Today we sent a comment letter to the BPDA concerning a proposed development at 18-22 Arboretum Road. We support the project overall, and offer comments on affordable units, pedestrian access, and community benefits. Our full letter is below, also available as a PDF.
April 13, 2023
BY ELECTRONIC MAIL ONLY (email@example.com)
Boston Planning & Development Agency
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02201
Attention: Caitlin Coppinger, Project Manager
RE: 18-22 Arboretum Road, Roslindale
Please accept the following comments on behalf of WalkUP Roslindale with respect to the proposed rental residential development at 18-22 Arboretum Road (the “Proposed Project”).
We support the Proposed Project. We are in favor of new housing in our neighborhood, city, and region as part of the response to our surging population and housing affordability crisis, resulting from decades of underbuilding and inequitable patterns of development. The construction of 230 new units of housing at 18-22 Arboretum Road in Roslindale is a welcome event for our city and for the transit-rich community near the Forest Hills MBTA station.
We have two concerns about the Proposed Project:
- We would like clarification on the target percentage of affordable units (heading #2).
- We have comments and recommendations regarding motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian access on Arboretum Road (heading #3) which our members also voiced in person at the community meeting this past Tuesday, March 29th.
Finally, we recommend the Proposed Project maximize integration into the neighborhood through two major community benefits:
- improve access for the surrounding environmental justice community to the Arboretum through a contribution to Phase 2 of the Roslindale Gateway Path project costs, and
- improve food access through support of a full-fledged food pantry at the Archdale BHA Community.
1. Transit Oriented Housing
The Proposed Project is situated in an area with access to many modes of transit. Eleven bus lines run by its doorstep on Washington St, and it is a half mile (10 minute) walk to Forest Hills station where there is access to the MBTA Orange Line and Commuter rail. In addition, the entrance to the Roslindale Gateway Path at the end of Arboretum Rd will provide connection for pedestrians and cyclists to the Southwest Corridor and downtown Boston to the north, and eventually south to Roslindale Village as well. We support the Proposed Project’s effort to minimize the vehicle parking ratio (.54) as these ample modes of more sustainable transportation should be encouraged and prioritized. We also note that limiting the number of motor vehicle parking spaces allows more room at the site for housing units, and therefore a greater number of affordable housing units as well.
The project notification form on page 1.10 says the building will include 38 IDP units out of 230 total units (which equals 16.5%). However, the document says “The project will exceed the 13% affordable requirement by the IDP and will designate 20% of the units as affordable.” We would like clarification on the percentage of affordable units, and encourage the developer to designate another 8 units to live up to their stated goal.
The Proposed Project is located in a part of our neighborhood where household incomes are lower than average and competition for scarce and increasingly expensive housing is displacing our most vulnerable neighbors. Indeed, there has been almost no new housing constructed in this area for the last several decades. We can and should do more as a city to make sure that everyone who wants to make and keep their home here is able to do so.
3. Green Building
We commend the developer for committing to a LEED Gold Certified building, complete with all-electric heating, cooling, and hot water systems. The developer is evaluating a rooftop photovoltaic system and we strongly encourage this as well. These standards are what we believe all new large housing developments in Boston should aspire to in the 22nd century to meet our goals in mitigating climate change.
4. Concerns Regarding Pedestrian Plaza on Kitson Rd and Arboretum Rd
The Proposed Project cites a community benefit of 25,000 square feet of new publicly accessible open space, including a new public amenity plaza. The plans indicate this plaza is designed to integrate the Proposed Project into the soon-to-be-improved Arboretum and Gateway Path entrance at the end of Arboretum Road, as well as the complete streets redesign of Arboretum Road itself by Boston Department of Public Works. The current site plan indicates that most resident motor vehicle traffic will be routed down Lochdale Rd, but that vehicle deliveries will take place via Arboretum Rd, continuing down the entry drive (a.k.a. Kitson Rd).
We acknowledge that the developer has good intentions with these plans. However, given the reality of daily Amazon/UPS, grocery, and myriad other delivery services this large development will bring, the renderings of the entry drive in the public presentation represent an unrealistic portrayal of pedestrian accessibility. We have serious concerns about the negative impact the two-way large delivery truck traffic will have on the entry drive and the vision for a welcoming entrance to the Arnold Arboretum and the Gateway Path for pedestrians and cyclists on Arboretum Road.
We encourage the developer to limit motor vehicle traffic entirely to Lochdale Road or at the very least incorporate design revisions to mitigate the impact of motor vehicle deliveries on Arboretum Road. Furthermore, we are concerned that beyond assurances, the promised public spaces could be made private at any time.
5. Community Benefit
Our coalition believes the development at 18-22 Arboretum Rd can support our Phase 2 Roslindale Gateway Path construction costs and the Food Pantry certification of the Archdale BHA Community FAVOR site as part of its community benefit. We are asking that the developer contribute 1% of its development costs to the Roslindale Gateway Path and Food Pantry certification of the Archdale BHA Community FAVOR site serving the Archdale BHA Community. We see this as an investment by the developer that will greatly enhance the property’s value to its residents and improve the health and wellness of its neighbors through more equitable access to a public open space and nutritious food. We have provided more detailed context and rationale for these community benefits in a separate letter.
In closing, we wish to reiterate our overall support for the Proposed Project, while especially emphasizing our call to limit motor vehicle traffic and deliveries to Lochdale Rd and the importance of supporting the community benefits outlined above.
WalkUP Roslindale Board of Directors
About WalkUP Roslindale
WalkUP Roslindale, which takes its name from the international movement to foster “Walkable Urban Places,” is a collaborative group of residents dedicated to making 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 about thirty residents and have nearly 1,000 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 support of our steering group members (indicated above) resulting from our mission and principles.