JPNC Zoning Committee Approves Two Washington St. Developments

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Zoning Committee met virtually on February 3, and heard two items that brought many residents to the meeting to speak on the issues. The first was a proposal for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and New Atlantic Development to build a new five-story mixed-use building with 39 units of senior housing along with commercial space at 3371-3375 Washington St.

The second agenda item was a proposal at 3326-3328 Washington St. for the construction of a new residential building with 43 residential units.

3371-3375 WASHINGTON ST.

The senior housing project at 3371-3375 Washington St. has been presented to the community several times before, and Sam Montano of the JPNDC explained that the organization became involved in the project in 2017 to help save El Embajador restaurant.

“We have run a very thorough community process,” Montano said, adding that 378 signatures have been received in support of the project. “This project and Pine St. Inn across the street are the only affordable housing projects in this corridor,” Montano said.

Brian Goldson, one of the owners of New Atlantic Development, which has partnered with the

JPNDC on this project, said that zoning relief would be needed in the following areas: Floor Area Ratio,, building height, rear yard setback, parking, and loading.

He also said that he believes this project is a “model project” in that it “hits most” of the goals of PLAN: JP/Rox, including the creation of affordable housing, LEED Gold/ passive house certification, affordable commercial space, the preservation of a local business (El Embajador), public space improvements, and transit-oriented design.

Ingrid Bengston of Utile Architecture & Planning said that the original proposal for the building was 45 units in a six-story building, but the building has since “been carved back” after feedback from the community.

“We’ve been able to make that significant reduction in size without actually losing too many units,” Bengson said. The project currently proposes 39 units of affordable senior housing.

The building also features designated parking at the front for ride share as well as other pickup/drop off needs, and will meet the city’s Complete Streets guidelines for public zone dimensions.

There will also be a large community room at the rear of the building “flanked by the courtyard,” Bengston said.

“We are definitely still in design,” she added. “We have a strong intention of what the building is going to look like and that it should be well designed from all sides.” Additionally, there will be opportunities for public art.

Bengtson said that sustainability is “super important,” and the team is seeking passive house certification for the project.

Goldson said that the building is 56 feet, eight inches tall, and the height requirement for PLAN: JP/Rox in this area is 55 feet. He said that the team is “trying to balance all the different design standards,” and there was some give and take to accommodate that.

“As of right now,” Goldson said, the commercial space is being held for El Embajador, which occupies the current site. He said that “if they do not want to be in the building for whatever reason,” that space will be turned into a common area for the senior living.

Sara Driscoll, a JP resident, said she is “deeply, deeply appreciative of having low income housing available for the seniors.” She said that while she would like to see the building be a floor shorter, she won’t “fight” it. “We are a demographic that is only growing,” she said. “The need for this development is humungous.”

She also spoke about the lack of proposed parking for the project. “There are those of us who still drive,” she said. “I think that it’s really critical that you figure out having some parking for your residents.”

Others commented about the parking as well, but most residents were heavily in support of an increase in affordable housing in the neighborhood,

“The lack of parking puts a little more pressure on the street,” said Jeffrey Jacobson, but he said that “this building looks a lot better than the market rate housing that’s been popping up like mushrooms up and down Washington St.”

John Lincecum and Nik Walther, owners of Turtle Swamp Brewing, which abuts the proposed building, said that while they both support the creation of more affordable housing in the neighborhood, they said have some concerns about the building and how it might affect their business.

Walther said that the construction of the building “will cause of dramatic damage” and also poses a safety issue for customers during construction.

He said he is “in support of the new residential units and the density,” but is worried about the “five story brick wall” that he said “could cause irreparable damage to our business.” 

Lincecum said that he agreed with Walther, adding that he “would kindly ask that the design team not stop showing our patio and instead actually show it to what it is actually used for.” He added that he “only had one meeting pre-COVID with JPNDC and New Atlantic,” and said he wants “to know how the demolition and construction would prevent contamination of brewery,” as the area “has known to be contaminated.”

Goldson responded by saying there is always more communication that can be had, but he said “I disagree very strongly that we have not tried to communicate.” He said that he has emailed Turtle Swamp “directly,” as well as “tried to stop in and see Nik,” but “we were told that he was too busy to meet. We have made direct attempts.”

Golsson said that “there have been 14 different articles written in newspapers about this project, and half a dozen community meetings. To say we have not had a robust community process is just wrong.”

He added that he is “willing to work with Turtle Swamp to not endanger their business.”

Other direct abutters also expressed concerns about issues with construction, but many said they were still in support of the the affordable housing.

New Atlantic said they would be working with all abutters to address concerns and ensure that no damage is done to surrounding property. JPNDC also added that they are “not planning on making the loading dock unusable” for Turtle Swamp during construction, as that was another concern they had.

After further discussion, the JPNC Zoning Committee voted to approve this project. It will now go before the full Council at the end of the month for an official vote from the JPNC.

3326-3328 WASHINGTON ST.

Attorney Donald Wiest said that there have “well over a dozen community meetings as well as many smaller group discussions with interested stakeholders” regarding this project for 43 residential units.

Wyatt Komarin of development company Primary Development Group said that the idea for the building is a “very activated building with terraces and green spaces all across the facade.”

The project was approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) board in November, and the next step is an approval from the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA), but no date has been set yet.

Komarin explained that the site is located adjacent to Exodus Bagels on Washington St., and is a four minute walk from the Green Street T stop. “It’s very much a transit-oriented site within the Washington St. corridor.

The site was home to JP Auto & Glass, which has since moved out. 

 He said the project is approximately 35,273 square feet, and is five stories and 60 feet tall. Of the 43 residential units, 10 are Inclusionary Development Police (IDP) units.

Required variances include use, as a multifamily dwelling is forbidden in this area, Floor Area Ratio, the building height is excessive, insufficient usable open space, the rear yard is insufficient, and parking.

Jenny Shen of Primary Development Group said that “the design is meant to both respond to the industrial heritage of this Washington [St.] corridor as well as some of the wood frame houses on Glen Rd. And some of the more residential fabric.”

She added that “even though the building is five stories tall,” there is a grade change and the “fourth story aligns with the third story of the adjacent building.”

Shen said the project has been amended to “respond” to the COVID-19 pandemic and now includes home office space, private terraces, and stepbacks and balconies that serve as places for people to gather with neighbors from a distance.

Architect and JPNC Zoning Committee member Kendra Halliwell said “I love that there’s no parking.”

There was also a lot of discussion surrounding the Turnpike School, formerly located at 2236 Washington, and the area’s connection to the history of the school. 

Komarin said that the team had “previously discussed a plaque to commemorate the history,” that could include a link and a QR code for people to learn about it.

George Lee of Keep it 100 for Egleston said that the “team has gotten a lot better with affordability,” but asked the team if they could make some switches in the affordability of the different size units.

Wiest said that this “has a razor thin margin” and there was a lot of “discussion of different ways to make tradeoffs with the public benefits.” He said it was a “close call to make it come together.”

Resident Rob Kerth said “we really like this idea of a project,” adding that he walks by the site on his way to the T.

Bill Reyelt, a property owner on Kenton Road, also said he supports the project and its “transit-oriented focus,” but said he is “disappointed with the loss of the commercial space” that was originally proposed. “I hope it can be revisited as time goes on,” he said.

The JPNC Zoning Committee ultimately voted to approve this proposal with no amendments. Committee member Max Glikman wrote in the Zoom chat that “I hope the developers will take George’s comments seriously, regardless of how we vote tonight.”

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