Claremont Neighbors Weigh in on Worcester St. Housing Proposal

A special meeting of the Claremont Neighborhood Association was held on Aug. 15 for LIHC Investment Group to present their proposal for approximately 60 market rate apartments on Worcester Street between Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street. The space is currently used for parking and open space for residents at Concord Houses on Tremont Street.

Randi Lathrop of RG Lathrop Consulting, LLC said that the team has engaged with the community—community leaders, nonprofits, and others to talk about the site, but they have yet to formally file with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). She said that they are looking to formally file in mid to late September, and the project also falls within the South End Landmark District, so it will have to go before that Commission as well.

Marci Booth of LIHC Investment Group said that LIHC currently has 38,000 units throughout the country, and explained that this proposal will provide “extended affordability” to Concord Houses for an additional 20 years. “It’s very important to the community, to the residents there,” Booth said, as some residents have lived there for over 35 years.

Architect Jay Szymanski said that “our design approach to this is to create a modern approach to the existing fabric” by using rhythms and materials of existing surrounding buildings “in a more contemporary way,” he said. There will be an accessible ramp to the six ground-floor units, and 41 covered parking spaces with 19 angled spaces behind that along the alley.

The sidewalk will be 8-feet wide with a 3-foot planting strip and 4-foot accessible sidewalk.

There were several comments and questions from the community regarding the design of the building. There was a concern about historic inclusion and the way the building looked.

“Most often with historic projects, you’re not encouraged to replicate what’s there,” Szymanski said. He said that agencies like the BPDA “push you to use more contemporary design but do it in a way that is sensitive to the existing historic buildings.”

There were several comments about the proposed greenspace and how the community would like to see more of it, as well as put back any trees that will be removed during the construction process. “We are not doing bituminous paving and we are adding trees where we can,” Lathrop said. There is an opportunity to work with the community to put in better trees, she added. “The landscape plan is really early,” she said. “There’s room for improvement and suggestions.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself to put this monstrosity on a quiet street in the South End,” a neighbor said. “What are you doing for us as neighbors to minimize disruption during the construction process?”

Szymanski responded by saying that all construction will be done within the property line and wouldn’t disrupt the the neighbors, but they were not convinced that they would not be disrupted due to the close proximity to the abutting buildings.

Another abutter said her foundation is rubblestone, so she was very concerned about disruption to her foundation during the construction process. She admitted that they are not very secure foundations to begin with and is worried about it becoming weaker.

Szymanski said that right now, there is mooring being done onsite. There is also no basement with the new construction and all parking is at the surface level, so there will not be any excavating below the ground.

“Buildings will be pinned and monitored throughout the construction process,” Lathrop said, and insurance will be taken out. The buildings will be watched throughout the construction process to see if there’s any movement.

“As far as construction goes, this is relatively low impact,” Szymanski said. The parking is being put at-grade due to expense and construction process, and a suggestion to put it below-grade to reduce the height of the building would not work, he added.

The team said that the parking lot will be accessed in the same way it is today, and a detailed study will be done in terms of what it means for extra car trips and bicycles.

Another neighbor commented that 19 more parking spots is a “huge change,” and will cause a safety issue in the alley.

The team said that the alley will be reconstructed at least along the building property, but will consider reconstructing the entire alley.

Others said they would like to see a smaller building, calling it a “monster” and “bulky.”

Lathrop said that this building will really help Concord Houses support itself, and the cost of building a 60-unit versus an 18-unit building, for example, is a huge difference.

“This is the start of the process,” Szymanski said. There will be more public meetings to come and room for further public comments and questions on the process. Once everything is decided upon and ready to go, Szymanski said he estimates between 14 and 18 months for construction of the building. “Keep in mind that this is a revolving plan,” Lathrop said,” so what is there is not set.”

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