The Pine Street Inn’s biggest-ever development would provide long-term housing in Jamaica Plain for the formerly homeless. But one of the neighbors of the Washington Street site is suing to stop it, saying the project is too big, and wouldn’t have enough parking.
The landlord of a brewery across the street from Pine Street’s project recently filed suit in Suffolk County, saying the zoning decision allowing the five-story project — which would include services and 140 studio apartments for formerly homeless people, along with 62 units of more traditional affordable housing — was flawed.
The suit focuses particularly on parking, saying the project’s 60 spaces are simply too few for its 202 units. It contends that the overflow will hurt business at Turtle Swamp Brewing, a brewery with a tiny parking lot across the street.
“Our client’s tenants … also rely on street parking,” wrote Stephen Greenbaum, a lawyer for Monty Green, who owns Turtle Swamp’s building, in March a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeal. “This project will, without question, significantly impact their ability to find parking, and therefore their ability to conduct their affairs in the manner they currently do.”
Greenbaum did not return messages seeking comment. Turtle Swamp co-owner John Lincecum noted the brewery itself was not a party to the lawsuit.
“We remain supportive of Pine Street Inn’s mission,” he said Friday.
Officials with the Pine Street Inn and their partner, nonprofit housing developer The Community Builders, say that they already reduced the size of the project from six stories to five, with 23 fewer units, while it was undergoing city review. That version won support from the neighborhood. Their bid to replace a warehouse and office building with the apartments was approved earlier this year by both the Boston Planning & Development Agency and Zoning Board of Appeal — which OK’d fewer parking spaces than would typically be required in that part of town, among other zoning tweaks.
“The city has a process for neighbors to participate. We took part in it for a year, and when it got to the [neighborhood association], feedback was 100 percent positive,” said Community Builders CEO Bart Mitchell. “That’s the way this process is supposed to work.”
Still, lawsuits like this one — challenging variances to Boston’s decades-old zoning code — are fairly common and often get settled out of court. Mitchell and Pine Street Inn executive director Lyndia Downie said they hope they can resolve this one in time to break ground by the end of the year.
“We’re very hopeful this can still go forward on schedule,” Mitchell said. “We are still preparing to start construction.”
The suit also highlights the tensions around development in this fast-changing part of Jamaica Plain.
Several larger projects are being proposed or are set to soon break ground near the corner of Washington and Green streets, a stretch of old warehouses and auto shops near Egleston Square where city plans envision a wave of denser housing. Much of the debate has been around affordable housing — with supporters pointing to Pine Street’s project as the sort of development that’s needed — though some neighborhood businesses have raised concerns about impacts during construction. A meeting to discuss how to manage such things as traffic and dust during the two years of construction will be held soon, Mitchell said.
The $96 million project has received strong support from the Walsh administration, which steered $1.5 million in city affordable housing money to help fund construction and later authorized $10 million in so-called linkage payments from an office tower being built downtown. Pine Street has also raised $10 million through Walsh’s Way Home Fund to pay for ongoing services once the building opens.
This kind of “permanent supportive housing,” as it’s called, is designed to give formerly homeless people a long-term place to live, with support services nearby. Pine Street operates several hundred units in smaller buildings around the city. This would be by far the largest, Downie said, and comes amid a pandemic that’s highlighting the city’s need for high quality, and uncrowded, affordable housing.
“We thought this is an enormously important project even before COVID,” she said. “Given where things are now, and how this virus has hit homeless people, the need is even greater.”