Court battle continues over Art Park site; developer sticks with plan

The developer of the Art Park development is still planning on moving forward with the project as a court battle continues.

Sebastian Mariscal Studios (SMS) won approval in 2014 to build a 44-unit development on City-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets. Later that year, Mission Hill residents Kathryn Brookins and her husband Oscar filed a lawsuit against the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for granting variances for the project. A judge dismissed that lawsuit late last year, a decision the Brookinses are now appealing.

Despite the ongoing and lengthy legal proceedings, Steven Azar, director of development at Sebastian Mariscal Studio, said that the development team is still planning on continuing with the project. Regarding the appeal, SMS is still trying to figure out where things stand, and expect to know more in coming weeks.

When asked for comment, Kathryn Brookins said that she and her husband are still waiting on the judge’s decision on the appeal.

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND), which has been spearheading the effort to get the City-owned land developed, is still enthusiastic about the development.

“This is an extremely high-quality housing development that will not only bring much-needed housing at a variety of income levels to Mission Hill, but will also create beautiful open space for the enjoyment of the neighborhood,” said Lisa Pollack, spokesperson for DND, in a statement.

She continued, “There has been a robust and thorough community process around this development, which has won broad community support. We sincerely hope that the legal proceedings will soon come to a close, so this development can move forward quickly to benefit the Mission Hill community.”

Brookinses 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.

Judge Judith C. Cutler dismissed the lawsuit on Oct. 18, stating that the Brookinses had failed to show that they are aggrieved by the variance decision, and because of that, they lack the standing to maintain the lawsuit.

“Because I find that the plaintiffs are not aggrieved by the variance decision, their appeal will be dismissed on that basis and I need not, and do not, reach the underlying question of whether the ZBA exceeded its authority in granting the subject variances for the proposed development,” the judge wrote.

The Art Park site is City-owned land between Parker and Terrace Streets that is slated to be redeveloped into community gardens and residential and retail space. The site, which has been fenced off by DND, contains murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture, and formerly had community gardens that were operated by local residents.

SMS plans 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.


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