ZBA approves variances for 3353 Washington St. project despite opposition

Despite opposition, the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) during a May 9 hearing approved variances for Mordechai Levin’s 3353 Washington St. project.

As part of the project, two existing buildings will be demolished and five parcels of land will be combined into one. The project needed several variances, including for exceeding height limit and for not meeting the minimum parking requirement, for the Green Street portion of the site.

Many opponents of the project, which included neighbors of it, cited affordability and a lack of engagement from the developer as reasons behind their opposition. Two neighborhood groups, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) and the Green Street Renters Association, said that the developer was taking advantage of increased height guidelines in the Plan: JP/Rox, while not living up to its affordability standard.

The Plan: JP/ROX is a planning and development review of the Washington Street Corridor between the Forest Hills T Station and the Jackson Square T Station. The plan was approved by the Boston Planning and Development (BPDA) board earlier this year, but still needs to complete the zoning stage of the process before being implemented.

In a May 4 letter to the ZBA, Kevin Moloney of the JPNC said that his organization voted 9-3 to oppose the variances for the project.

“This project was approved by the BPDA before the final draft of Plan JP/Rox was prepared by the agency and approved by the BPDA board. The developer seeks variances for a site where under current zoning, residential housing is forbidden and the height is excessive; while at the same time requesting the increased height granted in the final draft of Plan JP /Rox without achieving the affordability required by it,” Moloney wrote, giving one of several reasons for the opposition.

Meanwhile, the Green Street Renters Association delivered a petition in opposition to the project to the ZBA that had more than 500 signatures. The petition called for more affordability in the proposed development.

Helen Matthews, a member of the Green Street Renters Association, said in a released statement afterwards, “The developers must respect the requirements in Plan JP/Rox, and the City and BPDA should stand up for our neighborhood’s plan. More importantly, developers and the City/BPDA must meet the need in the community to build more housing that is truly affordable in order to prevent displacement and protect the community’s racial and economic diversity.”

The City’s Inspectional Services Department, which oversees the ZBA, and a spokesperson for the developer did not respond to requests for comment.

Levin has proposed an $18 million mixed-use development at the intersection of Washington and Green streets. Levin is a well-known developer in Jamaica Plain who was behind the development of the Stop & Shop and the new Martha Eliot Health Center building in Jackson Square. His current proposal calls for a 45,737-square-foot building at 3353 Washington St. that would have six stories and include 45 residential units with about 2,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. It would also have 24 parking spaces at the rear of the building.

The new building would consist of several residential floors over a ground-floor level, and would contain a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom rental units, some with private outdoor terraces. The plans also call for interior storage for around 20 bicycles. The proposed building would contain eight affordable-housing units on-site.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency board approved the project late last year.



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