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BRIGHTON

1930s design gets thumbs-up as city-owned housing project

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May 11, 2008

A condominium project designed with a 1930s feel was the first pick of the Brighton Allston Improvement Association board for a highly visible, city-owned site. Three other proposals with fewer total condos, but more subsidized units for lower-income buyers, are still on the table as the city's Department of Neighborhood Development prepares a recommendation for 1501 Commonwealth Ave.

"We felt this was the better proposal," said Lorraine Bossi, a member of the association's board. The $18 million proposal that the board endorsed would offer 57 one-, two-, or three-bedroom condos spread out over four stories, and two stories of parking, said developer Merrill Diamond. Currently, a three-story former nursing home, now vacant, occupies the spot near the Brighton Marine Health Center and a wooded city park.

The runner-up preference at the association's meeting on May 1 was from the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation, which has built or rehabilitated more than 500 units of housing in the neighborhood.

Diamond, who noted his role in building housing in the former Waterworks buildings near the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, expressed his preference for designs other than what he called "squat, flat boxes" built on Comm. Ave. since the 1930s. He and several nearby residents said that the neighborhood has more than enough affordable units and needs more of the market-rate variety.

"Allston-Brighton has a lot of affordable housing," said mechanic Harry Nesdekidis. "It's bringing down our quality of life, while the taxes we pay are going up."

But Charlie Vasiliades, a development corporation board member, disagreed, saying that with Allston-Brighton at 13 percent, only West Roxbury, Hyde Park, and Back Bay have smaller percentages of affordable rental units.

The developers now await analysis from the Department of Neighborhood Development, which will accept community input for another week or two, according to spokeswoman Kerry O'Brien. In about a month, the department will send its recommendation to the Public Facilities Commission, which will tentatively designate a developer. Depending on the timing of the financing, shovels could be in the ground by next year, O'Brien said.

Comments may be sent to the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development at 26 Court St., Boston 02108.

ANDREAE DOWNS

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