JPA talks Footlight Club renovations, Phase Two of the Muddy River restoration project

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) met virtually for the first time on June 1, after taking a break in April and May. On the agenda was a presentation of a proposal for accessibility renovations at the Footlight Club, as well as an update on Phase Two of the Muddy River restoration project. 

John Freeman, the architect for the Footlight Club project, said that “the intent of this project is to make the building as fully accessible as possible which has been a goal for many, many years of the Footlight Club.”

The proposal includes a new entrance through the driveway to the right of the building, as well as a handicap ramp at the end of the driveway. “We’re doing it there because we don’t want to disturb the historic front of the building,” Freeman said. 

He added that the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board has reviewed the proposal and agrees with putting the entrance in the back right of the building. 

Inside, Freeman proposed to take out the old staircase and put in a new LULA—a Limited Use/Limited Access elevator that works like a real elevator but is allowed to be taller than a traditional handicap lift.

The LULA will also allow the stage level to be accessible, as it currently is not. 

“We’re trying to make it a very attractive entrance,” Freeman said. “It will be a very bright and welcoming place.”

The project needs zoning relief for sideyard setback and floor area ratio, but the building is already over the area and the setback as it is, so any further work would also require relief.

“We’re really, really excited to get this program going,” said Katie Swimm, Development Director of the Footlight Club. She said that as “America’s oldest continuously producing community theater,” it’s “important that everyone in the community can be a part of what we do, and these renovations will allow for that. 

JPA member Franklyn Salimbene asked if the abutter along the driveway has been spoken to about the project. “It seems to me pretty important for that person to know what’s going on with them,” he said. 

“A flyer was delivered to the abutter’s residence,” Swimm said, and another person mentioned that while there is no official letter or support, “they’ve been very good neighbors to us and we’ve been very good neighbors to them” and the abutter has been spoken to in person about the project. 

Freeman said in response to whether or not the current front entrance will continue to be used, “I think there’s going to be a significant change—this will be a much more comfortable entrance.” He said that the stairs at the front entrance are “difficult” and they will try to add a railing to them.

“I suspect a lot of people will be using this entrance,” Freeman said of the new one, but “we won’t keep people from using [the front] entrance.”

Architect and neighbor Michael Epp said he is in favor of the project, and suggested a dedicated area for firefighters to rescue people in wheelchairs. He said the project as a whole “has no impact on the historic facades,” and “has great advantages to the club and the community. This is a fabulous project and I really wish you well.”

The JPA voted not to oppose this project, and requested that the final changes be put into the final drawings. The project will be heard next by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee.  


Fran Gershwin of the Muddy River Restoration Project Maintenance and Management Oversight Committee provided an update on Phase Two of the Muddy River restoration project. 

The purpose of the project, Gershwin said, “is to remove what’s there and to improve and maintain the improved level of water quality in the Muddy.”

“Phase Two is moving ahead,” Gershwin said. “Before the end of the year we fully anticipate that there will be two areas where dredging will be taking place.”

She said that there are 13 different work areas in Phase Two, exgtending from Leverett Pond down through the Riverway to the Phase One area of work, then goes down from Avenue Louis Pasteur and extends through the Fenway to the Boylston St. bridge. 

“The only physical dredging work that takes place this calendar year will be in Area One,” Gershwin said, which is in Leverett Pond, and Area Seven, which she said is “immediately downstream from Avenue Louis Pasteur. 

Gershwin said that the “sole focus” is to remove the sandbar and island that have developed from the outfall of the Village Brook drain, which is on the Brooklimne side of the pond.

She said that it is anticipated that in mid-=June the contractor (which is the same one that did the Phase One work) will prepare the sites for work, putting up fencing and removing and vegetation that needs to be removed in order to facilitate the work.

She said the work will “go through July,” and possibly into August. The dredging work will not begin until the fourth quarter of the year, and will take approximately two to three months.

“Brookline has a fairly sophisticated plan in terms of stormwater maintenance,” Gershwin said. “Both of the municipalities involved in the project are making efforts to minimize the amount of material that goes into the river, but I don’t know that the island or the sand bar have increased substantially since this project started its environmental permitting in the late 90s.”


Michael Reiskind gave an update on JP BAPA, saying that the group met virtually in April and May.

“Lots of restaurants attended in April,” Reiskind said. He said that they discussed helping them work through the process of offering takeout if they didn’t already, as well as asked how the restaurants were doing.

“Most restaurants were not doing very well at all,” Reiskind said. “Most businesses were closed and holding on by a thread. Some businesses were doing better.”

He said the May meeting focused on assisting restaurants with opening and outdoor dining. 

“If restaurants are allowed to reopen under the new guidelines with, let’s say, under 50 percent of capacity or less, a lot of restaurants will not open because they will be losing money, Reiskind said. “A lot of restaurants depend on the turnover and volume.”

He said they also talked about the impact of fees that third party delivery companies like GrubHub and Uber Eats charge restaurants. “Businesses who use these are losing money because the fees cost so much,” he said.

As far as rent, Reiskind said that “a good amount of the landlords are deferring the rent,” and “some banks are deferring mortgages for restaurants who own their buildings.”


Kevin Moloney reported on the Arborway Parkway improvements meeting, and said that a “couple people from DCR” as well as “maybe nine or 10 folks representing various organizations” were at the meeting, and he went as a representative of the JPA. 

He said that while there is no current proposal for the improvements, construction is anticipated to begin in 2021. The proposal that was supported by the JPA in 2015 and 2016, which was a double rotary, is no longer the current proposal, he said. He also said there will be a possible virtual community meeting in late June to get more input on the design.

“They hope to have a final design by Novermberish-Decemberish,” he said, adding that he “urged them to come as close to the one we supported” as possible.

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