BPDA Board Approves Project at 1558 Tremont Street

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

A project that would bring almost 100 units to 1558 Tremont Street was approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors during a board meeting in October.

Daniel Polanco of the BPDA explained during the board meeting that the project would consist of a six-story mixed-use building consisting of 95 rental units, around 3,228 square feet of first-floor retail, and 53 parking spaces for the use of Boston’s Basilica of Our Lady Of Perpetual Help and residents.

Regarding unit make-up, there are plans for 59 studios, 22 one-bedrooms, and 14 two-bedrooms. As for affordability, the project will offer 17% of the total units — 16 units — as Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) units, with three at 60% of Area Median Income (AMI).

One significant aspect of this project to note is that there is a proposed deed restriction preventing units from being sold to full-time undergraduate students. “This restriction is monitored, and the books are subject to audits from a local community group to ensure compliance,” said Attorney John Pulgini.

Further, in speaking more about the project, Pulgini said, “Additionally, as part of this proposal, the developer’s investing significant capital in public realm and traffic calming measures that will make this area safer for vehicular and pedestrian travel.”

A release from the BPDA that out         lined the proposal’s approval noted that the project would supply things like new sidewalks and street trees and would be making a $49,000 contribution to the Boston Transportation Department for the city’s bike share program.

After a presentation of the project was made, there were several questions from the board about it. One central question concerned the restriction of undergraduate students living at the site.

Specifically, Board Member Brian Miller asked how that would be accomplished. Pulgini explained it is through an agreement with NHS, “He (the proponent) restricts the buildings that he cannot rent to full-time undergraduate students, and in return, they’re authorized to go in and audit his books to make sure that he’s compliant with that.”

“He has done that, and it has worked very well,” added Pulgini

Priscilla Rojas, the Board’s Chair who indicated she was not a big fan of the deed restriction, asked about the rationale behind including it.

Pulgini assured Rojas that this restriction is voluntary on the proponent’s part and said, “There are a lot of people who live there (Mission Hill) that are very inconvenienced by the amount of students that live in that community.”

Additionally, Rojas went through several themes of opposition and acknowledged that there had been a “bunch of” opposition emails that went through leading up to the board meeting.

The first theme of opposition she asked about was parking. Rojas explained that some folks thought there were only nine spots for residents because the parking is shared with the church.

Dartagnan Brown of Embarc Studio explained that there are 44 spaces for the church and nine for “on-site” and that there have been talks about a carshare program.

However, Pulgini indicated, “It’s also off hours too, so they can be used by both because of the times that the church overlaps — the residents can use parking as well.”

Other aspects of opposition Rojas mentioned were height and density, along with the size of the units.

In terms of the unit size, Pulgini said, “The market analysis — the study that went into this — was that post-Covid people no longer want to live with four roommates because of obvious reasons.”

He also made the point that nowadays, people are having fewer kids than they were 20 to 30 years ago.

“Where much of the housing stock in Mission Hill are large units, and quite frankly, a lot of people don’t want more bedrooms; they want less bedrooms,” said Pulgini.

Shortly after Rojas’ comments and questions, the board unanimously approved the project. However, this approval has come with some frustration, namely from the Community Alliance of Mission Hill (CAMH).

Specifically, CAMH’s President, Martin Beinborn, penned a letter to District 8 City Councilor Sharon Durkan expressing disappointment from the group that she did not take a position of opposition before the BPDA vote.

Further, the letter includes the results of a vote that was held requesting that Durkan testify in opposition to the project when it goes before the Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA). The aforementioned vote had 23 eligible voters wanting Durkan to oppose, with one voter abstaining.

In correspondence with the Gazette, Durkan provided an email she had shared with neighbors. In this email, she indicated that while she did not support the project before the BPDA Board vote, she did not feel it was the right decision to oppose the project, citing project modifications over the past two years and the need for housing in the city.

Moreover, the letter reveals that Durkan will be following the process that would ensure the views of the Mission Church from Kevin Fitzgerald Park are maintained.

The letter also indicates that Durkan will be there to support the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services — the entity the proponent is slated to enter an agreement with that would restrict full-time undergraduate students from renting at the site.

It should be noted that Anthony Baez of Durkan’s Office explained that they are now aware that the deed restriction mentioned above is “still being worked on.”

In closing, Durkan wrote, “Community feedback is so essential to all development review processes and I was grateful to see that the community did shape meaningful changes to this project from the original proposal to the approved plan.”

“Thank you again for your feedback and being involved in the community in this way,” she added.

As of October 31, Durkan says the project has yet to be scheduled to go before the ZBA

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