Goddard House project receives mostly positive feedback

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) held a community meeting on the Goddard House renovation project as part of the Article 80 approval process, and the community feedback was mostly positive, although there were some qualms about minimal affordability and other topics.

The Nov. 23 meeting was held at the Hennigan School and about 30 community members were in attendance.

The project would involve the rehabilitation, expansion, and adaptive re-use of the Goddard House, transforming it into a multi-family residence to include 167 rental apartments. The Goddard House is located at 201 S. Huntington Ave. The renovated and expanded Goddard House would hold 110 units, while a free-standing building would be built creating the remaining 57 units.

When facing the Goddard House property from S. Huntington Avenue, the new building would be built on the left side. One addition would be built behind the current Goddard House building, while the other addition would be built to the front right.

Additions to the Goddard House would be four stories tall, while the new building height would vary from four to six stories.

The preservation of the Goddard House building is defined as an “exceptional public benefit,” according to the S. Huntington Avenue corridor study conducted by the BRA in 2013.

The BRA is currently using that corridor study to potentially re-zone that area. The developers are banking on that happening, stating in the project notification form that the project is consistent with the zoning proposed by the S. Huntington Avenue corridor study. If that re-zoning does not happen, the project will need several variances to be approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

The project will also need approval and permits from several agencies and departments, including for new construction within the Greenbelt Protection Overlay District.

The Goddard House controversially ceased operations on Sept. 8, 2012 and has remained vacant ever since. The enormous brick building was constructed in 1927 and housed about 100 seniors.

The developers, Eden Properties and Samuels & Associates, had filed their letter of intent earlier this year.

According to the developers, due to the complicated nature of the site, they are faced with a puzzle of how to preserve the historic nature of the Goddard House in addition to making an attractive, profitable property. The site also has a very steep grade change

At the Nov. 23 meeting, developers shared their plans for the project. The feedback that they previously received from presentations to various community groups was that the project should remain consistent with the South Huntington guidelines, and maximize affordable housing.

The plan is consistent with the guidelines, but will offer the bare minimum of affordable housing, which was the major reason for disapproval for community members at the meeting.

David Chilinski, an architect for the development, explained at the meeting that to bring the Goddard House up to code, the developers would have had to add new steel bracing throughout the building, which they thought would be invasive. The solution was to add additions out of steel, which will support the building, according to Chilinski.

“To the greatest extent, we are not doing anything invasive within the Goddard House,” Chilinski said.

For the additions and new building on the site, Chilinski said that the developers looked to the Goddard House for inspiration. “The original Goddard House still remains the jewel,” he said, adding that the other buildings around it will quietly compliment it.

Noah Maslan of Eden Properties said that the benefits of the development are that it adds new housing in a vacant lot while preserving and restoring the Goddard House.

Many comments were in approval of the proposed development. Alison Frazee from the Boston Preservation Alliance (BPA) said that BPA supports the project because it “thinks it’s great that [the developers] are retaining the structure and spirit of the site.” She later said that she thinks the community needs to be supportive of the project.

Another JP resident commented that he was “very happy that [the developers] are undertaking this project because it’s been vacant for years,” but was concerned with the overall look of the new buildings and addition.

“The original building has historic grace and symmetry. When you look at the proposed new site, you lose that. It appears to me that the massing of the other buildings seem to be somewhat awkward and they just don’t appear attractive,” he said.

On the topic of general aesthetics, the developers said that they are deliberately not trying to mimic the original building with the new building. They said that the design will be compatible with the old design, but clearly a product of its time.

Michael Reiskind of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) asked that the proposed 15 parking spaces in the front lot for visitors be removed, saying that they would be “contrary to the whole spirit” of the Goddard House. He said that he made the same request in August, which was not respected. The developers replied that they believe they are adhering to the spirit of the original design, and are looking for creative ways to hide parking through grade and landscaping.

The developers have not set prices for the units, but there will be a combination of studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. The units will have varying prices based on size and design. For example, the units on the top floor will be height challenged (eight-foot ceilings) and the units in the existing building will have smaller windows.

Kevin Moloney of the JPNC voiced his disappointment in the bare minimum on meeting affordable housing requirements. The development would include 15 percent of the units be set aside as affordable housing for moderate and middle-income households, consistent with the City’s affordable-housing policy.

“The bare minimum isn’t enough,” Moloney said, adding that affordability is a very serious problem in Jamaica Plain. “We need to watch out for the people that work hard every day and do the right thing and still get the bad end of the stick.”

The developers said that they agree, and would like to offer more affordability, but that the nature of the site makes it complicated to figure out how to do that and still be profitable.

“I don’t believe it and I won’t accept it,” Moloney stated.

Another resident suggested that in order to maximize affordable units, the developers could add more units. The developers said that they would have to increase the height of the project, which would require a variance.

Another community member at the meeting asked if they considered seeking a variance on that issue. The developers said that they had not thought of that, since variances are generally supposed to provide exceptional benefit to the community.

The project is anticipated to begin construction in summer 2016.

For more information about the project, visit bit.ly/1l01M2J.

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