Harrison Albany Block Continues To Get Pushback from Neighbors

By Seth Daniel

After a lot of noise, the Harrison Albany Block project has now gone into a quieter period, waiting for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to issue its Scoping Determination.

That doesn’t mean neighbors are any less riled up about the 600-plus unit development by Leggat McCall that would take up an entire block on East Canton and East Dedham Streets in four buildings, three of which would be the maximum 120 feet tall.

The project has already gone through one re-design when neighbors and the BRA shot down a 19-story tower in the center of the site, as well as other aspects of the project.

Last week, the BRA said they are in the process of issuing a Scoping Determination – or simply a set of internal recommendations from the Authority – and that Leggat McCall would respond to that with a Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR). That will trigger a 75-day comment period and additional public meetings.

Leggat McCall is also expected to file for a Planned Development Area (PDA), which will also start a 45-day comment period and more public meetings.

Some of the more vocal neighbors and abutters are still not happy with the plan and feel the project is still too tall, and contains too many units.

“I have not seen any evidence provided by Leggat McCall to explain why their plan should be excluded by the general zoning for the area and why they would need special accommodation beyond their verbal protestation that to build within the as of right zoning is against their financial interest,” said abutter Natalie   Truong this week. “The project will overwhelm the neighborhood without providing solutions to existing traffic, safety, public transportation, and shared public green space concerns.”

She also said that this project seems to be squaring off for a dispute between financial interests of a developer and quality of life interests of the neighbors.

“If the City were to approved the PDA despite strong objection from neighbors and abutters, and thereby allowing unit density that is 2.5 times that of the Ink Block, the City of Boston is effectively making a mockery of their own development process- the BRA’s Harrison-Albany Corridor Strategic Plan which came about from three-year community process,” she added. “The Walsh Administration will be making a stance that financial interests of a developer trump any kind of thoughtful community planning process. Let’s hope there’s some integrity left and we won’t get to that point.”

Meanwhile, a letter of opposition to the project also came out from the Blackstone Franklin Square Neighborhood Association, which is the host association to the project.

One major concern in that July 8 letter was the numbers of units and density. Though developers have said they would be scaling down to 500 or 600 units, the second iteration of the project called for 680 units.

The letter pointed out that the Ink Block built in an uninhabited area of the South End and yielded a density of 86 units per acre.

The revised Harrison Albany Block will yield a density of 219 units per acre in a neighborhood that’s already inhabited.

“If anything, the densities should be reversed to preserve the character of the existing neighborhood while creating a vibrant new one from scratch,” read the letter. “Even a reduction to 500 units would still create a project that is nearly double the density of the Ink Block.”

Last month, an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) meeting seemed to get nowhere in regards to making any concessions or reaching any type of agreement between the group and the developer.

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