(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Neighborhood residents may soon see a new, revitalized Logan Square — if the developers can overcome those residents’ concerns regarding density, retail size, tenant selection, and parking.
Citizens packed the large basement room in the Hyde Park Municipal Building on Thursday to discuss preliminary plans for redeveloping the area from 51 to 79 Fairmount Ave., directly across the street from the Engine 48 and Ladder 28 firehouse.
The proposal would leave Portman Properties in place at 63 Fairmount Ave., but would largely transform the rest of the span, replacing one-story storefronts with mixed-use buildings that would have retail on the first floor and apartments above. In preliminary sketches, the buildings have three-story facades, with a fourth floor set back from the front of the buildings so that it is not visible from street level.
The new development would include 20 to 27 units of housing and 7,600 to 8,000 square feet of retail space, with parking for about 26 vehicles in an off-site lot to be built on Nott Street. It is intended to be a transit-oriented development whose residents would rely largely on the nearby Commuter Rail station and other public transportation rather than cars.
Mike Feloney, executive director of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, said he’d like to see a mix of businesses in the space similar to that at the Brewery Building in Jamaica Plain.
“We would … work on attracting businesses that complement existing ones in the business district for a healthy mix of businesses to enliven the streetscape through a combination of community-oriented retail,” Feloney said.
Feloney led the meeting with Arthur Jemison from GLC Development Resources. The two groups are planning the development in a partnership with Tallon Development, which helped develop Townsend’s Restaurant and TC’s Coffeehouse on Fairmount Avenue. The architecture firm is The Narrow Gate, and the housing would be managed by Maloney Properties.
The community meeting followed several smaller meetings with neighborhood associations throughout Hyde Park to get questions and feedback. Many were hearing the plans for the first time, and some had pointed questions and strong objections.
Several asked about the developers’ plans to make all the housing available to low-income renters, ranging from zero to 80 percent of area median income.
A community member who would not give her name expressed strong concerns that accepting very-low-income tenants would bring a bad element into the neighborhood.
Diana Kelly, vice president of Maloney Properties and a Hyde Park resident, said her company would find a trustworthy and economically diverse group of tenants through a “well-designed marketing outreach program.
“If you’re looking for a population of residents who are going to cover the whole income spectrum,” Kelly said, “you’re going to be targeting your marketing to the people in this room, to people you know and people you would want as neighbors.” She explained that Maloney would check references and criminal backgrounds to make sure residents would be “positive assets in the community.”
After further questions about why there was no market-rate housing in the preliminary plan, Feloney explained that the government funding the SWBCDC would need for the development was most accessible for projects going up to 80 percent of median income.
Traffic and parking were another major concern. Many questioned whether 26 parking spaces would be sufficient for a development that would bring both new retail space and as many as 27 new units of housing into an already-congested area.
Others said it was unlikely that new residents would choose to live in Logan Square without cars and rely on the Fairmount Commuter Rail line, which doesn’t run on weekends or holidays.
Jemison responded that it was often a trade-off between smoother transit through an area and a more prosperous and vital streetscape. He said that heavily trafficked areas make it harder to get around, but they also add activity and liveliness to the street that brings in more customers to local businesses and makes the area more appealing and safer for visitors.
“How much is traffic helping, and how much is it hurting?” he asked rhetorically. “Is some of it helping to add vitality to the area?”
Despite the tough questions from many residents, the meeting closed with praise from several for the developers’ positive intentions for Hyde Park and their willingness to work with the neighbors.
“This is my second meeting and seeing this. I think the questions have been great tonight. I think the feedback’s been great. And I think this is a project that has many steps to go,” said Warren Avenue resident Bridget Simmons. “But I commend you that you answered some of the questions you couldn’t answer at the last meeting, and I look forward to the next meeting.”
The developers plan another community forum in January.
Email Jeremy C. Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.