Revised Burney St. project draws mixed response

June 1, 2018
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The mixed-use development that has been proposed at 9-11 Burney St. is still drawing a conflicted response from the community, although some residents were pleased with changes made by the developers in a redesign from the previous proposal.

The developers—Mitch Wilson and Russell Preston—are proposing to demolish an existing three-family structure at 11 Burney Street and construct a 27,629-square-foot, four-story building with a recessed fifth floor. The project includes 25 rental units, of which three will be designated as income restricted, with five parking spaces. The project also proposes 1,900 square feet of ground floor restaurant space and a 2,853-square-foot laneway as a public open space for recreational activities, outdoor restaurant seating, and as a pathway through the site.

Changes made from the previous proposal were in height and density, ultimately bringing a proposed six-story building into a proposed four- to five-story building. The height at front has been reduced from roughly 65 feet to 44 feet, and the height at rear went from roughly 65 feet to 55 feet. The gross square footage decreased from 35,263 to 27,629. The taller part of the building will be pushed back about 20 feet from the front of the building. The current breakdown of units would be 6 studio units, 12 one-bedrooms, and 7 two-bedrooms.

“Most of the changes we’re proposing to the building are at the massing at the top of the building, and we’ve maintained most of what we think is beautiful about the project, including the laneway,” Michael LeBlanc, the architect on the project said. “We think it’s a much smaller impact visually on the neighborhood.”

Despite these changes, some residents were still not won over, and height and density remained some of the most prevalent concerns, in addition to traffic impacts.

Liz Parit, the transportation consultant at Howard Stein Hudson, said at the meeting that there would be a projected decrease of vehicular trips during peak hours and that traffic impacts would be minimal since the new building will replace a 19-space parking lot. The parking ratio is 0.16 spaces per unit.

Some residents were not so sure that the new development would not increase traffic, an already aggravated problem in the area. Dan Junkins, resident on Delle Avenue, opposed the project because regardless of the traffic analysis, he felt sure that there would be an increase in traffic based off experience living in the neighborhood and seeing increased traffic after other developments have been built.

“Every new business or project that I’ve seen grow up around here, there’s been an exponential explosion of traffic,” Junkins said. “With the issues of deliveries, trash and trash vehicle, Ubers, Lyfts, and more car owners…traffic is already a huge problem, and it’s only going to be exacerbated immensely. My request that the developers respect and understand that the issues of traffic are probably the biggest issues I have with this project.”

Jim Farro, a 40-year resident of Mission Hill, said that he felt that the project was becoming divisive because abutters opposed the project, but business owners supported it.

“Historically that would gain some respect, but it hasn’t in that case. It hasn’t been a dialogue, and I don’t think we’ve really been listened to in terms of our concerns. We would like something there, but our concern is height and density,” said Farro.

Farro said that he would support the project if it was on Tremont Street, but that it was inappropriate to have such a tall building with commercial use in a residential zone.

Wilson responded to Farro’s comments saying that he has letters of support from all of his direct abutters.

Immediately after Wilson said that, Walter Krum, a direct abutter, said that he was not completely opposed the project, but had objections to the height, density, and traffic. Krum shared a picture of the view of the city from his apartment, and also a rendering of what the view would look like with the new building, in order to demonstrate that there would be a large obstruction.

Some long-term residents supported the project, like Trip Hilton and Dan Vlahos from Hillside Street.

“It’s nice to see a restaurant set back from busy streets,” Hilton said. “I approve.”

“I think we need to look towards the future and look for more options for dining,” Vlahos said. “I approve of the changes that were made to the project. Right now we have a parking lot, which often has a lot of trash in it and is dirty, and also this project is not for students, so I hope this project moves forward.”

Local restaurant owners also support the project, including both owners of Milkweed, the owner of The Mission, and the owner of Penguin Pizza.

Ben Johnson, owner of Milkweed, supported the project because of the indoor trash rooms as a solution for trash. He said that a lot of Milkweed’s clientele walked to their restaurant, and didn’t think that there would be much of a traffic impact for that reason.

Toni Komst, a board member of Mission Hill Main Streets (MHMS), said that she supported the project because the restaurant would not be a corporate chain restaurant. She also thought that crime would be reduced in the area since the Laneway will be an open and well-lit area.

Richard Rouse of MHMS also disclosed that the developers offered MHMS $5,000 as a community benefit, which the organization rejected. Rouse said the board did not unanimously support the project, but a majority of MHMS board members supported it.

The project lists its community benefits as adding three affordable units; a $75,000 affordable-housing contribution to the City fund; a creation of the laneway as a new public space; a new retail destination; contributions to Parks Department and Tobin Community Center; bringing trash inside to three interior trash rooms; being transit oriented to minimize car trips and travel; sustainable design by being certifiable to LEED Silver; and the creation of two new on street parking spaces for parking and deliveries. The two new on street spaces will be used for commercial delivery use in the daytime, and will be residential afterwards.

The project manager on the project is Gary Webster, who can be reached at [email protected] or 617-918-4457.

Webster said that he has received around 260 comments on the project, and there was around 55 percent comments of opposition, and 45 percent support.

There will be three pop-up events where residents can meet with the developers and do a walk-through of the project to find solutions to any concerns. The final event will be on June 3 from 1pm to 5 p.m. at 1522 Tremont St. A summary of the pop-up studio dialogues will be published on June 22 at lanewaymissionhill.com.