Art Park court case closed, project to move forward

May 5, 2017

The Art Park project court case is closed, according to state trial court website, and the City will soon be meeting with the developer to get the project moving forward.

The project had been held up as Mission Hill residents Kathryn Brookins and her husband Oscar filed a lawsuit against the Sebastian Mariscal Studios (SMS) and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals over the variances for the proposal. Judge Judith C. Cutler had dismissed that lawsuit last year and the Brookinses were appealing that decision. But on March 7, the judge ruled in favor of a defendants’ motion to dismiss the appeal on a technicality. Kathryn Brookins said they would not challenge the judge’s decision. They had until April 7 to contest the ruling.

Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) spokesperson Lisa Pollack said in an email, “We are looking forward to meeting with the developer, creating a new timeline, and working with the community to get this well-supported process under way again.”

DND has been spearheading the effort to develop the City-owned land.

SMS did not respond to a request for comment.

The City first began exploring redeveloping the Art Park site in 2012. The site is City-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets that formerly contained murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture, and community gardens that were operated by local residents. Locals were initially against the City’s plan, but many were eventually won over during a two-year process with the community benefits the project would provide, including a community garden.

The Brookinses were not persuaded and filed a lawsuit in 2014 over the ZBA’s decision to grant variances for the project, claiming that the ZBA exceeded its authority granting the variances and that they would be aggrieved by the project because of parking, traffic, noise, and property value impacts. The Brookinses own three properties in the area, including one in which they live at.

Cutler dismissed the lawsuit on Oct. 18 and eventually the appeal.

SMS’s plan is to redevelop the Art Park site into 44 apartments with 10 affordable housing units; 58,000 square feet of green space; and 4,000 square feet of retail space. The site will have 30 parking spaces and 82 bike-parking spaces.

The site will also have community gardens on the roof of the buildings, along with a solar-panel farm towards the Terrace Street side. It is expected to be LEED-certified at “Platinum,” which is the construction industry’s highest energy-efficient rating. The site is slated to produce more energy than it will use.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals both approved the project in 2014 after a two-year community process.

Over the past 15 years, the Brookinses have filed lawsuits against several real estate projects in Mission Hill and the Longwood Medical Area, sometimes gaining settlements, sometimes having the suits tossed out of court. In 2012, they were among the plaintiffs who settled a lawsuit out of court, reportedly for a large sum of money, over zoning approval of Northeastern University’s controversial East Village dorm project.