Mission Hill Parcel 25 | Tremont St @ Roxbury Crossing

quadratdackel

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This site, across Tremont street (in the inbound direction; this is where Tremont street charmingly turns right), is an empty lot being sold by the MBTA to the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services organization, the same people who successfully developed the Brigham Circle space with the Shaws grocery store. See http://www.missionhillnhs.org/parcel25.htm.

The parcel (red) and an adjacent lot also in the works (purple). The green comments about nearby building heights are ominous foreshadowing for a discussion of what gets build on P25. It's not on the map, but Roxbury Crossing Station is across the words "Tremont St" (i.e. right across the street) from the red section.

I'd like to call this area the Mission Flats, kinda like the East Bay flats in Oakland/Berkeley, because it's part of Mission Hill, but it's not on the hill.

Here are some pictures I took of the site, Feb 4, 2006:

P25 facing inbound, towards Northeastern.


P25 facing inbound, towards Northeastern #2.


P25 facing outbound, towards Roxbury Crossing.


P25 facing outbound, towards Roxbury Crossing #2.


P25's current neighbor in the inbound direction. I believe this lot is owned by Wentworth, which plans to develop this and other lots within the next 10 years or so. P25 will soon be part of a rich urban fabric, not an oasis of life in a sea of parking lots.


P25 Sidewalk. Ahh, blight.


Tracks (Orange Line + Commuter Rail/Amtrak) near P25. Not a very attractive feature, unless you're a trainspotter.


Tracks near BPD HQ. This is what the whole SW Corridor should look like.


I've now been to two of their charettes, most recently with I believe kz001ps or whatever his username was (he hasn't re-registered yet). The people there are very nice, and share a lot of concerns with a lot of us. They like transit- and pedestrian- oriented mixed-use development, ground-level retail, attention to detail in design, and affordable housing. However, there may be one point of contention: building height. The framework below (sorry, bad pic) is what the current consensus is.


As you can see, this is a very thoughtful, mixed-use scheme. The red is ground-level retail, as much as we feel can be supported. The yellow is housing. The blue is office space, likely to be filled by Wentworth or Northeastern. The purple is community space. The green is "green" space, which might be paved instead of grass (details to be determined). The blue dots are walkways. All parking is underground. The most clever feature I think is that they're using proffits from the office space to subsidize their own housing and the indie retailers they want. Another good one (my idea! :) ) under consideration is to fill the lot with Zip Cars to further reduce car needs, save on garage construction, etc.

However, as you can see, heights range from 3 stories along Tremont to 8 stories in the back corner. For such a well-located site, and in Boston's current housing market, I think it'd be a shame to build so small. So, I sent them a very polite email explaining why I think they should build 20-30 stories: mainly because there's that big of a need for affordable housing in Boston, especially near T stations, but also to help make the area vibrant, help support the retail, and get more people out of their cars.

They wrote back saying they share my concerns, especially regarding affordable housing, and that I should bring my ideas to the next meeting (July 1 I think). I'm excited that this might actually happen but also rather shy about the whole thing- standing in front of a potentially hostile group of people and telling them they really should do something they really don't want to... especially since I live not in their neighborhood but in Back Bay of all places. (Although I will be working at the nearby O'Bryant school next year and passed through there all the time when I was living in JP, so I'm not a total alien. Plus I like Mission Hill's vibe way better than pretentious Back Bay and would totally move there if ever it had the same bustle. How cool would that be to move in to a building I helped design?!?)

Anyways, my impression from the last meeting is that there would be some typical NYMBY reaction to tall buildings there. I recall two abutters very distraught at the possibility of having their views blocked- even pulling out zoning laws as a tool to keep the buildings short. I kinda want appease them ahead of time, maybe by offering them units in the new development with choice views in exchange for their current places and helping them move. (Not that they're mine to offer...) However, many in the community were also opposed, albeit not as vehemently, to higher buildings, because they would change the feel of the neighborhood. This is true. I (and at least some others there) think it would be a change for the better. We probably can't bribe the whole community, so I'm thinking we'll just have to make the feel seem as nice as possible and drive home the affordable housing and other more altruistic arguments.

I might be asking you guys for help on this. One thing would be to whip up some sketches or photoshop up something that would make something tall look as nice as possible. The image I have is of Roosevelt Island in NYC, a largely car-free community composed mostly of highrise appartment buildings and playgrounds, like a college campus for the real world. I could see the entire Mission Flats area from P25 up Tremont to Huntington over to Ruggles then eventually being built out like this, with maybe one or two small through roads. Of course instead of having RI's river views, this area would have to settle for being well-integrated with the rest of the city.

Also I'll keep yinz posted about when the next meeting is so anyone can come by and participate. It's a good time.
 

kz1000ps

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Good summary Quad. Just to finalize the date, the next meeting, where we'll actually be discussing design issues, is-

6/17

and I'm assuming it's the same time as before, 10:30 am.


It's sad that even 8 stories is pushing it as far as height is concerned. The people in my breakout group didn't like the sound of double digit floor heights, and when I mentioned how it'd fit in scale-wise with Northeastern's campus and Wentworth's future construction, one lady scoffed and made a comment about how they're not ones to stick to what they've said or done in the past. A valid, yet contentious point.
 

ALEEJAC

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Guilty as charged. I'm actually in Pgh right now, lounging at the folks' place. And you?
Me... Boston and Providence. I've been to PGH on vacation and was made very aware of the word 'yinz'. As a side-note, PGH is physically an awesome city. The buildings, the views, it was gorgeous.
 

kz1000ps

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I got a notice in the mail today regarding the next workshop. It will be held at

10:00 am

not 10:30 as I guessed before. Same place, the Mission Church Parish Center
 

quadratdackel

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I had high hopes of showing up to the meeting on Saturday, making a grand speech in which I convinced the Mission Hill community that density and tall buildings can be good and should be built at Parcel 25 to help address affordable housing, transportation, environmental, and all the other issues. Then I found out I have a bloody meeting for work that morning and probably can't get out at all. So if you'd like to see P25 built taller than 3-5 stories, please show up on Saturday and speak up for it. Even if we can't turn this into a skyscraper, every additional unit of housing or office space we create will be a help. Heck, even just getting voices in support of higher development heard will be a help.
 

kz1000ps

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At the least, I'll be there and I'll be sure to let them know where we all stand. Speak up here or PM me if you're going/want to meet up.
 

quadratdackel

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Wow, my boss is letting me leave our meeting early to go to the P25 charette, so I'll be there after all, although I might be running a little late.
 

shiz02130

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I'll be there, from 10:00 until around 11:40 or so. I'll try not to flake out this time.
 

shiz02130

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I was there. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay to the end (it ran 10-1) because I had to go to work. But I got a good sense for where the process is at, and I brought back the little packet of conceptual renderings they gave out, which I will try and take pics of later and post, where I get home later today. All in all, the plans look good, and I was even more excited when I realized that the people from Goody/Clancy basically agree with all of us about the importance of density. I asked one guy why they couldn't try and build a little higher so that many more people could live RIGHT next to a T stop, and he basically said that they were going to work for that, and that they had plans to very methodically and clearly explain to all the community members why adding a few floors to the residential buildings would not destroy their neighborhood. The community members were also not over-the-top at all - the only negativity I sensed from most people was about how undergraduate college kids are filling up parts of mission hill, and the older residents feel threatened.

So basically, no matter what you think of developers being greedy or whatever, it's nice to know that architects out there really have a passion for making the city as dense as possible, and they're doing it for the right reasons too - i.e. love for their art form combined with common sense.

This process seemed a lot different than the one that happened for Columbus Center, where each side was pitted against the other (at least it seemed that way because of incredibly selfish and vocal NIMBYs). I'll write more later, I have to go to work, and I'll get the pics up.
 

shiz02130

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Aerial rendering, from above the Mission Hill side of Tremont Street. The Roxbury Crossing T stop is at the bottom right, and across Columbus Ave are RCC, the new (and STILL unfinished mosque) and the Reggie Lewis indoor track. The development abuts the Orange Line (and commuter rail) tracks. In the background are the Wentworth-owned parking lots and the Alice Taylor housing projects.

The taller section is office. The curved glass section is office with community space on the first two floors, and a green roof that will supposedly be open to the public.

The building on the corner of Tremont and Gurney is apartments, with retail on the first floor of the Tremont side and on the corner, and with lots of individual entrances along Gurney. The low rise building behind it, attached to the office building, is residential duplexes, with an interior courtyard.

The building on the other side of Gurney street is apartments for elderly - more like a traditional apartment building with a lobby and main entrance (it also has its own parking).

All parking is at either 1/2 or below grade, and the 1/2 grade parking is completely hidden by the stoops of the buildings. They are estimating 240 parking spaces, and the main entrance is at the rear of the building, at the end of Station street, where it dead-ends into the Orange Line tracks.




A view from across Tremont Street, from directly in front of the entrance to the T station. Note the bike station included in the community space.




Looking down Gurney back towards Tremont, as if you were standing next to one of the parking lots.

 

Ron Newman

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Still looks like a lot of surface parking lots behind (north of) this development. Will those be built on in a later phase?
 

shiz02130

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Those aren't owned by the MBTA, so they aren't part of this project. I didn't hear anything at the meeting about Wentworth having plans to sell or develop them.
 

vanshnookenraggen

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Ron Newman said:
Still looks like a lot of surface parking lots behind (north of) this development. Will those be built on in a later phase?
If those belong to Wentworth then yes. While I was there they talked about building a couple buildings back there. I have forgotten any details of it though.
 

kz1000ps

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Looking good. I particularly like the idea of many individual entrances, especially if they're framed by arches. They almost look too good to be true in this day and age.. Is retail contained to just Tremont and that first part of Gurney St, or will there be some in the large (western) courtyard, and did they specify what, if any, amenities would be in either (of the courtyards)?

Also, at the previous meeting they were considering running a road through the large courtyard. Judging by the sketch, that was nixed - any further comments on this?

Lastly, how did the community react to the proposal itself, namely the 9 story office building? Did the good people at Goody Clancy get their denser-is-better message out effectively?[/i]
 

shiz02130

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I think all the retail will focused to the area around Tremont, probably with some space surrounding the smallish courtyard across from the T. There was talk about a fountain in the other courtyard, but it sounded like just musings at this point.

There will be no new road through the complex - just the footpath from Gurney to Tremont, which roughly follows the path of the Stony Brook underground aqueduct.

I was unfortunately not there for the end of the meeting when the community was going to be given time to voice their concerns. However, when these sketches were unveiled (and there were several more in addition to these), there was an overwhelmingly positive reaction by the people in the room. There was no opposition to the office building, because the Goody Clancy folks made it abundantly clear that this part of the project would be the economic engine that would allow for the inclusion of affordable residential units.

The Goody Clancy people seemed to be very focused on getting the people to understand that every single one of their concerns from previous meetings had been addressed, and that their input into the design process was understood and had been incorporated. I think later on in the process, after the community feels like they have been listened to and respected, they may try to convince them that more density is better. There is certainly lots of wiggle room and the designs are very preliminary.
 

KentXie

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Re: Parcel 25- Roxbury Crossing

BRA gives new hope to Roxbury complex plan
Agency agrees to 'another hard look'


By Meghan Irons, Globe Staff | April 17, 2009

A stalled plan to transform an empty plot of Roxbury land across from police headquarters into a $400 million arts and housing complex appears to have new life, with the Boston Redevelopment Authority agreeing to give it "another hard look."

BRA director John Palmieri, who earlier this year expressed serious doubts about the developer's ability to carry out the project, said yesterday that his agency will reconsider the planned Tremont Street development, known as Ruggles Place.

"We have not reached a deal yet," said Palmieri in a phone interview. "But it's fair to say that we've been listening."

Palmieri said his agency decided to reconsider the proposal for the 8-acre site on Tremont Street after Roxbury residents jammed into the Dudley Branch Library earlier this month and passionately supported the project, which has been envisioned as the new hub of the city's black community.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino has also been receiving calls from community residents, according to Palmieri, and has called members of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, hoping to find common ground.

E.J. Walton - president of Elma Lewis LLC, which was chosen to develop the project two years ago - said he is pleased by the news, but has not received anything in writing.

Nonetheless, he said, "I remain hopeful that the city of Boston will support our efforts to develop" the parcel.

The Roxbury master plan committee, which was appointed by the mayor in 2004 to work with the BRA on bids for to develop vacant city-owned sites in Roxbury, picked Elma Lewis LLC after years of consideration.

But the BRA rebuffed the development team, saying it dragged its feet and failed to prove that it could deliver a financially viable project. City officials were also not pleased about plans to move the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists to the site. Such nonprofit uses, Palmieri told the Globe recently, create a financial drag on the project.

Palmieri said the community support for the project contributed to his change of heart, but that he still has worries.

"Of course we were concerned about lack of progress and elements of the criteria that had been established" in the request for proposals, he said. "That's still true."

He said he and the mayor will meet today on the matter. Others had been told that an announcement of a deal was possible as soon as today.

Menino's office did not return repeated calls for comment.

The apparent about-face by city officials is good news to Roxbury residents, who felt snubbed by the BRA, which they accused of trying to impose its will on the community. Elma Lewis LLC officials contend that they never got a fair chance to develop the project. They said that as they scrambled to secure commitments for tenants and financing, news began swirling about other plans for the parcel, such as a Wal-Mart type store or a soccer stadium.

Then, last fall, the authority allowed the designation of Elma Lewis LLC as developer to lapse and later said it was looking for new ideas for the site.

Feeling slighted by the city, the oversight committee demanded that Palmieri show up before the panel in April and face community questions about why the designation was allowed to lapse.

Palmieri said Menino wants Roxbury residents to know he heard their concerns at the April meeting and takes them seriously. "As we consider comments made by neighborhood residents, individual business people, and board members, we have in good faith reached a point were we will reconsider the action," said Palmieri. "I don't know where we end up."

Darnell L. Williams, who chairs the master plan committee, said he is encouraged by the city's decision.

"What seems to be on the horizon is that the BRA, the oversight committee, the community, and the developer appear to be all moving in the same direction."
http://www.boston.com/news/local/ma...ives_new_hope_to_roxbury_complex_plan?mode=PF
 

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