found that their original proposal was “significantly over budget.” The new plan reduces the original plan by 15,000 square feet, according to Maslan, and is “less of an impact” on the surrounding community on South Huntington Avenue and the Jamaicaway.

“By making our design smaller and simpler, we were able to reduce costs by reducing units,” Maslan said.

He emphasized that the main goal of the redevelopment is to preserve the historic Goddard House building.

The reductions are all in the new building, which will not be attached to the original Goddard House. The building will be a rectangular shape instead of the originally proposed building, which was more irregular. Costs will also be reduced because the developers no longer need to blast some of the cliff at the site, which they originally planned to do in order to create more parking. The new building will sit upon the ledge.

That means that the building will not be as close to the Jamaicaway as previously planned. The distance from S. Huntington Avenue and abutting properties will remain the same as originally proposed. There will still be outdoor parking at the site, but a 42-foot tall wall will be built to control light spill from headlights into the park behind the Jamaicaway. There will also no longer be an outdoor amenity space for residents.

The project has been going through the planning and approval process for about two years. The developers found that they were unable to fund the project to completion because the cost of construction had increased. Some members of the IAG were concerned that they would simply have to go through this process again if the developers found they still could not afford the development costs. Maslan responded that they would like this approval process to be speedy in order to prevent that from happening again.

Approval for the building was previously held up because of the vicinity to the park, which meant that the developers needed an extra step of approval from Boston Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD) because the building falls within Groundwater Protection Overlay District (GPOD). The developers previously achieved the GPOD permit to build, but these changes will have to be reviewed by BPRD to make sure that they are still not having a harmful impact on the park. The new plan incorporates more trees along the back edge of the property.

The members of the IAG were the same as the original members from the previous planning processes. The March 13 IAG meeting meets the community review requirement, meaning that the developers will not be hosting another public meeting.

The IAG didn’t have any major objections to the updated plan and seemed to approve it.  The members of the group called a vote on the measure, to which Cohen said was unnecessary, and that the BPDA actually discourages voting in IAG meetings. When asked why, he said that it was to be able for BPDA representatives to represent a more subtle message back to the board.

“Or it’s just because it makes it easier to be arbitrary and pernicious,” Kevin Moloney, chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, said.

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