Old Dover Association Irked Over Bike Lane Removal

By Seth Daniel

The Old Dover Neighborhood Association voted to send two official comment letters to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) on large neighborhood projects and also fielded a fair amount of bike path indignation during its meeting on Tuesday night, May 3.

First the bikes.

Though there were discussion items on two major projects in and around Old Dover – including the Albany-Harrison Block project and the Quinzani’s project – it was the sudden elimination of a bike path plan on E. Berkley Street that raised the most ire.

Jon Ramos of the Boston Bicycle Union (Boston Bikes) was present at the meeting to discuss a plan formulated with Boston Bikes and the Boston Transportation Department (BTD). The goal is to unite South Boston and the South End with better bike connections over the various bridges. That seems to be going pretty well with the City’s plan to re-configure  travel lanes on the bridges to accommodate bikes.

However, the problem came when Ramos announced that a stretch of East Berkley Street between Washington and Harrison had been inexplicably removed from the plan.

“They are now saying they want to take it out,” Ramos said. “I don’t know why they want to take it out of the scope. They haven’t given any reason. They’ve just said they don’t want to consider it.”

That riled up the crowd and many postulated that some powerful businesses (read: J.J. Foley’s) had lobbied to remove that section from the plan because it meant losing parking spaces.

Michael Goldstein of Empire Loan said it wasn’t any secret. He said there are two competing interests – that of businesses who want parking near them and that of the bicycle community that wants a dedicated lane that would eliminate parking.

The situation sent many in Old Dover over the edge because they had come up with a thoughtful plan that addressed parking and the bike lane and traffic on a section of E. Berkley that often bottlenecks.

Neighborhood Services Coordinator Sam Chambers said he would have a BTD presence with him at the June 7 meeting to talk more about it.

“This really needs attention and it needs to stop,” said John Connelly, secretary of Old Dover. “We now see a very good proposal stripped away with no reason. It doesn’t feel right.”

  • Meanwhile, Bill Gause of Leggat McCall was on hand to talk about the 700-unit Albany-Harrison Block project on E. Canton and E. Dedham.

The project calls for two large buildings in the center of the block, one at 19 stories (200 feet) and one at 11 stories. An existing building on Albany Street would be renovated at five stories and the Gambro building would stay at three stories and would be leased to Boston Medical Center. A neighborhood park would be built on the Harrison Avenue corner.

The affordable component at the moment would be 10 percent onsite and 10 percent to the Affordable Housing Fund. The project is slated to go in as a PDA – meaning it would qualify for a specialized zoning saved for larger projects.

Gause said many of the closer neighbors believe that the middle buildings are too high, and so they’re playing with heights.

“That is something we’re looking at now and seeing what we can do to play with the height,” he said, noting that the choice for 200 feet came due to the Flower Market’s limit of 200 feet.

One proposal he floated was to raise the height of the Albany Street building from five stories to 10 (120 feet), lower the main building from 19 to 14 (150 feet), keep the second tower at 11 stories (120 feet) and raise the Gambro to five stories (70 feet).

Zoning in the area only allows for 120-foot tall buildings.

Some in the audience said they actually preferred the taller buildings in the middle with the smaller buildings on the edges. However, the group voted to support the abutting neighborhood’s concerns and to push for more onsite affordable housing, as well as other neighborhood amenities.

  • The Old Dover also agreed to send a comment letter on the Quinzani’s project before the cutoff date of May 12. That project, which lies within their immediate neighborhood, has been well received so far.

Old Dover member Stuart Rose sits on the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) and gave a presentation about recent meetings.

He said the developer, Related Beale, is a class act.

“It’s impressive we’re getting this kind of quality developer,” he said. “These are not second or third tier developers. They are the best in the industry.”

The Old Dover voted to write a comment letter that would ask the company to appear before the association, to flesh out a plan for the mid-block connector (which runs behind the project between E. Berkley and Traveler). The letter also asked for E. Berkley improvements and for the company to step up and support the bike lane project, which as reported above, is seeing some hiccups.

  • Officer Pagan gave a crime report, and while there wasn’t much serious activity, he did report that someone broke into a construction site on April 13 at 136 Shawmut St. and severely damaged a lot of equipment. The total damages exceeded $150,000.

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