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Developer eyes $75m, 200-unit apartment building on Home for Little Wanderers' JP campus

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 13, 2012 10:59 AM

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KCC_1914_building._lowres.jpg

(Courtesy: The Home for Little Wanderers)

A historic photo of The Home for Little Wanderers most well-known facility built in 1914 along South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain.

This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. on Thurs. Feb. 16, to add information from and, a link to, a copy of the letter of intent the project developer has filed with the city:

A Boston developer plans to tear down the site in Jamaica Plain where the Home for Little Wanderers currently operates its well-known, 98-year-old special education school building and construct a new, $75-million building there with about 200 apartment units and around 175 parking spaces, the majority of which will be below-ground.

In mid-August, the child and family service agency announced that, as part of plans to relocate, it planned to sell the 3.5-acre property that sits between South Huntington Avenue and the Jamaicaway.

The development company, Boston Residential Group, announced today that it has signed a purchase and sales agreement with the nonprofit for the site at 161 South Huntington Ave. and, under the affiliate name of "BRG 161 South Huntington, LLC," in mid-January filed a letter of intent outlining its development proposal with the city's redevelopment authority.

The company's president and CEO Curtis R. Kemeny said today he hopes to receive zoning approval by the coming fall and begin an estimated 18-month construction process in early 2013.

The development company leader said he plans to knock down all three existing structures on the site and build between 190 and 200 apartment units in a residential apartment building expected to cost about $75 million.

Most of the rental units will be studios or one-bedroom, along with some two-bedroom units, officials said. Some apartments will be priced at market rate and some will be priced as affordable units, the developer said.

The "full service" apartment building will include a fitness center, dining facility with a caterer's kitchen, a media and common room, a patio, bike storage space and access to the nearby Emerald Necklace park system, according to Kemeny.

"We love the Jamaica Plain neighborhood," he said in a phone interview today. "We think the site is very attractive to individuals and couples working nearby, whether its be in the Longwood Medical Area or in Jamaica Plain. We're bringing a residential component to an area of Jamaica Plain where it really hasn't been before ... This is going to be a high-quality building."

He said plans for the development are still being drafted and his company expects to file a more detailed project description with the city by the end of March. The city redevelopment authority website lists the proposed building's size at 200,000 square feet.

The company considered renovating the historic buildings at the site, but Kemey said development officials ultimately found: "it would be very, very challenging to reuse that building for a residential purpose. It's not just a cost issue."

He said the site is not configured for residential use and does not comply with current legally-required standards that the site would need to update to if any renovations were made.

(To see historic photos of the Knight Children’s Center, click here.)

He said his company went through a competitive process to secure the site, but declined to say how much the property cost to purchase, citing a confidentiality agreement within the deal.

The "building will embrace the Emerald Necklace and provide [a] new residential face on South Huntington Avenue ... [and it] will become [a] residential anchor on South Huntington Avenue and extend [the] residential character of adjacent JP neighborhoods," the developer said in a statement.

The building's height will be "similar" to two nursing homes situated along South Huntington Avenue, the Sherrill House and Goddard House, development officials said.

For the proposed project, the developer said it has chosen ADD Inc. as its architect, John Moriarity & Associates as its contractor, Nixon Peabody to oversee legal aspects and Epsilon & Associates to oversee obtaining needed permits.

The Boston Residential Group said it is experienced in local, urban development, citing projects the company has led in Boston and Cambridge, including: 360 Newbury St., 285 Columbus Ave., Church Park, Navy Yard 33 and 1008 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge.

The Boston-based real estate development and management company founded in 2003 has ownership interest in or manages over 1,100 luxury apartments and condominiums representing $350 million in real estate assets, according to its website.

In a move announced in August and anticipated to happen in the fall of 2012, The Home for Little Wanderers will relocate some programming and services from its oldest and most-well known facility -- the Knight Children’s Center -- to a section of its 166-acre site at Longview Farm in Walpole that is undergoing $19-million in new construction.

Home for Little Wanderers, a 213-year-old nonprofit, has held other programming at other sites, including on former farmland in Walpole since 1940.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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