WalkUP Roslindale now supports 874-878 South Street, Up for Hearing at Zoning Board of Appeal Today (10/31/17)

Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering
Revised 874-878 South Street Rendering

Back in late August, WalkUP Roslindale reluctantly withheld its support for a proposed project at 874-878 South Street. Although we believe additional housing supply is badly needed around Boston and in Roslindale in particularly–one of our seven founding principles is to support mixed housing that promotes walkability–we are not an uncritical “YIMBY” group that will necessarily say “yes” to any development whatsoever, no matter its defects. The original design proposed for this development was sorely lacking, and we offered what we hoped would be constructive feedback to make this development a more positive contribution to the neighborhood.

Fortunately, the developer took several of our comments to heart and has now proposed a revised design which, while not perfect, is much improved. In view of these improvements, WalkUP now supports the proposed project’s request for zoning relief, which will be heard today, October 31, 2017, at 9:30am at City Hall, Room 801. You can read the developer’s response to our letter and see the revised design here.

Our detailed comments below, also available as a PDF letter.

October 26, 2017
BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY (zba@nullboston.gov)
Boston Board of Appeal
1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02118


Revised Comment Letter
Proposed Project at 874-878 South Street, Roslindale
BOA No. 749169

Dear Honorable Members of the Board of Appeal:

This letter revises and replaces our comment letter of August 30, 2017 to reflect changes to the design and program by Kourtidis Roslindale LLC (Owner/Developer). The latest set of designs upon which this letter comments are attached.

WalkUP Roslindale, which takes its name from the international movement to foster “Walkable Urban Places,” is a collaborative group of residents informally founded in May of 2015 to make Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We advocate for a dynamic, livable streetscape and we support positive changes to our public and private built environment that strengthen walkability and other forms of active mobility as means toward better personal and public health, safety, social capital, economic development, and environmental sustainability. We are led by a steering group of twenty residents and have over 500 additional supporters. More information about WalkUP Roslindale and our initiatives can be found at walkuproslindale.org. We recognize that no single group of people can be said to speak for our entire neighborhood — instead, please take these comments as representing the collective, specific viewpoint of our steering group members (indicated below) and offering what we see as the analysis that results from our mission and principles.

The Proposed Project is a 9-unit residential condominium in a single 3-story building with 11 accessory parking spaces located underneath and to the rear of the building and indoor bicycle parking for 13 bicycles. We understand that the Proposed Project will require several variances from the parking and dimensional standards applicable to the NS-2 neighborhood shopping subdistrict zoning under the Roslindale Neighborhood District of the Boston Zoning Code. WalkUP Roslindale supports much of the Proposed Project’s program and based on the most recent revisions to the design and now fully supports the granting of zoning relief in the referenced appeal. Our analysis, comments, and conditions, which we also intend to provide in person at the hearing on the Proposed Project, are as follows:

  • In concept, the Proposed Project fits well within most of WalkUP Roslindale’s principles. The location is a short walk to Roslindale Square, and thus walkable to its services, restaurants, shops, and transit options (both MBTA commuter rail and bus service), as well shops and services in the immediate Longfellow Area of our neighborhood, providing both a benefit to the new residents who will own and occupy these units and a new base of customers for businesses in the neighborhood, which benefits all Roslindale residents.
  • The Proposed Project has been in development for some time and we well recall that the initial proposal, in early 2015, was for 15 units with 15 off-street parking spaces in a flat-roofed, modern-looking building one story taller. While we could have supported that number of units and parking spaces as well as the flat-roofed design with design alterations, some neighbors objected on both counts and the Proposed Project has been scaled back as described above.
  • While much discussion and some disagreement in the community focused on the program (especially the number of units and parking spaces), there was a general consensus among all participants in the public process that the design of the Proposed Project was not sufficiently thought-out to warrant full support from anyone. The initial drawings presented scant detail and there were some who wanted the Proposed Project to adopt a pitched or gabled roof similar to other nearby residential structures in the neighborhood.
  • The first revised proposal from early March of this year proposed 9 units and 18 off-street parking spaces. When presented at the Longfellow Area Neighborhood Association’s March meeting, there was substantial agreement among neighbors that, given the Proposed Project’s proximity to Roslindale Square, the number of off-street parking spaces should be reduced and bicycle parking included. An interim proposal, upon which our prior letter commented, reflected these comments, eliminating two spaces at the rear of the surface parking area and converting one of the structured spaces underneath the building to bicycle parking. However, the prior design offered flat, virtually featureless elevations which, we concluded, was a compromised design that would not have held its own and would have tended to set back the wider cause of wisely located infill development and redevelopment in our neighborhood.
  • In response to the prior design we offered several strong suggestions most of which we are pleased to see have been accommodated in the latest design, including the elimination of the roof/port cochere over the right side entry area, the addition of more detail, balconies and alteration of siding material all of which help to break-up the project’s massing, further set back of the shed dormers and an additional reduction in the number of parking spaces from 13 to 11, which has the added benefit of increasing open space on the site. The project will also now include a one-bedroom unit, instead of only two-bedroom units. This is a class of a housing we are certain is lacking in Roslindale and encourage seeing more of.
  • We think the quality of both the design and program has improved substantially through its iterations and think further BPDA Design Review will continue to enhance the project. We understand that BPDA is recommending such a proviso on the zoning relief.
  • We continue to encourage the Board to require that Owner/Developer provide two (2) additional amenities to the Proposed Project that will benefit both residents of the Proposed Project and the neighborhood.
    • First, the Owner/Developer should provide at least a 12-month subsidy for monthly MBTA transit passes and/or Zipcar car-sharing services to the initial purchasers of units. Something similar to this is being implemented at the Taft Hill development and was a major selling point for that project. Alternately (or in addition), the Owner/Developer could help sponsor a nearby Hubway bicycle-sharing location, which would benefit both future residents of the Proposed Project and the neighborhood at large.
    • Second, the Owner/Developer should commit to improving the small pocket park at the front door of the Proposed Project and provide for high-quality public bicycle parking in a redesigned, more functional space. We see these proposals as very much in agreement with the Boston Transportation Department’s recently released GoBoston 2030 Mobility Plan, especially the number one priority of making Main Streets Districts (drawn in the plan to include this part of Roslindale) more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

We very much appreciate your careful consideration of our comments and would be happy to discuss any questions you may have on them.

Sincerely yours,

Adam D. Rogoff, Resident @ 28 Ashfield Street, Roslindale, on behalf of
the WalkUP Roslindale Steering Group, including:
Ricardo R. Austrich, Resident @ 843 South Street, Roslindale
Lisa Beatman, Resident @ 180 Mount Hope Street, Roslindale
Steve Gag, Resident @ 631 South Street, Roslindale
Liz Graham-Meredith, Resident @ 6 Crandall Street, Roslindale
Adam Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Rachele Rosi-Kessel, Resident @ 36 Taft Hill Terrace, Roslindale
Mark Tedrow, Resident @ 169 Sycamore Street, Apt. 1, Roslindale
Greg Tobin, Resident @ 1 Sheldon Street, Roslindale
Alan Wright, Resident @ 98 Birch Street, Roslindale
Rick Yoder, Resident @ 180 Mount Hope Street, Roslindale

Copy to:

Mr. Daniel Murphy, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (daniel.m.murphy@nullboston.gov)
City Councilor Tim McCarthy (tim.mccarthy@nullboston.gov)
City Councilor Michelle Wu (michelle.wu@nullboston.gov)
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley (ayanna.pressley@nullboston.gov)
City Councilor Michael F. Flaherty (michael.flaherty@nullboston.gov)
City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (a.e.george@nullboston.gov)

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