BRA checking history of tower site

By Peter Shanley and John Ruch/Gazette Staff

The proposed residential tower at 45 Worthington St. may be subjected to decades-old redevelopment plans that restrict the height and amount of housing, a local foe of the project claims. The Boston Redevelopment Authority says it is checking the legal status of that history.

Equity Residential is proposing the 35-story, 395-unit tower on the back end of another property it owns—the existing residential tower at 75 St. Alphonsus St. That existing tower was part of a massive BRA redevelopment plan approved around 1960 that came with various restrictions, Mission Hill resident David Jodoin pointed out to the Gazette. It was known as the Whitney Street Redevelopment Plan.

Documents on file at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds show the City and the BRA declaring the area to be “blighted” and “decadent.” By eminent domain, the City and the BRA demolished more than 290 housing units and realigned St. Alphonsus Street, among other changes.

The plan was for the BRA to lease the rights for developers to create new and improved housing in the area. The 75 St. Alphonsus tower was one product of the plan.

The documents describing the overall plan mention a few restrictions in how the housing could be built. It includes a maximum building height that changed several times, but appears to have settled on 210 feet. It also includes an 800-unit maximum for the number of new housing units that could be built in the area.

The 45 Worthington tower would exceed the height limit and may push the unit-count limit over the top, Jodoin is noting.

However, it is unclear whether those restrictions, even if they are relevant, are still in legal effect. The BRA’s redevelopment deals with developers generally came with 40-year terms that have since expired. But exactly how those terms play out, and whether the BRA retains some control over the use of property in the area, is unclear. It has been an issue in the area before, including ownership and affordable-housing restriction confusion the BRA had to clarify for the 1575 Tremont St. housing tower several years ago.

BRA spokesperson Nick Martin said in an email to the Gazette that the project management and legal staff are looking into the issue of possible deed restrictions on 45 Worthington St. He asked for any documentation on the matter, and the Gazette forwarded those documents that Jodoin provided, which came from the Registry of Deeds.

“In the meantime, we’ll continue to review the matter internally to seek clarification,” said Martin.

Jodoin also expressed concern that the tower plan doesn’t match the spirit of the original redevelopment plan, saying that was for the “public good.” The new tower plan, he said, appears “greed-driven.”

The 45 Worthington project is in the early concept stage, and the BRA previously said Equity Residential is reworking its ideas in response to significant community opposition.

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