Art Park project court battle appears over

The Art Park project court battle appears finally to be over, with Sebastian Mariscal Studios (SMS) and the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) the victors and paving the way for the long-planned project to get underway.

The project had been held up as Mission Hill residents Kathryn Brookins and her husband Oscar filed a lawsuit against the SMS and the ZBA over the variances for the proposal. Judge Judith C. Cutler had dismissed that lawsuit last year and the Brookinses were appealing that decision. But on March 7, Cutler ruled in favor of a defendants’ motion to dismiss the appeal on a technicality.

Kathryn Brookins said in a phone interview, “We’re not contesting [the decision.]

SMS and the City would not comment on the judge’s decision.

The Brookinses, if they decide to change course, have until today, April 7, to challenge the ruling. If the ruling stays, it marks the end of five-year process.

The City first began exploring redeveloping the Art Park site in 2012. The site is City-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets that formerly contained murals, mosaic footpath tiles and colorful furniture, and community gardens that were operated by local residents. Locals were initially against the City’s plan, but many were eventually won over during a two-year process with the community benefits the project would provide, including a community garden.

The Brookinses were not persuaded and 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.

Cutler dismissed the lawsuit on Oct. 18 and eventually the appeal.

SMS’s plan is 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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