By Beth Treffeisen
Residents of the South End spoke out against the newly proposed reduction of parking from 73 parking spaces to 25 at the third public meeting on October 26, to discuss the project at the former Immaculate Conception Church at 771 Harrison Ave.
The proposal includes converting the existing Immaculate Conception Church along with the attached building and an internal courtyard into 63 new residential units. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board initially approved the project in 2013.
Now, due to structural conditions of the Church that would make it very hard to put in a parking garage in the basement level, the owner is proposing to take those parking spaces out, and re-working the design to have rental units in the basement instead.
There will be no increase in the amount of rental units. The make-up will include 21 one-bedroom units, 33 two-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units. This will also account for six on-site affordable units.
The comment period is currently open until November 9, 2016.
This proposed project has yet to gain the approved zoning permits and still needs final approval from the South End Landmarks Commission.
Christopher Tracy the senior project manager from the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA formally the BRA) said that the next BPDA board meeting will be held on November 17, but they are unsure if they will be bringing up this project for discussion.
“The city is under going some tremendous growth right now as we all know,” said Tracy. “When this building boom is over it’s going to be the biggest in Boston’s history…we are going to continue looking at the cumulative impact of all these projects in the city.”
Ronald Simons the owner of the building said that he has reached out to the Penmark Condominiums who will be willing to rent out their unused parking spots in the James Court Garage to residents.
According to Daniel Luter, the vice president of Fulton Properties, LLC who oversees the parking garage that opened in 2006, the parking utilization by the residents at the Penmark Condominiums and the James & Harrison Court apartments ranges between 25 percent and 40 percent.
With their 207 apartment units who have access to those spots, there has never been a point were all of the 104 spaces have been used.
The rent for the 25 parking spots that Simons plans on having with his proposed plan would rent for $225 per moth.
“They always have spaces for rent,” said Simons at the meeting. “They said they would be very happy to provide it for us.”
Also at the garage are 12 ZipCars and a nearby Hubway bicycle station.
At the meeting residents voiced concerns how this will continue to crunch the already impossible on-street parking situation in the area, voicing concerns that many people cannot afford to pay the high price for a parking spot each month.
Some even asked if it would be possible to not allow the new residents to have access to resident permit parking.
“You can’t deny an essential city service,” said Marc LaCasse the legal counsel for the proponent. “It’s like denying a child go to a nearby public school.”
The Blackstone Franklin Square Neighborhood Association held a special neighborhood meeting on Wednesday, November 2 to allow more residents to voice their concerns before this is brought in front of the BPDA.
“It’s almost taken a year to process this proposal and with all the changes and everything I would like to enter construction,” said Simons. “It’s just an empty building there. It’s been empty for seven years now.”