BPDA Hosts Virtual Public Meeting On Residential Project Proposed for St. Mary’s Street

The Boston Planning & Development Agency sponsored a virtual public meeting on Monday, Dec. 11, to discuss plans to raze an existing parking garage and build a 90-unit residential development in its place at 142-146 St. Mary’s St. in the Audubon Circle neighborhood.

Newton developer and longtime owner of the property, Allen Associates Properties, intends to transform a two-story, non-conforming garage located along the tracks for the MBTA’s D train on the Green line into a new approximately 91,000 gross square-foot development.

​The development’s 90 rental units would span five stories above a two-story garage and include a mix of market-rate studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms, said Ben Wan, a principal at Boston-based RODE Architects, with 14 units, or about 15 percent overall, designated as affordable, IDP (Inclusionary Development Policy) units per the city’s zoning requirements.

​A two-level, enclosed garage accessed off St. Mary’s Street would include 105 parking spaces, along with 25 exterior spaces, said Wan, while parking provisions would include 75 spaces for an eight-and-a-half story, 149-unit residential development at 101 Monmouth St. in Brookline, also owned by Allen Associates Properties, along with 15 spaces for the neighborhood and two additional ride-share spaces. (The existing, 190-space garage at 142-146 St. Mary’s St. currently provides parking for residents of 101 Monmouth St., which is the closest structure to the proposed development.)

​The proposed building would also include a secured, internal bike room with 90 spaces, as well as external bike racks for visitors and a new Bluebikes station for the local bike-share network.

​A lobby along St. Mary’s Street for the proposed building would sit opposite the lobby for 101 Monmouth St. and provide pedestrian access into the building, said Wan, while the building’s second story would be home to a 2,700 square-foot “amenity lounge,” which could have a fitness component and a landscaped amenity deck for residents.

​The parallelogram- shaped site has many varied conditions, including frontage on Emerald Necklace. The proposed building would have “rowhouse-inspired massing along the northern edge of the property facing the shared alley,” said Wan, while it would also curve at the bend in the Muddy River to maximize views from some dwelling units.

​The developer has also committed to capping the building’s height at 69 feet (in excess of the 45-foot height limit for the area), said Wan during the BPDA’s first meeting of the project’s Impact Advisory Group (IAG) held virtually on Nov. 18, while the duration of construction is expected to last between 20 and 22 months, depending on the “scope” of the project.

​Allen Associates Properties has pledged a $150,000 contribution for the maintenance and enhancement of Monmouth Park in Brookline as part of mitigation for the project.

And as Wan first announced at the Nov. 18 IAG meeting, Allen Associates Properties has agreed to look at the feasibility of creating a new pedestrian connection between the site and the Fenway stop on the D train on the T’s Green line as part of the project. The developer has had early conversations with the Boston Transportation Department and the BPDA about creating an at-grade connection to the T stop along the southern edge of the site, which abuts MBTA property on Monmouth Street in Brookline, said Wan.

​Michael Nichols, an IAG member who has lived in the Audubon Circle neighborhood for more than a decade, was largely favorable of the project, especially since he said it could potentially create new pedestrian access to the Fenway T station that doesn’t cross Park Drive, as well as provide more much-needed housing in the neighborhood.

​Another neighbor, Joanna Chow of the 14-18 Medfield St. Condominium Association, was less supportive of the project, however.

​Among Chow’s myriad concerns with the project were its height, considering how many surrounding buildings, including her own, stand only three or four stories tall. The new project’s height could not only impact light and views for neighbors but could also have an adverse impact on the “long-term values” of their buildings, she said.

​“We’re willing to put up a fight,” said Chow. “We want to make sure you take these concerns very seriously.”

​Chow also expressed concerns with the aesthetics of the design, saying it has a “very bland, dormitory-looking façade.”

​Wan responded that a “more contemporary design” could be explored, which could utilize brickwork in its façade to put the project more in the context of its historical neighborhood.

​Likewise, Joe Hanley, a zoning and permitting attorney for the applicant, told Chow that  many of her requests could be accommodated and asked to take their conversation “offline.”

​“We want to make sure we get this right,” said Hanley, who added that the design is part of “an ongoing discussion.”

​Kazem Kazerounian, a Medfield Street resident for around 20 years, said he’s trying to find a “silver lining” in the project, despite having serious reservations about it.

​As an engineer, Kazerounian said he is particularly concerned that the numerous cars, delivery trucks, and ride-share vehicles headed towards the new development would traverse through the narrow alley, where backups would inevitably occur. He also worries that short-term visitors to the new development would park in the alley.

​“What I see is horrible traffic,” said Kazerounian.

​According to a shadow study conducted by the applicant, the project will create some new shadow, including new shadow on public greenspace at 9 a.m. during winter solstice – Dec. 21 – the day with the shortest duration of sunlight each year, said Katya Podsiadlo, a landscape architect for the project team.

​Dolores Bogdanian, a Park Drive resident, asked what the shadow impact would be with a building that complies with the existing height limit versus the shadow impact of the proposed 69-foot building.

​Wan responded that he could provide more detailed shadow studies, including hour-by-hour projections for the expected shadow impact from the project.

​Bogdanian also expressed concern that the project’s parking provisions would prove to be inadequate and requested that its residents be ineligible to receive parking permits from the City of Boston.

​“I think you could do better,” said Bogdanian in regard to the project as proposed.

​The BPDA’s public-comment period for this project ends on Jan. 2; public comments can be submitted on the BPDA’s project webpage at http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/142-146-st-marys-street, or comments can be emailed directly to Ebony DaRosa, BPDA project manager, at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.