The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) held a public meeting on October 27 regarding the proposed seven story building for 1395 Washington Street in the South End.
Attorney Marc LaCasse and architect Dartagnan Brown were on hand to present the proposal and address comments and questions from the public.
The proposal includes demolishing the existing one story commercial building on the lot and constructing a seven story building with 35 residential units and retail space on the ground floor. The unit mix will consist of studios, one bedrooms, one bedroom pluses, and two bedroom units that will be for home ownership.
LaCasse said that the total building size is about 41,000 square feet and will be about 83 feet tall.
He said that a building permit application has been submitted with the city’s Inspectional Services Department, who provided a zoning code refusal letter that will require the project to request variances from the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA) for things like groundwater, the restaurant use, and roof decks, as well as dimensional variances. The project will go before the ZBA once it is through the Article 80 process.
Dartagnan Brown said that the design team has spoken with abutters who live in the building to the right regarding things like sight lines and height.
He then talked about the proposed design, saying that it has a “bottom, middle, and top,” with the bottom being the retail, the middle the residential portion, and the top will be to “work the massing in and tying it to the adjacent context.”
The residential lobby will the located on the righthand side of the building, and the retail can be used for either a single space or three spaces.
Brown said that the pricing will be “much better” for these units than a typical renovation of a brownstone would be, and called it a “really unique product for the neighborhood.”
Georgantas said the unit prices would range from $600,000 to $1.2 million.
The materials proposed are a “high quality metal panel on the ground floor” as well as a lighter colored variegated brick.
The owner of an apartment at 1411 Washington St. expressed concern about a bedroom in his unit that would have its window covered up by this proposed building. He said this would cause sunlight to be blocked from the bedroom, and he also had concerns about the height of the proposed building, as it is higher than 1411 and would “cause the privacy of our roof deck to be completely violated by your project,” he said.
Peter Georgantas, the developer for the project, said that he “tried through your property manager to reach out a few times to take a look at the windows and discuss an alternative.” He said that the team is willing and open to discuss alternatives with those affected.
“We’re happy to meet,” Brown said. “Our understanding was that was serving hallways, not bedrooms,” he said of the windows. “Party wall windows are not allowed in the city without variance relief, which I can’t imagine this had.”
Another resident of the 1411 building said that this project would be “taking potentially two bedroom apartments and forcing them to be one bedroom.” He said that would be a “pretty big decrease in value,” and also echoed some of the first resident’s concerns about light.
Sheila Grove said that she is “really happy to see some of the things about your project,” including pulling back the sidewalk and the bays on the building. She asked about putting blade signs for the retail portion.
Brown said that the team is looking into how signage would work on the facade for the retail, and said that there will be space on each of the spaces to put signage, whether it be for one retail space or multiple different ones.
Grove also asked about the quality of the materials being used, as she said she doesn’t “want it to look cheap.”
Brown said that “we’re picking high quality metal panels” and “real brick. We’re not looking to do fiber cement or vinyl or plank siding,” he said.
Another question was asked about trash, and Georgantas said that there will be a “designated trash room in the basement of this building” that will be privately managed for city pickup.
Additional concerns were raised about unit sizes, with some residents saying they believe larger units are requested.
“What we’ve seen,” Brown said, is that people are looking for a work from home setup, which would be provided in the 17 one bed pluses that are being proposed as part of this project. He said that because these “plus” rooms do not have a window, “legally they can’t be called a two bedroom.”
LaCasse added that “these are proposed to be condominium units for ownership. There is virtually a dearth of that product in the South End.”
Grove disagreed with that statement, and said she believes the demand is high for larger units.
Brown said that he can look further into the demand for the area.
The comment period for this project closes on November 5. Comments can be made and more information about the project, including a full recording of this meeting, can be found at bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/1395-washington-street.