JP Friends & Neighbors,
I'm taking the liberty of using this blog post to pass on an email I got from Judy Neiswander who lives in JP and also works for the Boston Preservation Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group that works to preserve Boston's historic buildings and landscapes:
Over the last several months we've been very involved with the proposal to demolish all the buildings on the campus of The Home for Little Wanderers at 161 So. Huntington Ave, and replace them with an enormous 196 unit luxury housing development primarily composed of studios & 1 BRs and specifically designed, according to the developer, to appeal to professionals working in the medical area.
The Alliance feels this development is too large and out of scale and character with the adjacent charitable institutions and disrespectful of the original historic 1914 building. This row of charitable institutions were all constructed around the same time in the same style, materials & scale. As needs changed, the Astra Zeneca Hope Lodge and the Mt. Pleasant Home restored their historic buildings and incorporated them into their expansion plans. Sherrill House, the one institution that had to demolish its original building due to changed code requirements for nursing homes, rebuilt on site in the same materials and scale as the adjoining structures. The style and scale of the proposed new development is completely unsympathetic to this context in every way.
The Alliance has worked with the developer for months to engage them in exploring ways to down-size this project and preserve the original building. The developer has insisted this is "impossible" but has been unwilling to divulge his supposed financial constraints. We believe he has not made a good faith effort. There is a critical FINAL community meeting tomorrow evening for the BRA to gather public opinion on this project. If you believe this luxury housing project is out of character with the community goals and values of Jamaica Plain, please make your voice heard at a meeting this Wednesday at 6:30pm in the community room of the Back of the Hill apartments at 100 South Huntington Ave. This project is in no way a "done deal" and if it is clearly and definitively rejected by the voters of JP, I believe we have a chance to stop it. Please tell your neighbors and attend this meeting if you possibly can.
P.S. I have attached the Alliance's statement at the Pond Association meeting last week. Please feel free to contact me with questions. Complete information about the proposed project can be found here:http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/DevelopmentProjects/devprojects.asp?action=ViewProject&ProjectID=1362
Thank you in advance for your support
Statement to Pond Association
The Boston Preservation Alliance appreciates the work that the development team has done to share alternatives to the total demolitionof the historic 1914 building. However, we continue to believe stronglythat the project is inappropriate in size and scale. We believe that theredevelopment of this site should respect the heritage of 100 years ofphilanthropic activity in this location, as have all the other institutions herethat have grown and adapted their original buildings for new uses. We joinwith other constituents in Jamaica Plain in continuing to believe that thisproject is too aggressive and not respectful of the character of the site.
We reject the premise the 196 units is the only economically feasiblesolution to redevelopment. We feel that the claims of economic hardshipare exaggerated and primarily result from over-paying for a site that shouldbe developed at a more modest scale. This threshold of economic viabilitywas developed without financial transparency and with no input from thecommunity. While small concessions have been made, the project as it iscurrently designed is devoid of any genuine recognition of community goalsand values.
The developer will need to seek variances for height & FAR. Thelegal standard for variances requires the applicant to demonstrateeconomic hardship. We believe the developer has created his owneconomic hardship, for which the community should not bear the burden.Correspondingly, while we believe that the mission of the New EnglandHome for Little Wanderers is worthy, we do not feel that the residentsof Jamaica Plain have to accept their cashing out at the neighborhoodsexpense (if that is what they are doing).
In summary, as the other parties on South Huntington that have redeveloped their buildings have recognized, the right way to developthis site is to find a way to respect its heritage and scale, and to work with community priorities. 196 units does not do this. This central premise of thecurrent project remains unchanged and we cannot accept it.