Revised plans for Warren Street met with high praise
Community happy with design but repeat call for affordable units
Roxbury community members praised revised plans for a new apartment building at 125 Warren St. unveiled during a public meeting at the Roxbury Boys & Girls Club Dec. 12.
It was a Christmas miracle; a Boston Planning and Development Agency meeting that ended in applause and approval from local residents. The positive response was for Regent Development LLC President Joe Federico’s revised plans to build a four-story, 28-unit apartment building on the vacant lots at the corner of Warren Street and St. James Street.
“I appreciate the changes you’ve made, you’ve come a long way to making [plans] acceptable,” said Ruthie Burton, a trustee of nearby Fountain Hill Square Condominiums. “Not everyone’s going to be 100 percent happy, but we need to recognize the effort you’ve made.”
After revealing the second iteration of development plans for the 14,980 square feet of former BPDA-owned lots, Federico’s attorney George Morancy said, “The challenge has always been to get to something [Federico] can build, he can get financing for, sell and that the community can live with.”
Following the first public meeting, described by Morancy as a “spirited debate,” last August, where residents expressed grave concerns over the size of the building and lack of parking, Federico and designers at McKay Architects significantly altered initial plans.
One of the first changes was to reduce the building from six stories to four, scrapping the proposed roof deck, news that was met with approval from community member Linda Coleman. “There’s going to be enough noise over there as it is,” she said, without the rooftop terrace adding to it.
The second major amendment was to slash the number of units in the building from 41 to 28, a mix of studio and one- to three-bedroom apartments, and to create 28 parking spaces, ensuring a 1-to-1 ratio.
The building’s footprint has remained unaltered.
“What we’re hoping is that people are going to be pleased with the changes that have been made in the building,” said Morancy.
But a few concerns remain.
The biggest issue community members raised was the lack of affordable housing in the development. The apartment block is now fully compliant with BPDA zoning requirements; therefore, the developer will not need to submit plans to the Zoning Board of Appeal and there is no mandatory requirement for the creation of affordable housing units in the building.
Burton suggested that one or two units be made affordable for local residents who wish to stay in the area. This could be financed using money that Federico will pay to the BPDA once the land has been sold, a seemingly complicated process that will ultimately end with Federico paying twice for a portion of the property, the community was informed last week.
A section of the lot was originally sold by the BPDA for a nominal value to the Boys & Girls Clubs for the purpose of urban renewal. A major portion of the site belonged to a religious organization that poured a foundation for a church that was never completed. Federico’s plans span the Boys & Girls Clubs’ lot and the church’s property, as well as a private section of land. He must pay fair market value for the site to the Boys and Girls Club and to the church, and then pay an additional sum, yet to be calculated, to the BPDA to compensate them for the increase in the land’s value since it was sold in the 1960s.
Residents at the meeting said they would like to see the money paid by Federico to the BPDA to go back into the community, perhaps as a subsidy to help support affordable housing on the site.
“We are comfortable exploring with Joe how we use that money for affordable housing and making the commitment that we will try [to do this],” said BPDA Project Manager Tim Czerwienski, to which residents responded with demands for more concrete assurances.
“There are restrictions on what we can do,” said Czerwienski, “but whatever flexibility we have … I do think that it makes sense that that money goes into the pockets of the community.”
Another use residents proposed for the BPDA payment was to finance the implementation of traffic calming measures on St. James Street, which they said was not safe and would not be made safer by the addition of more residents to the area.
When asked if he knew which contractors he would use and how he would ensure diversity on the project, Federico said it was too early in the development process and that none has been selected. He said he welcomes the community’s input and would accept their offer to provide a list of businesses they have blacklisted and would prefer not to be involved.
As for a timeline, “Right now we don’t know,” said Federico. The plans are awaiting final BPDA approval and the purchase of the land must be completed before Federico can seek construction finances. “Best case scenario,” he said, would be for work to start in fall of next year, and he anticipates construction to last between 12 and 16 months.
“We’ve come a long way since we first met, and that’s all owed to Joe and to you,” said Morancy, addressing community members gathered on Wednesday evening.
“His sincerity of heart moved him,” said one resident. “He met with most of us, apologized and asked to restart the process … that in and of itself deserves applause.”