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Developer submits revised plan to raze Home for Little Wanderers for housing in Jamaica Plain

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  July 26, 2012 04:52 PM

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161shuntingtonrevised725.jpg

(Boston Redevelopment Authority)

The latest rendering of the proposed residential building at 161 S. Huntington Ave.

A developer proposing to raze the Home for Little Wanderers site in Jamaica Plain to build housing has submitted a revised plan with changes that include a slight increase in the number of affordable units and a slight decrease in the amount of parking.

The developer, Boston Residential Group, filed the new proposal with the city last week in response to a request from city redevelopment authority officials.

The proposal still calls for demolishing the 3.5-acre site’s three existing facilities, including a 98-year-old special education building that some have insisted should be preserved. And, the proposed size of the building, about 193,000 square feet with 196 units standing between four and five stories tall, has not changed from the original plan.

But, the latest plan calls for about 30 units to be designated as affordable housing instead of the original plan that included 26 affordable units.

The prior plan aimed to incorporate 170 total parking spaces. The new plan calls for 156 total spaces, 147 of which would be in a garage below the building and nine others would be along the front of the building. That accounts for seven fewer garage spots and seven fewer outdoor spots than the prior plan.

Instead of having 159 studio and one-bedroom units and 37 two-bedroom units, the project now calls for 155 studio and one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units and five three-bedroom units.

The new plan calls for the building’s overall footprint to shift about 10 feet closer to South Huntington Avenue than previously positioned.

The building’s layout has changed in the latest design.

The previous plan called for a building with an E-shaped footprint and had both indentations of the E at the building’s rear, facing the Jamaicaway.

The new proposal envisions an S-shaped footprint, with one indentation of the S in the front, facing South Huntington Avenue, and the other in the back, facing the Jamaicaway. The new shape would allow for a ‘pocket park’ along a section of the front of the building.

The developer has also changed some of the materials along the building’s exterior to alter its look. A C-shaped section of the building will feature a masonry base below horizontal-seamed metal panels. An L-shaped section of the building will be all masonry.

There will be bay windows of varying heights and French balconies at “key locations” along the back of the building.

The developer had previously sought for the building to obtain the lowest level of LEED Certification, which is “LEED Certified.” Now, the developer hopes to achieve LEED Silver status, which is one level higher on the four-level scale measuring how ‘green’ a building is.

The developer also studied additional traffic impacts and included the results in its latest filing.

In May, the city’s landmarks commission ruled that the property’s 98-year-old Knight Children’s Center building could not be torn down before Aug. 7.

That 90-day delay could be waived earlier if the developer is able to convince officials from the Boston Landmarks Commission that there is no feasible alternative to demolition.

The developer said in its latest filing it has explored various alternatives to keep some or all of the site’s existing 1914 building, but have not found any feasible options.

“While the revised project does not retain the 1914 building, the design is more responsive to the community and its concerns,” the developer wrote.

The developer said it plans to take other steps to preserve aspects of the site’s history including by taking archival-quality photographs of the building and salvaging the building’s cornerstone to give to the Home for Little Wanderers organization.

The 213-year-old agency, announced last summer it plans to relocate some programming and services from its oldest and most-well known facility in Jamaica Plain to its 166-acre Walpole site. The Walpole site is undergoing $19-million in new construction.

Boston Residential Group has said it hopes receive zoning approval for the Jamaica Plain property by the coming fall and begin an estimated 18-month construction process in late 2012 or early 2013.

In late June, the Boston Redevelopment Authority asked the developer to make some changes to its initial proposal, provide additional information about the plan and its potential impacts and respond to public input. The latest plans aimed to accomplish all that and were filed with the city on July 16.

When the previous plans were filed in March, the city redevelopment agency launched a public process during which reaction, including some concern, about the project was collected.

“The community process has brought to the forefront the opinions of many stakeholders within the project’s vicinity,” the Boston Residential Group wrote. “These views are vital to shaping the future of this project and its role within the community.”

“The opportunity to listen to constructive feedback from stakeholders has provided the proponent with valuable insight on how to revise the proposed project while maintaining its feasibility,” the developer's report said. “The proponent believes that the alterations made to the original proposal, as described in this [filing], will allow for a successful project that will become an asset to the local community for generations to come.”

The Boston Redevelopment Authority said it will host a community wide meeting about the project on Aug. 15 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Back of the Hill Apartments.

Other developments along South Huntington Avenue

Residents have expressed concern about the number of proposed, under construction or recently completed developments along a short stretch of South Huntington Avenue.

At 105A S. Huntington Ave, about 300 feet from the Home for Little Wanderers site, another developer is proposing to clear a 1.1-acre wooded lot to construct a 195-unit residential building that would stand about 12 stories tall in front and between four and five stories tall in the back. The 202,450-square foot structure would include some ground-floor retail and 176 garaged parking spaces.

Directly adjacent to the Home for Little Wanderers’ property is an 85-year-old building at 201 S. Huntington Ave. that houses the Goddard House Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. That nonprofit’s board announced this month that it plans to close the facility in early September. The board has said it has not yet considered what it may do with the two-acre property that the city has assessed as being worth $6.1 million.

On the opposite side of the busy roadway, the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center campus recently began building a five-story, 500-space parking garage. The 129,600 square-foot structure is expected to be completed next spring or summer.

On property abutting to the north of 105A S. Huntington Ave., a 39-room boutique hotel said on its website and social media pages that it expects to open later this summer. Construction of that building at 81 S. Huntington Ave. began about two years ago at the site of the former Pond View Nursing Home, which closed in 2008, according to the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

Abutting to the south is the North American Indian Center of Boston. Directly south of that property is the 47,000 square-foot AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center, which opened at 125 S. Huntington Ave in fall 2008. The facility offers free temporary home in 40 suites to cancer patients and their families.

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