190-200 units planned for Home site

March 9, 2012
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A huge, high-end apartment building with 190 to 200 units is being proposed for the Home for Little Wanderers complex at 161 S. Huntington Ave. in Jamaica Plain near the Mission Hill border.

The developer, Boston Residential Group, does not accept undergraduate students as tenants, said company president and CEO Curtis Kemeny in an interview last month at the Gazette office. Off-campus undergrad housing is a major quality-of-life concern in Mission Hill

An “Impact Advisory Group” (IAG) is being formed to review the project and will include some Mission Hill community leaders.

The Home announced last summer that its S. Huntington site, known as the Knight Children’s Center, is relocating to Walpole. Kemeny plans to knock down all three buildings currently on the 3.5-acre site and erect a four- to five-story, all-rental building.

Kemeny is aiming to start construction in about a year. But first, the project requires changing the site’s zoning from institutional to multifamily residential use. It would also require Boston Parks Commission review because the property abuts the Jamaicaway and Olmsted Park. And the Boston Landmarks Commission would review the demolition of the 1920s-era main Home building.

“The Emerald Necklace is a beautiful amenity to us. So what we will want to do is embrace the Emerald Necklace,” said Kemeny. The main building would be on S. Huntington, not the parkway. It would keep existing trees along the parkway and create resident-only pedestrian access there.

The project would include a surface parking lot underneath the building, likely with about 150 spaces under City of Boston guidelines. Kemeny said he would do whatever the City requires, but added that he wants to minimize parking because residents increasingly use alternative transportation. He also would seek to add a Zipcar car-sharing station.

The traffic flow would keep the Home’s configuration of a two-entrance driveway on S. Huntington and would not have any Jamaicaway access, he said.

Most of the units would be studio or one-bedroom apartments, with some two-bedrooms. Kemeny acknowledged that the smaller units are aimed at singles and couples rather than families.

Under Boston Redevelopment Authority guidelines, 13 percent of the units would be rented at affordable rates. The project also would include a fitness center, a patio and a “common room” with a kitchen for use by residents and caterers.

The three existing buildings cannot be reused to their configuration and age, he said.

Kemeny’s Boston Residential Group is a large developer and property manager. Its other buildings include the Back Bay condo building with Best Buy in the lower floors. Under Kemeny’s father, the company 40 years ago built the Church Park development next to Symphony Hall, which includes a Whole Foods Market and other notable businesses.

A Home for Little Wanderers spokesperson told the Gazette that the Home cannot talk about the project under the terms of a purchase-and-sale agreement.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) is forming an IAG of local residents and officials. The IAG can suggest mitigations for any perceived negative impacts, including in building design and traffic congestion. Mitigation also can mean a contribution of money a developer makes to the City or to local organizations.

IAG members are nominated by elected officials and community groups. The IAG for 161 S. Huntington had not yet been formally approved as of late last week. But, according to the BRA, the nominated members include Pat Flaherty of Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services and Kay Gallagher of the Back of the Hill Community Development Corporation, along with various JP residents and institutional leaders.

Boston Residential Group has not yet filed a formal plan for the project with the BRA. The review process will begin when that happens.

 

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