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Five-story apartment building proposed for Forest Hills dead end; neighbors aghast

Jamaica Plain News reports on the proposal for Stonley Road, a small road behind the Arborway bus yard.

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From the article, a resident stated that the developers aren't giving anything to the existing residents. So to be clear, when someone wants to add badly needed housing to an area which zoned industrial, the locals think they need to be compensated for this.

"You paid $770,000 for this site [58-76 Stonley] and you’re not giving back anything"

I'd bet money this person also gets het up about gentrification and housing pricing too.

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SNA co-chair Jennifer Uhrhane said that the Flanagan + Seaton developers “gave us so much; parkland and cash for a community room.”

Admitting to receiving a cash payment to curry favor for a development, interesting strategy.

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isn't it?

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Extortion? Call for RICO !

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I understand that it's hard to adjust to change when it's right on your doorstep but...it's not exactly a rural idyll over there. They have the bus yard, various bits of industry and grit are woven throughout--is it really so appalling to have a 4-5 story residential building added to the mix? There's a combination of NIMBYism and me-me-me going on that's pretty off-putting. And I know that developers can be greedy jerks but do we really approach all of them with this "you only paid X so you should give us y" thing?

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Classic JP. Housing on an industrial site, with over the city mandated requirement for affordable housing.

Why anyone would want to go through the verbal enhanced interrogation techniques that is the development process in Cant Afford Cambridge is beyond me.

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Great acronym - Can't Afford Cambridge Anymore.

Who doesn't love poop?

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from Cambridge (since rent control ended there), especially when they tire of hipster cafes, bars, and restaurants and want to have kids and a decent place to raise and educate them.

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Most folks I know were forced out of Cambridge by prices alone. They loved the cafes and other "hipster" amenities (which were pretty much all there in the 1990s ...) and had no issues with raising kids in Cambridge or sending them to Cambridge Public Schools.

They saw Arlington as a compromise, not a step up.

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Your stereotype of JP isn't exactly accurate. A few blocks from this site is 3389 Washington Street, a building that was approved earlier this year to great support and little to zero opposition from locals.

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...trying to argue about JP based on anything but wild caricatures. Didn't you know that John was walking down Centre Street in 1999, and someone had the audacity to insult his taste in hatbands? Ever since, he's been setting fire to that strawman like a Vietnamese cornfield.

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Is your reference to "John " a reference to John Corcoran (of Forest Hills Arborway LLC), the developer of that parcel? They're like the Walmart of MA developers.

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More of a regional tradition. The North Cambridge Stagnation Cabal was demanding that an entire parcel of land be set aside for them to have deeded parking.

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a bit is nowhere near out of line. The neighborhood is growing rapidly as of late but the building has been more or less in character with the others.

What we have here is a developer who just bought up significant chunks of land, well off of the main corridor that is Washington Street, proposing to build in a scale that is out of completely out of context with the neighborhood.

My guess is Fred knows a bit about the market rates for property in the city of Boston, and he is saying that they got a great deal on the amount of land they acquired, i.e., they are going to be lining their pockets pretty thickly whether they do a good job or not.

Kudos to the SNA for volunteering on the behalf of the neighborhood.

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a scale that is out of completely out of context with the neighborhood

You realize that all neighborhoods in Boston and the surrounding towns will all need to become more dense, regardless of what is there now, in order to meet the area's need for more housing. The days of single family homes and three deckers being sufficient are long gone. Five stories should be the minimum allowed height of any new buildings. Whether on the main drag, or on a side street.

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all triple deckers, and should one get torn down and redeveloped, we should just welcome a tower in it's place? At least 5 stories, but the taller the better.

Density has to be properly planned for, it can't just be smashed in without addressing neighborhood concerns; traffic calming, parking, utility, etc.

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Like the twits in North Cambridge who demanded no more than three houses on 1.5 acres close to the MBTA, where an industrial facility running three shifts had been before.

All this on a street already built out at close to 50 units per acre.

People like you are the reason that people like your kids can't afford to buy anything, not the people building more housing.

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between planned development and suburban snob zoning.

Boston suffers from a lack of predictable zoning and any kind of developmnet plan beyond "let the developers do what they want." Yes, we need density, but not random density--look at the mess of South Boston where there has been a rapid densificaiton that is entirely car based. It is so short sighted. We all have to live with the problems of a lack of planning and zoning. I don't have hopes that it is going to get better anytimes soon--not while develpers are driving the converstation.

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It's maybe a 10 minute walk to Forest Hills Station. And the Casey Arborway Project is giving the area a great opportunity for denser, walkable development, since it will make access to the station that much more pedestrian-friendly.

If the neighbors let it happen, that is.

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There seems to be an undercurrent here that thinks that developers are the invisible hand doing the greater good for the city of Boston. They aren't evil, but they aren't saints, and when the buildings are going to be there for years to come then folks who have a vested living interest in the area should be able to have a meaningful discussion about the projects.

Snob zoning = not wanting much larger and out of character buildings thrown up haphazardly without any bit of neighborhood input.

We should all be snobs then.

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"Snob zoning = not wanting much larger and out of character buildings thrown up haphazardly without any bit of neighborhood input.

We should all be snobs then."

Your damning words, not mine.

You're getting your bit of neighborhood input, and instead of being constructive you're insisting that everything stays the same as it ever was.

Welcome to the 21st century. Some of us want to be part of the solution to our housing crisis. Do you really think your desire to live only amongst 3 story buildings is more important than someone else's need for housing?

Definition of selfish.

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"In character" and "out of context" are classic NIMBY. In the 'burbs it's big lot requirements. In JP it's the horror of something that doesn't cling to the height/density of 1915.

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there was the elevated running a short block away, dozens of stables, breweries, and all sorts of noisy, stinky stuff (I'm pretty sure the crowd at Doyle's would have been much less genteel than it is today). It's hardly Wellesley and never has been.

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There was an asphalt plant across the street from Doyles.........

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Considering the population in 1915 was about 100,000 or so more than today (without the benefit of very large buildings downtown) I would guess that densities in 1915 were actually a bit more than today across all neighborhoods.

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is a neighborhood association demanding a bribe, and doing it publicly.

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That's very very odd that they would do that. Can they even do that? It is essentially taking a bribe.

This is why sometimes the neighborhood associations are not out for the people they serve, but really just out for themselves and what they can gain out of it. This is why I'm often against these groups having much say in development because they are usually self-serving.

(not saying I don't enjoy parks or open space or not overbuilt properties.. but when you start demanding things you have to ask who are they really doing it for)

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That's very very odd that they would do that. Can they even do that? It is essentially taking a bribe.

BINGO - we have a winner. Because that's exactly what "mitigation" is - legalized bribery.

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Requesting a park or lower building height is one thing.. these are community affecting... but accepting a cash payment is simply a bribe for the organization calling the shots.

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When paid to the politicians running the process it's called a "re-election campaign contribution."

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because the SNA is asking the developer to pay them so they will approve the building proposal. If it were a bribe, the developer would be offering to pay them. I think it's usually the neighborhood (or the Neighborhood Council, or other community groups) which asks for money in exchange for their approval . Sadly, some developers just pay up and figure it's a cost of doing business in JP. It's corrupt, of course. I thought extortion was illegal, too, but nothing ever seems to happen to those demanding money. Embarrassing. Like a corrupt, third-world dictatorship.

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This is a street with empty lots and some industrial spaces. I mean, look at this:

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.3036796,-71.1085051,3a,90y,41.15h,92t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTKHRO9zNypT6qwQW9MswaA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

This isn't like someone buying up some triple deckers on Paul Gore St and knocking them down to make some hulking building here.

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What IS the context of the neighborhood that they should be preserving exactly? This is hardly the most drastic change the area is seeing, given the two huge developments going on a couple of blocks away and Forest Hills. These are 4-5 story buildings, not office towers. And it's currently mixed industrial patchwork--do they want more bus lots and towing companies, in keeping with the neighborhood?

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are hardly a completely mixed industrial patchwork. It is a pretty uniform, well spaced, and generally, well functioning, neighborhood.

The bus lot borders the southern edge, and the western border is on Washington with businesses, other than that, it seems relatively planned.

The huge development a couple blocks away (if it is what I assume you are thinking of) is all triple deckers, and the massive buildings by forest hills border the train tracks and a major traffic route.

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is next to the lot, not anywhere near Williams St. I know the area pretty well--and I mean--look at the photos and the map. No one is tearing down nice old triple deckers and putting up towers. And yes, I was referring to Flanagan and Seaton and the big buildings going up down towards FH--none of these are triple deckers and tbh why should they be? I'm just not seeing the reasoning here--the buildings aren't casting shade on anyone; they're improving a pretty rundown area. Will they possibly impact traffic on Washington or within those few blocks? Possibly. But again, you've got the car wash, Stan Hatoff's--it's hardly ye olde village green.

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is roughly Williams, Rossmore, and Brookley, with all relevant cross streets and up to Hatoffs, and down to Stonley, that is why I'm referring to them. I was referring to 101 Brookley (all triple deckers going in). I'm not protesting, but it's better to have a slightly over the line neighborhood group rather than a vacuum in which developers do whatever they please with zero neighborhood input.

Regardless of how s*&*&y the building is, it will improve the area.

Wouldn't a better building/property be better? I think (hope) that is all people want.

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Here's the formula: pay for site with as little as you can. Build as many as you can, as cheaply as you can. Sell for as much as you can. Ka-ching baby!

These dime-a-dozen units are this generation's answer to the ugly brick boxes from the 1970s that you see around Boston's neighborhoods. Back then, brick box housing sprouted all over the city in desperate times, during the flight to the suburbs.

Today, City Hall's desperate desire to rubber stamp any and all new units means another big box is coming soon to a small block near you.

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I don't know about you, but I'm sure most would prefer their own apartment in an ugly out-of-character brick box instead of a roach-infested single room in an in-character Victorian that hasn't been renovated in over 100 years.

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Then help make it attractive.

But that's not what the opposition is about, is it?

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Here's the formula: pay for site with as little as you can. Build as many as you can, as cheaply as you can. Sell for as much as you can. Ka-ching baby!

That's nice dear. So, please tell the class why you haven't banded together with a group of neighbors to purchase the sites in question and build your perfect "in character" neighborhood nirvana there?

We are eagerly awaiting your answer.

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How does another loading rack at Mello fuel terminal sound?

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Doyle's has to be the best meeting place for any neighborhood association in the city. I'm jealous.

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My, what a unique and visually stimulating piece of architecture.
(jeezis, even I'M sick of me complaining about this....sigh...)

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Why do these all look the same, and why is that same so damn ugly?

I want to laugh at the SNA from CACA too, but this really is a building that would depress a "neighborhood" of junk cars and beat-down triple-deckers.

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A boring generic apartment house garners this much saltiness from NIMBYs, I highly doubt an interesting architectural form would be welcomed.

The developer/architect probably know that giving this 'committee' the blandest thing possible is probably the path of least resistance.

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Well at least it looks somewhat different from every other large cube filling the site footprint. It echoes the triple deckers. Sorta looks like an Atari version of them. Half expect to see Duke Nukem running through the visualizations....

Doesn't do too much for me, but not making me want to retch in my hat is a step up these days. Why does everything have to be alternating pastel colors on panels? I don't know...it's not that I want everything to look like it was built in the 1800s, but so much of this stuff just looks cheap. Maybe I'm just a big whinger...

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The panels are to cover up the crappy wood frame.
I would bet the building, as designed, is built with concrete only on the wall bases and perhaps the stairwell. The rest will be horrid pressed wood. Cheap, but ineffective at any form of stability or noise reduction, and full of formaldehyde. Buildings should be required to be 99% concrete.

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Isn't there a regulation that anything over 3 stories is not supposed to be wood-framing, or am I imagining this? Wouldn't be the first time....

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Recently many places have upped previous wood frame height limits for the sake of the new techniques with pressed wood. Anywhere from 4-6 stories in most places. Some places have gone even further. For example the new building at 1501 commonwealth is 5.5 floors.

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It's good housing. The developer is building larger than three deckers, but it doesn't tower over the neighborhood. It's a better and higher use than 1 story industrial and parking lots. The neighborhood will be better for having the building, and Lord knows the city needs the housing.

It's good on the SNA to hold the developer's feet to the fire. Can they get more neighborhood amenities out of the deal? Go for it! Better streetscape. Maybe improved cycling facilities nearby, better curb ramps and sidewalks. Maybe another affordable housing unit.

Good for the developer, good for the SNA, good for Boston. Continue the process.

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Getting any city reps to show up at public meetings is challenging.

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...the BRA is staffed by meat sacks whose only use would be as organ donors?

Just a guess.

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This was a courtesy meeting by the development team. As a member of another City neighborhood association; this is a fairly common practice. Our Association prefers a preliminary meeting to meet the developers and give them an idea of what our neighborhood development plan is.

After further documents and an actual proposal is submitted to the City,the BRA WILL SCHEDULE MEETINGS. The discussion during the BRA sponsored meetings are used in the formal application/approval process. Imagine the furor if the developer did not come before SNA in an introductory way.

I would think SNA would be a bit more diplomatic and less agressive in their approach. Given that this property is in an industrial area; a developer could build any number of buildings for businesses that would be far more offensice to the aesthetic. Perhaps a large scale autobody shop or assembly operation would be more to their liking.

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This offers no reason at all for why a city or BRA rep can't be there. What's the downside of having a city or BAR rep there. At a minimum, Jullieanne Doherty should at least be at public meetings for neighborhood associations in her district. The article doesn't mention her at all. Was she there? The article doesn't say either way.

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I would imagine the developer asked to be included on the agenda of the SRA meeting. It would have been up to SRA to invite or at least make the meeting known to anyone they thought should attend.

When we have our neighborhood meetings and have development or construction projects present; we do not invite the BRA. There is no need at this stage of the process. Thus far it is all very informal.

People don't need to get so uptight over why certain parties were not at this meeting. SRA should be focusing on the fact the developer took the initiative to introduce themselves and what their intentions for the property are.

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Sometimes I can at least understand neighborhood opposition to development on purely self-interested grounds. It's selfish behavior, but I get it. People make big investments in their homes and they don't want to see their property values get negatively impacted.

But... does the SNA seriously believe that the bleak industrial zone that's currently there is preferable to a new apartment building from a property value standpoint? Do they think that the "character" conferred by uniform triple-decker-ness is a greater benefit? Are these in fact the most uniquely selfless homeowners to ever be confronted with new development in the neighborhood? It doesn't add up for me.

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they aren't against new development, they want it to be smart, in appropriate scale, and with developers who stand to make huge profits to make appropriate accommodations to the existing neighborhood (you know, the people who already live in the hood and have to coexist with new buildings, traffic, neighbors, etc.), and at the very least adhere to some sort of community process so they aren't just steamrolling in without a care for who they impact during, and more importantly, after, construction and sale.

Some of these developers f******** suck, for example, see 22-26 Plainfield Street.

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Your words in translation:

"in appropriate scale" = no height or density above existing 100 yr old buildings

"make appropriate accommodations" = give us something. Housing for other people isn't enough.

"with developers who stand to make a huge profit" = it's okay for longtime residents to make a killing charging market rate rents in the triple decker they bought 15 yrs ago for $300k (or even better, the $500k they made flipping it to condos)--but this guy should share his ill-gotten gains.

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make appropriate accommodations = Take neighborhood concerns into account, building schedule, neighborhood notification, parking plan discussion, height discussion.

That's as far as I would take it, but apparently we're all just waiting for the bag with the dollar sign on it.

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make appropriate accommodations = Take neighborhood concerns into account, building schedule, neighborhood notification, parking plan discussion, height discussion.

That's as far as I would take it, but apparently we're all just waiting for the bag with the dollar sign on it.

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Agree with you, but that isn't as far as the neighborhood association is taking it. They are explicitly saying, you need to offer something for me above and beyond just your building. Aka, a bribe.

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Best comment on the thread!!

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they aren't against new development

L.O.L.

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And extort trinkets for not delaying things by filing bogus lawsuits over nonsense issues.

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What gets me is that these groups think they are entitled to better than what others have endured in the past with the arrogance to assume that they know better. Never mind the fact that they are telling other people how to spend their money.And the give back argument is bullshit. the area will be improved from what it is ( I dig it the way it is, load er up boys, weld that steel , the hum of America at work ) . and it will spur further investment.If you dont like it, outbid the price and do what you want, and see how affordable things are after you add up the wish list. All this interference only serves to increase the costs of the final product anyway.

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Void /dup

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... count as a permitted industrial use of the site?

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Think Armour had one down off Columbus ave, then off course Brighton Allston Cattle Industry: Stockyards and Abattoir , http://www.bahistory.org/CattleIndustry.html , so it wouldnt be a big stretch of the imagination. Maybe a chicken operation anyway....

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It wouldn't surprise me if the developer put forth the proposal for a 5-story building knowing full well that the neighbors would shriek. He will then trim the plans down to a 4-story building, which was always his intention but the neighbors will think that they won a concession.

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4 stories really isn't such a big deal--certainly not the "tower" that others have referred to. I wish the neighbors could recall for one second that they live in a semi-industrial area that has been rundown and ripe for redevelopment for ages now. In addition to the bus yard, you've had breweries, tanneries, stables, garages, used car lots, etc etc. This is not pristine land--it's been in flux forever and expecting it to stay the same is unrealistic. Honestly, I just can't see the complaint here.

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Mention 40B plan of say 50 units, then plea bargain down to what you actually want to do.

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That only applies if the city is lacking in affordable housing units. Boston shoulders the burden for a lot of the region in that regard, so there are no special tricks for the developers.

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Just mentioning it, or some variant , would serve to STFU of a lot of people. That and lawyer up on an extortion claim , '' SNA co-chair Jennifer Uhrhane said that the Flanagan + Seaton developers “gave us so much; parkland and cash for a community room.” , as in RICO , and also with individually for all ( then you need your own personal lawyer ). Just a thought, my Swirls , but if you want to get into the dance , you got to put up some dough.

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But you know what, I live in the neighborhood about a stones throw (or 2) away from the site, and while I don't agree that "things must stay the same," and that we need developers to kiss the a#### of their neighbors before they get our oh so special blessing, I do know that it is in the public's interest that the project is not just being looked at from someone who is essentially interested in making money quickly, and moving on to the next project.

Developers can just be ambiguous LLC companies that are created for a particular project, and essentially disappear from existence after they get paid.

Yes to density, but if they are going to start throwing up height in a place not accustomed to it, their should be a neighborhood process.

We are all NIMBYs when it is in our backyard.

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I live within a few stones throws of the new developments in Roslindale and I am in favor of the one above Tonys, the substation and the one on Roberts St. Not sure about the Weld St one. We don't actually have to be NIMBYs.

As noted upthread, if you want to fight development in a developed, crowded street like in most of JP, then it's valid. This is a dead-end industrial street next to a bus yard and NIMBY shouldn't be happening here.

Also, aren't the new developments across Washington at least this big?

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... to resumption of much more intensive industrial use, in accordance with the current zoning? Isn't medium density housing far preferable? Why would the landowner have to "buy" the permission of neighbors in order to use the property in a fashion MORE consistent with the surrounding residential uses than the current industrial use?

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Of course I want medium density housing over an industrial site, it's just that no one should want a shoddy development going up without neighborhood input.

I don't think the developers need to buy off the SNA, but if they can address things when building the property that affect the neighborhood for the better, than I am for it.

Clearly, I'm not coming off as a moderate here, but yes, I do want new development in JP.

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you refer to.

Once the developer has a more solid proposal; he submits it to the BRA.

Given the size of the project and desired use in an industrial area; the BRA will hold meetings with the community and developer. The BRA vets the proposal and 'guides' the developer with local requirements (i.e. Complete Streets)and perhaps concessions based on community issues. The community will have 2 weeks after each BRA meeting for formal comments.

If/when BRA approves the project; it then gets sent to ZBA. The other city departments requiring permits also weigh in at this time (ISD, BTD etc). ZBA meetings are public, but community comments are no longer taken at this point.

There is plenty of time for back and forth between the community and the developer before things move forward.

Given other recently BRA approved development in WR and Rossi; I don't expect the BRA to have too many problems with the scope of this project. The developer will have a few items that will be changed over the course of BRA::Community review....exterior design likely being one.

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Is the SNA (and neighborhood groups of the same ilk) out of line having early discussion like this?

There is real neighborhood ambivalence as to whether the group is helpful or hurtful to getting things done.

Are they shooting themselves in the foot by being unnecessarily obstructionist? If you know, is this how it plays out in other Boston neighborhoods?

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Excellent question, complicated answer. Much depends on City Hall.

There's been a big shift in how the mayor's office looks at such debates. For better or worse, Menino used the lack of neighborhood zoning to leverage proposed development into neighborhood payoff. It appeased residents and pushed the cost of public improvements onto private developers.

Your neighbors are playing by the old rules. Walsh doesn't give a damn about what this 'hood thinks, esp since it didn't vote for him. He only cares about racking up #union jobs, which means approving this project.

Advice: make it better. It's all you're going to get.

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This neighborhood DID vote for Walsh and out of all of the politicians, Walsh was the only one who supported it. The rules are, there ain't no rules!

http://www.dotnews.com/2015/neponset-asks-why-city-s-zoning-ok-objection...

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JPRunner,
In my opinion; having the Association involved is a good thing to help bring the area into a thriving, healthy and progressive destination.

It is hard for me however to evaluate if they are being unnecessarily obstructionist. What I can offer; it would seem that being this confrontational from the beginning does nothing to encourage a developer to want to either work with the association or invest in the area. Personally, I think a neighborhood association should be viewed as welcome and positively engaged in the stability and growth of the area. There may be a time for more assertive discussions down the road.

From what I see, it appears that the area surrounding the proposed development does not currently reflect an area I personally would be interested in living. Ask yourself : how do you feel about the neighborhood now? What would you want for yourself in 3 years? 5 years, etc?

Any resident - with any ambivalence of whether the Association serves the neighborhood well - needs to become more engaged. At least try to regularly attend meetings, find out if there is a website, a Facebook Account, a Nextdoor account. Not only become informed; but inform the Association of your thoughts and expectations as well.

From my own experience I have seen the process can take almost a year - just to get to a BRA decision. These meetings are going to be around for awhile. We shall see how it plays out....

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some of us are and some of us aren't. When I moved to JP there were still quite a few vacant lots around that were very grassy and pleasant but I remember thinking as I toured an abutting property--no way will that stay like that forever. They are ALL built up now and there have been all sorts of other changes, none of them truly egregious. I'd argue that you couldn't really have moved into that neighborhood without anticipating that some things would change. And dear God--the one meeting attendee wailing about potential renters who might turn the place into--gasp--Mission Hill. Please.

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In my neighborhood (we've lived here since 1981), we had 5 or 6 vacant lots for a long time. We neighbors mowed and cleaned them regularly, so they would be "grassy and pleasant." It was a lot of work for all of us for many years. We did it because untended vacant lots are places for garbage, used needles, and crime, and we were trying to make our neighborhood safer. It's a very good thing for vacant lots to be built on, because it makes the neighborhood safer and more attractive. Few vacant lots are cared for like someone's back yard. When they look pleasant, it's because someone is spending a lot of time caring for them.

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When I say grassy I mean they had tall grass in them and were very green and--to my eyes--nice looking. For whatever reason they didn't get particularly trashy (for a rare current day example see the lot at the corner of Green and Alfred St)--they were fenced and others that aren't definitely got more gross. Anyway, my point is really in agreement with you--you can't stop progress or expect things to stay frozen in time. If you move into a neighborhood that's a bit of a blank slate, whether it's underused/outdated industrial buildings or vacant lots, you can't reasonably expect them to stay that way forever. If this were a 25-story office tower, I'd be more sympathetic but a 4-5 story residential building isn't going to damage the fabric of the neighborhood--it's going to improve it.

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That whole stretch of the busyard along Wash. needs cosmetic help, including those abandoned commercial buildings with the broken windows and shades in the mbta lot right before Shea Circle. Yet I do see lights on inside at night. Weird.

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Are you talking about the MBTA office building?

I am a bit confused, as Washington Street doesn't intersect with Shea Circle.

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Yes that must be the building which is before Shea Circle. That section, including the stretch of busyard which runs along Wash., needs cosmetic help. (" including " , not "intersecting" with Wash.). It is a further round the corner.

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