City Partially Approves 196-Unit Apartment Complex at Former Home for Little Wanderers

South Huntington took a step toward getting a four- and five-story apartment complex that two of JP's neighborhood groups vehemently opposed. The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved the project on Thursday. The city must also approve zoning var

Near-unanimous opposition from JP neighborhood groups wasn't enough to stop the city from granting a key step to approval of a giant new apartment complex for 161 S. Huntington.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority gave the 196-unit apartment complex the green light on Thursday, according to a Tweet from the development agency.

The project would create a four- and five-story building on the grounds of the former Home for Little Wanderers. All the children have been moved out to the agency's new campus in Walpole.

The project still must clear the Zoning Board of Appeals, where a hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.

Just last week the JP Neighborhood Council Zoning Committee voted 14-0 to deny zoning relief to the developers. Without getting variances from city zoning rules, the parcel could only have about 16 units, according to an analysis by project opponent Kevin Maloney.

"It takes up practically every inch of the build-able portion of the lot," Maloney had said to a room of about 30 persons at the Farnsworth House.


Official neighorhood groups had opposed project

The project will raze the existing buildings and create one L-shaped building with a contiguous U-shaped building. There would be 175 parking spots beneath the edifice. Most units would be one-bedrooms of various sizes, aimed at appealing to the medical professionals who work in the Longwood area.

JP's formal neighborhood organizations had made a united front against the project. The Jamaica Pond Association opposed the project and, according to Maloney, the Impact Advisory Group convened to advise on it also opposed it.

Developer Curtis Kemeny, CEO of Boston Residential Group, said the project would cost $75 million, take 18 months and create 200 construction jobs.

A central argument made by the developer is that JP needs more rental housing, and that the size and price points of their project are necessary for them to build it without government help.

Price points for monthly rents would be roughly as follows, Kemeny told the Zoning Committee last week:

  • Studios: $1,900-2,100
  • 1-Bedrooms: $2,000-2,500
  • 2-Bedrooms: $2,500-3,000
  • 3-Bedrooms: $2,900-3,300

Thirty of the units, or 15 percent, will be "affordable." That mean rents will be lowered to 80 percent of the Boston area media income. The JP Neighborhood Council had pushed for 25 percent affordable units.

The project must also gain approval from the the Board of Zoning Appeals. Downtown boards often heed the recommendations of the Neighborhood Council, but they aren't required to do so, as seen in the case of the Redevelopment Authority's Thursday decision.

The next hurdle could be tougher for developers, according to Ben Day, chairperson of the JP Neighborhood Council.

"Peter Meade, the director of the BRA, actually explicitly stated at the BRA Board meeting last night that he had told the developers they were unlikely to get a positive vote at the ZBA unless they were able to build some support from the community," Day wrote in an email to JP Patch.


[Editor's note: I've updated this article to reflect that city approval isn't 100 percent complete.]

Chris Helms October 19, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Hey everyone, I've update the post to make it clear that Thursday's vote is a partial approval, not the whole game, set and match. The project must still get zoning variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals. (Hat tip to Ben Day of the JPNC for the clarification.)
Bob from JP October 19, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Do you think that if the development was catered to low income individuals rather than yuppies working in Longwood that the JPNC and company would have the same position????
Maura October 20, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Well really, a partial approval in this case is just an approval that isn't completed yet. You think the variances won't be forthcoming? I don't mind the idea of dense development but I do mind ugly. The BRA is supposed to be concerned with how new projects fit in with the overall landscape. I guess they've changed.
AaronLC October 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
When the Mayor wants something he makes sure he gets it. I would welcome any proof of otherwise.
AaronLC October 20, 2012 at 04:14 PM
I disagree with Bob from JP. It is not low-income or nothing, but it can be beautiful and well done. Thankfully I don't live next to it.


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