The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) met for its monthly meeting on January 13, where the community heard a presentation for the redevelopment of the BMS Paper Co. lot located at 3390 Washington St.
Chris Tracy of O’Neill and Associates, the consultant for BMS Paper, said that the proposal is about 359,000 square feet of development on the roughly two acres of land that BMS Paper has occupied for the past 30 years. The current proposal is 148 residential units with consideration of a restaurant/retail use on the ground floor in a six-story addition on the back of the existing warehouse building.
Tracy said that though nothing is filed yet with the city for this project, they really wanted to come out to the community first to present the proposal before going to the city.
Tracy said that prior to coming to the SNA, project proponents have Alsop met with Lindsey Santana from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s office, and direct abutters on all sides of the site.
“We’re here to have a discussion,” Tracy said.
BMS Paper owner Bob Harrington said that part of the current building needs to come down, as it is “dilapidated.”
“I’d like to convert some of that space…into things that the community could use,” Harrington said. He hopes to have a community grocery store, something the Stonybrook community has expressed a need for in the past. He said that he would operate the grocery store himself and not bring in an independent grocer. Additionally, Harrington wants to have a community space where people can have functions like birthday parties and community meetings.
“I’m not a developer; I want to stay in the community,” Harrington said. “I want to work with the community; I feel I’m part of the community.” He said he wanted the redevelopment to be a place the community can rely on.
The empty area in the back of the lot abuts Pine Street Inn, Harrington said, adding that they are working with Pine Street Inn to make both projects work together.
Additionally, “I really wanted to keep the old warehouse building and rehab it,” he said, and possibly add a roof deck on the top of the existing building. The front of the building would be restored and landscaped, and the team hopes to install some sort of green roof on the buildings. The existing building currently has a lot of blocked up windows, so the team wants to open them up and bring a more historic look back to the facade.
148 parking spaces are proposed for the site—that’s a total for both the retail and residential portions. A parking garage would be cut into the back of the hill on the property for these spaces.
The addition for the residential portion would start behind the existing building.
SNA member Jennifer Uhrhane asked if it was necessary to develop the entire lot, as she feels there is not enough green portions proposed to have a large area of open space. “It seems like the majority of the green space is little strips here and there,” she said.
David O’Sullivan of O’Sullivan Architects said that even without the proposed green roof, there is about 7,500 square feet of green space.
Another resident said that BMS has “been a great neighbor,” but Jennifer’s concerns about the amount of usable green space in this proposal were shared by several others as well.
In general, neighbors were supportive of the redevelopment of the site and were excited about the grocery store.
Fred Vetterlein said that while he is in favor of the project happening, he believes that there is “too much volume going straight up four stories,” he said.
“They seem very open to making changes and making it work for the neighborhood,” SNA Steering Committee member Jonathan McCurdy said. Another comment was in favor of the housing since it is needed in the neighborhood, but the neighbor said he would like to see the development “as pedestrian-friendly as possible.”
The project proponents said they would keep in contact with the community as this project progresses, but this was a preliminary introduction to what Harrington wants to do on his site.
SNA Steering Committee member Wyley Proctor presented the same letter as was presented last month in favor of returning the Shattuck Campus to Franklin Park. This month, she was looking for a vote from the SNA to put the organization’s name on the letter.
The letter proposes that the services currently offered by the Shattuck Hospital not be put back into Franklin Park once the hospital moves to the South End, and cites that other nearby state buildings would be better suited for these services and affordable housing units that are being discussed for the area.
A neighbor who said she was part of the Boston Tenant Coalition as well as the Shattuck Campus planning process said that she does not agree with the letter and believes that these services do belong in the park. “Let’s make this a place that can be shared space,” she said.
She said that “there’s plenty of green space that I don’t think we need to take that 13 acres [that would be used for the services].”
She said that the state heard that people want a variety of things from Franklin Park, and it can be used for shared things like community gardens both for the public and for people living there.
“My point is not it’s either supportive housing or park land,” she said. She said she believes the goal is “to make it feel like the community is getting back some of that space and making it look beautiful and having services available to everybody. I want to make sure that it’s clear that that is what’s on the table.”
She said she is “familiar” with the Arborway Yard, which Proctor has brought up several times as an alternative location for these services. The neighbor said that that space is a “totally different arm of the state,” and it’s been difficult to put affordable housing there in the past.
“I don’t think you’re going to find anyone in this organization who is against affordable housing,” Proctor said. She said that a lot of Franklin Park is taken up by things like the zoo, and many people in Jamaica Plain do not have backyards, so Franklin Park is in need of more open space to provide that experience for residents.
“If we lose and the land goes to this project, I would hope that they would not have it closed off, fenced off, isolated from the park,” Proctor said.
Vetterlein said he was also against the letter, as he believes it should not be a case of housing versus park land, and several other neighbors agreed that the SNA should not vote on this letter as a body, but rather as individuals who support the idea.
Natalie Kaufman, Staff Director for Rep. Liz Malia, said that the state statute limits the use of the land to public health, and that people in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan also abut the park and recognize the need for the housing and services that this land could offer.
Another neighbor commented that “these services are needed” and “I will vote against the letter and I want this to move forward, and I think it’s a fine use of public space.”
The SNA had four votes to put the SNA’s name on the letter, four against, and seven members abstained. The group was unsure of what to do in the case of a tie, so they decided to table the topic for the time being and said that people can look into the issue more on more of an individual level if it is of interest to them.
An update was also given on the community room inside the ExtraSpace storage facility at 141 McBride St. The community room is one of the benefits negotiated by the SNA with the developers of 3521-3529 Washington St., and the SNA is currently looking for a nonprofit parter organization to take on the responsibilities of running the room. At last week’s meeting, it was said that there are five expressions of interest in the room, but only two groups have formally submitted applications—(B)MEN, a black men’s engagement group, and Company One Theatre. The team working on handling these applications said they will begin discussions with groups who have formally submitted applications first.