More income-restricted housing is on its way to the South End. The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a public meeting regarding the proposed Northampton St. Residences on Oct. 1, where a proposal was presented for 47 units of 100 percent income-restricted housing in a newly constructed five and a half story building. The building would be located on the site of the current parking lot on Northampton St. that sits between the Southwest Corridor Park and the Newcastle Court building. The project team said they have an agreement to purchase the property, and have met with Landmarks Staff for a preliminary review, but have not yet had a formal advisory review.
Peter Speillios of Transom Real Estate said that whether these units will be apartments for rent or condominiums for home ownership remains to be seen, as the decision depends on funding sources. He said the development team has a “strong preference” to have the units used for home ownership.
Kyle Coburn, an architect from Howeler + Yoon Architecture, gave the presentation for the proposal, going through the different design elements that the team has thought of so far, and how they might fit in with the context of the neighborhood.
Coburn said that with this project, the design team hopes to improve the pedestrian experience walking towards the T station, as well as add in a pocket park between this new building and the Newcastle Court building next door.
The team proposed widening the sidewalk from five feet to eight feet in one area and nine and a half in another area, as well as a large tree feature at the back of the building with planting and vegetation.
“We learned from facades, textures, and colors of surrounding buildings,” Coburn said. One of the main features of the proposed building is the brickwork, as the team is proposing projection brickwork that creates depth and a two-tone appearance on the building.
There will be a small area on the first floor used for bike storage, Spellios said. There will be at least 47 bike spaces, one for each unit. There will also be an accessible terrace on the top of the building as well. He said they wanted to “create amenity space without creating cost,” as something like a gym would add to the cost of the building and affect the price of the units.
The 47 units are approximately 35 percent two-and three-bedrooms, 35 percent studios, and 35 percent one bedroom units.
“I do anticipate the design is going to change some,” Speillios said. “What comes out is typically better.”
The presentation was very focussed on the outside of the building, and the team listened to comments and addressed concerns from the residents who attended the meeting.
Bob Barney, president of the Claremont Neighborhood Association, expressed his concern with the lack of parking proposed for this building (there is none), especially since a parking lot is being developed on to create this project. Parking is a “huge issue for residents,” he told the team.
Spellios said that the team talked to residents and people who are supposed to be parking in the current lot, and determined that there is an excess in parking at that lot. “We are not proposing any new parking with this due to the proximity to public transit,” he said. “Building parking is extremely expensive and will take away from the number of affordable units. It is a tradeoff.”
He said there will never be parking underneath the building because that would make it unable to be financed. He sad they would lose too many units to parking spaces. In response to a suggestion that subsidized MBTA passes be made available to residents, he said that this is “not unusual” in a traditional market rate project, but this is funded differently. He said he would be open to searching for solutions to this issue.
Another resident said that she would like the team to “rethink” their decision about not creating any parking. “People don’t think about accessible parking for people with disabilities.” She said that the public transit system is unreliable for people with disabilities, as the elevators are often broken or out of service. She also wanted to know if there were any fully accessible units proposed for the new building, as she said it is “nearly impossible” to live in the South End with a disability.
“I think we have two units that have to be fully accessible units,” Spellios said. “Every space in the building is accessible by elevator,” he continued, “there are no steps that would limit accessibility.”
“That is really a critical piece and to only have two units, that is meeting the very minimum standard,” the resident responded. “More should be considered. The whole South End is in dire need of accessible housing, especially below market-rate.”
There were also resident concerns about noise from Wally’s, as the building is in close proximity to the jazz club.
“It’s about adapting to your own environment,” Spellios said. “Because this is a new construction, the residents in the new building are going to have de minimis ambient noise with the windows closed, but we understand the greater neighborhood concern about those things.”
Another concern brought up by several residents was the lack of a proposed pickup/dropoff area in front of the building, as there will be a lot of anticipated deliveries and the picking up and dropping off of people.
The entrance to the building is proposed to be on Northampton Street, and the team said they have had some preliminary conversations about a pickup/dropoff area, and are very open to suggestions from the community about how that may work best.
Additionally, issues with rodents in the area were addressed by Spellios, who said that trash would be stored indoors and brought out the front door on trash days.
Carol Blair, president of Chester Square Neighbors, wondered how Northampton Green would relate to the new building, as recently it has been full of needles and encampments.
Spellios said that having “more residential neighbors in that area that hopefully brings the area more to life.”
“We are open to ideas—I don’t know in terms of activity if there are design changes, those are things that we can explore,” he said. He said that they would consider public realm improvements that the community wants, adding that they don’t want to be “presumptuous” about space activation that the community does not want.
If this building does end up being affordable condos, the team said they would like to offer first preference to Newcastle residents as some of them have been living there for a very long time. “It’s the right thing to do,” Spellios said. He said they are working with the city to see if this is something that could be allowed.
The comment period for this project ends on Oct. 7, but BPDA Project Managers Ebony DaRosa and Michael Sinatra said this is not a hard deadline. The BPDA continues to accept comments after this period, and residents are welcome to continue submitting comments past that date. They also said they are willing to extend it if residents feel it is not a long enough period.