BRA creating ‘Avenue of Arts’ design guidelines

April 3, 2015
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The Boston Redevelopment Authority is creating a new set of design guidelines for the “Avenue of the Arts” section of Huntington Avenue in response to recent development there.

The guidelines would be an add-on to existing zoning codes in the stretch of Huntington between Massachusetts and Longwood avenues. The main response from attendees at the process’s first public meeting last week was a request to extend the guidelines farther into Mission Hill. The study’s first draft is expected to be completed by the end of May.

“We’re not seeking a single solution. We’re looking at a set of parameters” for new developments to fit into, David Grissino, BRA planner in charge of the study said at the meeting, held at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) on March 24.

The guidelines would suggest such aspects as the mass of buildings, pedestrian facilities, and the materials and colors used in construction.

Projects already approved as part of an Institutional Master Plan (IMP) but not yet under construction—such as additional proposed dorms and a new gymnasium for Northeastern University—would fall under the guidelines’ purview, Grissino told the Gazette.

“We want to get ahead of Large Project Review developments,” Grissino said, referring to large-scale projects that fall under automatic BRA review. “We don’t have those proposals in front of us, but we know they’re coming soon.”

The study area does not have any sort of design guidelines currently in place.

“There’s two million square feet of development coming to the avenue,” he said. “We want to be able to look ahead and look at the avenue as a whole instead of a collection of pieces.”

“We thought it was important because of the amount of development happening in a fairly small and important area of the avenue,” he said.

Various members of the audience at the community meeting requested that the study area be expanded westward to Route 9, saying that to not do so would neglect Mission Hill residents.

To not do so would create an atmosphere of “the haves and the have-nots,” WIT Associate VP of Community Relations & External Affairs Sandy Pascal said at the meeting.

Other community members called for the study to be broadened to include transportation and infrastructure. Grissino said he would pass those concerns forward, but maintained that those issues were outside the project scope.

The section of Huntington undergoing the planning was branded by the City as the “Avenue of the Arts” about a decade ago due to the presence of such institutions as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The next public meeting will be held April 8, 6 to 8 p.m., at the MFA, 465 Huntington Ave. The study’s website, which contains the presentation given at WIT, is bit.ly/1HfxXAK.

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