A developer who wants to tear down the old Armstrong pharmaceutical factory and replace it with apartments agreed tonight to try to reduce the number of units, maybe make them condos instead of apartments and add more parking - after listening to angry residents tear into the project for more than an hour.
Michael Argiros from Charles River Realty promised to come back before residents with a smaller proposal before seeking formal approval from the West Roxbury Neighborhood Council, the BRA and the zoning board.
That was welcome news to City Councilor Matt O'Malley, who said he could not support the project as initially proposed: 62 apartments and 52 parking spaces in new buildings on the site.
At the contentious meeting at the Elks, close to 100 furious residents applauded when one of their number proposed simply turning what is now a hazardous-waste site into a parking lot. And that was after residents yelled they'd rather keep the current fire trap of an abandoned factory than live with 62 apartments.
Residents booed and cried in outrage when Argiros admitted he lived in Westwood; some loudly asked him if he'd like 62 apartments built on his street.
One resident said she moved to West Roxbury to get away from apartments; another said she just knew the apartments would turn into a project with pot-smoking derelicts hanging out in the historic cemetery next door - especially after she heard that city regulations would require six or seven of the units be "affordable."
"It's gonna end up like a project!" she exclaimed.
Arigiros said the apartments would be aimed at young professionals and would be similar if not better than the new apartments that recently opened up near Roche Bros. and Lord's and Lady's - which only made some residents groan because of what they hinted is now going on over there.
Others complained the number of parking spaces was simply too low and didn't buy the contention the new residents would need fewer spaces because the building would be across the street from a stop on the Needham Line. They noted the line doesn't run on weekends.
They complained 62 new apartments would cause even more problems at an already bad intersection and leave their streets crowded with the cars of the new residents. And they fretted whether the development would have too many Zipcar spaces.
Some residents asked why the factory couldn't be replaced with a few single-family homes. An architect on the proposal from Neshamkin French said the land isn't zoned that way; Argiros said even if it were, single-family homes wouldn't return enough to make the project economically viable.
The land is zoned for "neighborhood shopping." One resident said he would welcome new stores to help the St. Teresa's side of West Roxbury catch up with the booming Holy Name end of the neighborhood. The architect, however, cautioned that the eight to ten stores that could be put on the site would generate far more traffic than even 62 apartments.