Chester Square Neighbors Support Proposal for 603 Mass Ave. To Convert Retail Space into Apartment

The Chester Square Neighbors met virtually on June 2, where members heard a presentation regarding changes to the existing building at 603 Mass Ave.

Attorney Lorene Schettino explained that the proposal for the building is to change the ground floor space from retail to a three bedroom residential apartment, for a total of four residential units and an office space.

The existing office space on the first floor will remain, as will the existing apartments above that.

Schettino said that the only zoning violation for this proposal would be insufficient street parking since one additional residential unit was being added. “Everything else we would be able to comply with,” she said.

She said that the zoning relief letter has be obtained, and the community process is “ongoing.” An abutters meeting was held, where Chester Square Neighbors president Carol Blair was the only attendee. She said that the project is expected to go before the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) this summer, but no date has been set yet.

Schettino said that the renovations for the conversion would take about two months.

She also spoke about some of the concerns that Blair brought up during the abutters meeting.

“One of the main concerns Carol had was some security due to the way the front entrance is and then in the back of the property there’s sort of a rear alleyway.” She said that cameras have since been installed in both the front and the back of the building, and a motion sensor security light has also been installed in the back alley.

She also said that the team is considering installing a planter in the front of the house to try and keep people out of the area.

She also said that the owners discussed keeping the retail space, but she said that due to the pandemic, there were not many businesses interested in operating out of the space.

Blair said at this meeting that the building’s tenants and neighbors are in need of some open space.

“We’re always looking for an opportunity to meet that need,” she said. “We appreciate your help with that…whatever you can do.”

She also brought up the transportation issue since parking is not available for this building.

“We would hope that your tenants would be even more oriented toward non car alternatives than most people in the neighborhood,” she said.

Chester Square Neighbors member Sara Mitchell asked who would be living in the building.

Attorney Anthony Rossi said that “currently, the building is fully occupied outside of the retail space.” He said that the building caters to “the hospitals and young professionals, especially the medical professionals. That’s our clientele.”

He also said that all of the finishes in the apartments are high end, and “we want a high quality tenant…not someone who’s going to abuse the space.”

Rossi also said that none of the current tenants have cars.

“Because everything’s pre-existing, they’re pretty much food as far as continuing with the trend,” Blair said. She said that if the building was to be built from the ground up now, it would run into many issues because there is insufficient parking and open space.

She said that she “tried to encourage” the proponents to subsidize a T pass or a Zipcar membership, but “they didn’t want to do that,” she said.

The Chester Square Neighbors decided that they will support this proposal.

The neighbors also talked about their upcoming festival for the dedication of new historical signs for Chester Square that will be installed by the City’s Parks Department. The event is set for 5:30-7:30pm on Wednesday, July 21, and will feature light refreshments and posters with historic photos. The neighbors also hope to have some sort of music and games for kids as part of the event.

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