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.]