Washington Street in Roslindale Square could get a new look

Possible new housing on Washington Street.Between the substation and the office building where the gas station used to be.

Roslindale Village Main Street and Historic Boston showed off their latest plans for the old trolley substation the other night. More than 300 people attended and heard plans to turn the substation into a restaurant and to tear down the funeral home next door and build 40 housing units there and atop part of the funeral home's parking lot on Cummins Highway.

Possible renderings and site plans (subject to BRA review) | Basic project background

View from far side of Adams Park. Hey, when did they decide to take the fences out?View from far side of Adams Park. Hey, when did they decide to take the fences out?

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    Keep the fences!

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    If they can pull it off, I'm all in favor of this project, for pretty much the reasons Roslindale Village Main Street is proposing it: Finally something gets done with an interesting, but decaying giant hulk, and the square gets two things that would attract more people to the area (a restaurant and apartments). Go Rozzie!

    But, I'm really hoping the bottom rendering, which shows the fences removed from Adams Park, is just to better show off the new building and doesn't mean RVMS really wants to remove the fences.

    The park, which is basically an island in the middle of Roslindale's busiest intersection, is used heavily for family-type events and the fences provide a way to help keep the kiddies safe while not being too visually jarring. I'd hate to imagine the Easter Egg hunt, with a couple of hundred screaming kids running all over the place, without the fences.

    Adams Park

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    Concur on the fences.
    The best is the farmers markets with the magician for the kids. They've come up with some really great events for Adams Park.

    I was kind of hoping there would be a plan to use the large interior of the building for some kind of theater - art movie house or stage - but perhaps it's too narrow for those. A restaurant is a good choice too.

    I was kind of hoping there

    I was kind of hoping there would be a plan to use the large interior of the building for some kind of theater - art movie house or stage - but perhaps it's too narrow for those.

    Or perhaps the development will require something other than Monopoly money, and they know that hundreds of commercial movie houses have closed across the country in the last couple decades.

    They are keeping the fences

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    At the meeting, David Holzman (aka Davey The Clown) asked about the fences, specifically mentioning all of the kid-friendly events - including his own performances - in Adams Park. The architect said that the project team doesn't have any authority to change Adams Park in any way, and that the renderings don't include the fences basically as an artistic choice by the firm's creative team.

    Rob Consalvo also brought up the fact that the city budget includes funds to improve Adams Park in the near future, but he and Steve Gag both agreed that the fences would stay. Beyond that, because the project is in such close proximity to the park, the Parks Department will be one of the city offices that will be required to review the substation development proposal.

    Phew!

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    Thanks! I was planning on going to the meeting, but, grr, that afternoon a cold decided I needed to stay home for a couple of days with a big ol' bag of cough drops.

    Does this project actually do anything

    with the "interesting, but decaying giant hulk"? Everyone at the meeting seemed to believe that Pergerine was going to rehab the Substation, but have they really committed to doing that? Not that this, in itself, won't be a cool project in some ways, but are we guaranteed to get the "restaurant" as well as the apartments? Forgive me my skepticism, but I say get it all in writing before signing off on "phase one".

    I believe the answer is yes

    My understanding (maybe from a Globe article, can't recall) is that the rationale for 40 residential units is that only something that substantial can cover the costs of rehabbing the substation. At any rate, it's all one project, that involves re-purposing the old building and adding the new.

    mixed use in the square

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    Why would another restaurant attract more people to Roslindale when we have many restaurants already?
    Any why spend 2 million dollars saving an ugly old building (that needs 2 million dollars worth of work!) when it would be much less expensive to tear it down and build anew, and design the new building to fit its new purpose.

    Roslindale Square badly needs some mixed use development, but the new zoning supports this rather weakly, requiring 2 parking spaces per unit or else requiring zoning variances. By implementing zoning like this, the city (mayor, BRA and ZBA) made sure they retain control on whether a project can come here or not.

    substation to change little

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    The reason why the substation is largely unchanged in the rendering is because it will take the sale of 40 units of housing to squeeze out just enough money to structurally stabilize the substation (price $2million) and maybe replace a few windows. Tear this useless eyesore down!

    Come clean, anon!

    Do you work for Peregreine? What's your skin in the game? A lot of people want to see the substation preserved, for historical/aesthetic/"interesting-ness" reasons.
    In all honesty, I never thought it was a particularly attractive building myself, especially when I was young, but I've grown into some affection for it over the years. It sort of symboloizes Roslindale square for me. But most importantly, I hate the idea of people getting shammed by developers and/or the BRA with an opportunitstic bait-and-switch: sell the project one way, then fail to deliver on the main promise. If all you want to do is build some housing around the building, or even plan to eventually demolish the substation, that's fine- but be honest with people. Don't lie in order to get the variances.

    Why so small?

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    The one thing (almost) everyone seems to agree on is that the number one thing this city lacks is reasonably priced housing with access to transit. This is an amazing opportunity to start increasing density in an area perfect for that kind of development and they go with a 3 story woo-frame structure?

    How tall would you build it?

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    I like it in part because it does fit in with the buildings around it, rather than overwhelming them.

    Roslindale Square really is an urban village, and people like it that way - people aren't pining for Back Bay South. I think you might have a better case for some denser development up by Forest Hills.

    Plus, even though Washington Street has about 4,000 bus lines to Forest Hills, I'm thinking there's a limit to how much you can build along it - traffic's already pretty bad in rush hour (now, if they extended the Orange Line to Roslindale ...).

    up
    10

    I wonder if....

    ... a (fairly frequent) shuttle between Forest Hills and the Roslindale commuter stop would be possible on the existing track?

    Congestion

    > Why would you need something on the tracks?

    You could run fewer buses down that stretch of Washington, staarting some of the lines from Roslindale Square instead (where they could fan out in various different directions). During school bus time -- and during rush hour -- the buses move VERY slowly.

    Probably not

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    I suspect that the logistics of pulling a shuttle onto one of the Forest Hill spurs whenever a 'real" commuter train needed the track would be too onerous. A short-and-simple bus shuttle from Forest Hills upper deck down Washington St. around Adams Park and back again would be easier, less expensive, and more responsive (although being a bus, some snoots would refuse to use it).

    What i never understood

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    is the fact the MBTA allows ever upper level bus that travels down Washington street to stop at ever F'n stop. The area between the Square and the Hills suffers from unnecessarily bad traffic. The stretch is however highly populated and its residents take whatever bus is leaving first, causing every bus to stop at every stop on that stretch of Washington.

    If they created a Rozy Square bus that loops back and forth while restricting all other buses from stopping on that stretch traffic would flow, and it wouldn't take 30 min to travel .25 miles.

    But that's just me!

    Not just you - this is #1 on

    By on

    Not just you - this is #1 on my MBTA wishlist. People are crammed into, and even turned away from, packed Washington Street buses well past rush hour in the evening. (And I always feel guilty, wondering if I'm keeping someone in Dedham or Walpole from getting home, because I want to get home to the Square as fast as possible.)

    About 6 stories

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    I think that you could make a small mid-rise - say 6 stories - out of this.

    And don't get me wrong - I think Forest Hills should be denser as well, as should Center (Centre?) Streets in JP and West Rox, as should the rest of Roslindale Sq. Putting one story retail a block from the commuter rail that's 15 minutes or less from downtown is crazy when we desperately need such housing. I'm not talking overwhelming - but on the commercial streets like that I could easily see a storefront plus 3-5 stories of residential.

    For a more holistic solution I'd like to see neighborhood committees set up to grow EVERY neighborhood in Boston by about 1% a year (about double our current population growth?). This means citywide we would add about 2500 units annually. Give the neighborhoods a growth goal - but let them figure out how best to meet it. None of this would be official, but the BRA, zoning board and ZBA would take their suggestions strongly under consideration.

    I like this idea

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    And to take it a step further, reward them with additional funding for parks, street scape improvement etc if they meet this goal. A little incentive if you will.

    Central planning by 20-odd different groups?

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    Did the West Enders have a say in what they did to their neighborhood? That's the whole point - you DO have to participate in the growth of the city as a whole - but you get to help decide where that growth goes in your neighborhood and perhaps even at what pace - for example you could opt to front end the permitting so that your neighborhood is not a constant state of construction (I can't imagine living over by the Pru - they've been building there almost continuously for 15 years and now they want more on the Christian Science Plaza - I know people with children that moved away because the kids wouldn't be able to sleep due to the construction).

    That's unfair

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    What Stevil is proposing is almost exactly the opposite of what was done to the West End.

    The West End was demolished because it didn't fit some planners' preconceptions of what a neighborhood was, and there was likely a lot of shady money involved as well.

    Stevil is proposing a growth target that would be achieved through neighborhood and community-based decision making processes.

    I think it's a pretty good idea.

    Patina of community input

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    In his original comment above, Stevil talks about "giving" the neighborhoods a growth "goal" - I read that as imposing a growth requirement. He says neighborhood committees (set up by whom btw?) would figure out how to meet these goals, but his language makes it clear that these would be only recommendations, with no real authority - "None of this would be official, but the BRA, zoning board and ZBA would take their suggestions strongly under consideration."

    Suuuure they would - after all, we all know that the BRA is known for being simpatico with the desires of grass-roots Bostonians.

    ****

    And specifically regarding the suggestion he makes about the Rosi square development - A six story structure would actually be three times the height of most surrounding buildings - and even tower over the substation! I hardly count that as "small" - unless one completely disregards the surrounding architectural and cultural environment, and instead treats Boston as a huge real-time version of SimCity.

    Height of a six story building

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    I don't necessarily think a six story building would be better than the four story building that has been proposed, but six stories wouldn't be anywhere near as tall as three times the height of most surrounding buildings, because residential floors aren't as high as commercial ones. As it stands, the proposed four story building appears to be slightly shorter than the existing three story building right next to it.

    Have you been to Rosi Square?

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    The buildings surrounding the square are not modern commercial buildings. They are the same age as most of the ~century old housing stock in Rosi, and are pretty much the same per-story height - and many of them are single-story. The 3-story building you pointed out is rather the odd-man-out, completed only two years ago (and is still not even close to fully occupied).

    I'm in favor of more sustainable neighborhood-appropriate housing. But a six story building on the east side of Rosi square would keep the park dark for at least a couple more hours every day, and be the tallest structure for more than a mile in any direction.

    I'm in the square all the time

    By on

    I guess I just misunderstood your comment, though. You wrote:

    A six story structure would actually be three times the height of most surrounding buildings - and even tower over the substation!

    In fact, three of the closest buildings to the site are the substation, the new commercial building, and the community center. Those buildings are all roughly the same height as each other (the new building isn't really the odd man out you make it out to be), and roughly the same height as the proposed building. It wasn't clear to me that you were referring to the buildings that surrounded the square as a whole - I assumed you just meant the buildings immediately around the proposed development.

    Anyway, as I said, I don't necessarily think six stories would be a good idea anyway. I like the idea that was presented at the meeting that the new building should match the (immediately) surrounding buildings' height, and while I don't think a six story building would be as extreme an outlier as your comment made it seem, I do think it would be a bit too tall.

    Growth goal

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    Here's the sense that I understand the "growth goal":

    The overall growth of the city is a dispersed benefit, but some of the negative impacts are focused very locally. So we're stuck in a dilemma where everyone wants growth but nobody wants it next to them. The "growth goal" is one idea (I've heard similar before) to break the impasse. It's very important to have context sensitivity, and to ensure that the community is being improved, but it's also necessary to find a way to avoid stagnation and endless stonewalling.

    The idea of having a "city-wide growth goal" is that no single neighborhood is getting the brunt of the impacts even while everyone else benefits. Everyone is participating, so the burden is shared, as well as the benefits. And it's a relatively slow process, allowing the neighborhoods to adapt to the change over time, as well as guide it.

    PORN TIPS GUZZ ARDO

    By on

    He's just proposing that we switch zoning from light residential to heavy residential. It's only $30/acre, and it'll send property tax revenues skyrocketing so we can fix the underfunded transit system.

    YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING. YOU'LL REGRET THIS

    Why I find Boylston in the Fenway and the Seaport so interesting

    By on

    They're both like watching a SimCity game play out over several years, going from low-density commercial and industrial to high-density, high-value residential and commercial. And without expanding the underfunded transit system (well, OK, the Seaport got the Silver Line).

    I can't wait for the first mob of angry people carrying signs and raising a ruckus and the transit map turning into a bright-red grid.

    Seaport & transportation

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    You are spot on about public transportation to the Seaport area. The Silver Line isn't going to cut it once the retail/restaurant area is built, Vertex moves in and the Fan Pier condos are finished.

    The Silver Line is almost adequate if you want to take Public Transportation to go to the ICA but it's a heckuva walk in the cold dark to get from Jerry Remy's to the Silver Line.

    I have a monthly pass so it doesn't faze me that much but the MBTA should really give free transfers to the Red Line at South Station or the other half of the Silver Line that is up three flights and across the street from South Station.

    BRA

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    The West End travesty was a text book government land snatch, benefiting developers and banks only, and displacing thousands of lower income residents. It was the why the BRA was formed, and only the first of numerous shady real estate schemes they've executed.

    There are many who believe the BRA today is an egregious conflict of interest and should be disbanded.

    New Construction in Rozzi is going that route

    Take a look at Belgrade Crossing over by the Belvue train station. It's exactly the building type you've suggested, and is a very nice project. The re-zoning process enabled this type of construction, and I suspect we'll start to see quite a bit more of it on infill projects. The problem with the square, though, is that it is largely built out already. So to achieve your vision requires either demolition of significant existing structures, or strapping a few more floors on to buildings that may or may not have the necessary structural strength to hold the added weight.

    I love it

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    as long as they don't install any more abhorred JPish public art.

    My only concern being a young kid only a few years out of college is the pricing. Developments like the captioned have no benefit for middle income earners like myself and many blue collar workers. We make to much to get an "Affordable Unit" but yet not enough to compete with the new transplant willing to pay $1,800 for a 1bd. IT SUCKS.

    I don't think a bandstand would really be a good fit

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    I guess I'd rather have the cost of a permanent structure go instead into a self-sustaining fund to keep the park green and well-kept - it's so heavily used at this point that this is actually a bit of a challenge.

    One of the great things about Adams Park is the really varied uses to which the space is put. The holiday tree ceremony, easter-egg hunt, farmers market, summer concerts, and movie nights - all use the space in different configurations, most of which would actually be hampered by a large structure plopped in the middle.

    For all that, the park's footprint is fairly modest, and I think even a small bandstand would tend to dominate it and break up the sight lines, making it seem even smaller.

    Right now, live performances are ground level and intimate - a perfect match for the vibe of the neighborhood and the sort of events that take place there. Maybe a simple ground-level patio in the north corner would be useful, but I wouldn't want to see anything which would mean an end to little kids dancing right in front of a jazz-blues ensemble on a warm summer evening, or make it harder for friends to spot each other across the park during the hubbub of the Saturday morning market.

    I like it a lot, except the

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    I like it a lot, except the portion along cummins needs some work - I can't imagine anyone wanting their front door right at the #30 bus stop - better if there were a couple small shops there. Also what's with the massive roof there? it hides the church.

    cummins side needs work

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    I like it - except I'm pretty sure no one wants their front door right at the #30 bus stop (better if there were small shops there - like a coffee shop/convenience) - and the giant sloped roof hides the church and clock tower. Not sure why there's a sloped roof there except to hide equipment? IMO - should be flat.