Around 18 people attended the monthly meeting of the Community Alliance of Mission Hill (CAMH) on Jan. 20.
On the agenda was a conversation with Sean Curran of Waterville Consulting. Curran represents Weston Associates, the owner of 80 and 100 Smith Street. The company is looking to convert the properties into a housing development.
Weston is currently in the community input phase of the planning process and has not yet filed any paperwork with the city. Curran explained that his role is to “synthesize community input” and act as a conduit between the community and the developer.
“A community process that includes this input ends up being a better project,” he said.
He added that his family has lived in Mission Hill for four generations, something that gives him “a foundational understanding of development in the community.”
Curran has been assessing public opinion and reported “universal agreement that something needs to be done” with the buildings.
“They are in a dilapidated state,” he said. “Something needs to be done there and the time seems to be right.”
The Harvard School of Public Health currently occupies 90 Smith Street, between the two properties in question. Curran spoke with a school representative to see if they would be interested in the buildings, but they are not looking to expand their footprint at this time.
When Weston acquired the long-vacant properties in 2005, it received city approval to demolish them and build rental units. The economic downturn of the following years led to a delay in development and the approvals have since expired.
The company has decided to pick up where it left off, and has hired South End’s RODE Architects to come up with potential designs. The amount of units in each building would depend on building height and massing.
Several meeting attendees pushed back on the idea of rental properties, urging Weston to consider options for home ownership. Curran noted that everything is currently up in the air, but that he didn’t believe condos were a practical solution from a financial standpoint.
Some community members also expressed a concern that Weston could sell the development upon completion to a less trusted developer. Curran stated that Weston’s intention was to manage the properties in the long term, as they have done with the majority of their developments.
Plans for the properties are still in the information-gathering phase, but Curran said Weston hopes to file a letter of intent in the coming months. He told the Gazette that he has had a number of successful meetings with other community entities and has received overwhelming public support for the project.
CAMH meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 7pm. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, all meetings will be held on Zoom for the foreseeable future.