Developer Jordan Warshaw says he's bought one of the three parcels he needs for a 650-unit apartment complex off Sprague Street at the Dedham line, has a second parcel under option and is still negotiating with the owner of the third.
At a packed meeting of the Readville Neighborhood Watch tonight, Warshaw and his consultant, Jay Walsh - former director of neighborhood development under Tom Menino - said the eight-acre site would be perfect for the project. It's next to the Readville train station, isolated from the main residential parts of the neighborhood and its size means he could build a complex with apartments attractive to people who want to rent in Boston but couldn't possibly afford the Seaport or Charlestown.
Warshaw, who has yet to file formal plans with the BRA for the five five-story buildings, estimated the units - mostly studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms with a small number of three-bedrooms - would go for half the price of comparable apartments closer to downtown. He said they'd be rented mostly by 20-somethings and empty nesters tired of leaf raking and home maintenance.
Warshaw said the way the land falls off dramatically from Sprague Street adds another benefit: He could fashion something akin to a college campus, where the five buildings would sit next to large grass fields, rather than parking lots - the cars would go into garages underneath the buildings.
In an homage to the area's industrial past, he said he's looking at putting up buildings with a factory look - brick and metal facades, with large windows - rather than just throwing up yet another place with "fake clapboard and fake bay windows."
Some of the space in the buildings would be set aside for a gym, a community center and a restaurant, he said, adding he's also looking at how to help clean up Sprague Pond.
As with any proposal in Readville, residents' top concern was traffic.
Warshaw said the garages would be designed for one car per bedroom, although he said he doubted they would ever be full because millennials are increasingly reluctant to own cars.
Warshaw, who drives his daughter to a gymnastics studio across from the site three times a week said he's well aware of the "nightmare" that is traffic in the area.
He said that because the development would be south of the Sprague Street bridge, it should have minimal impact on what he acknowledged was the worst of the worst at the Father Hart/Milton Street bridge. And when a Dedham selectman popped up to express concern about more cars coming into his town, Warshaw said a residential project simply generates far less traffic than an office building or a shopping mall.
Still, he and Walsh - whom he hired for his Boston expertise - said they would work with city officials to try to do something about the existing issues, such as maybe finally installing traffic lights around the bridge.
He acknowledged another developer is looking at a 240-apartment complex next to the bridge and said his traffic engineers would take that into account if that project wins city approval.
And they said they also want to work with the MBTA to resolve the "inequities" at the Readville station, such as the fact that it costs far more to get on a train there than just up the tracks at Fairmount.
In response to questions about the sort of people who might move into the apartments, he said he would ban college students, that is, the rich kids over at Curry, and that while he cannot legally turn away any applicants with Section 8 certificates, the buildings would not be set aside specifically for them.
He added that 13% of the units would, as required by the city, be rented as "affordable" to people making up to 70% of the area median income, or roughly $40,000 to $60,000 a year.
The meeting in general was far calmer than those on other large projects in Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods. One thing some residents objected to strongly was Warshaw's idea to create a Citgo Signish iconic tower for the complex, perhaps something spelling out "Readville" in lights.
Warshaw said that would help improve the neighborhood's identity since few people outside the area have ever even heard of the place, but some residents said they actually like it that way and feel no need to blare their identity to the rest of the world.
"We're Readville! We're happy!" one man yelled angrily.