Lagrange Street residents win: Board rejects condo building; they get to keep fire-ravaged eyesore

The Zoning Board of Appeals this week rejected a proposed condo building on the site of a former asthma-inhaler factory in West Roxbury, citing neighborhood concerns about density, parking and the developer's proposal to assemble prefab modular units on the site, rather than hiring local workers for more traditional construction.

Local landlord Michael Argiros had proposed tearing down the factory on Lagrange Street near Centre - which caught fire days after he bought it - and replacing it with a 40-condo building assembled out of modular units fabricated in a factory, with 65 parking spaces.

At a hearing Tuesday (watch the hearing - starts at roughly 2:10:00), Argiros's attorney, Dennis Quilty, said that after numerous meetings with residents over more than two years, Argiros reduced the size of the proposed building, decreased the number of parking spaces and agreed to make the units condos rather than apartments, and that the project would remove what is "really a blighted property in the neighborhood."

But board member Mark Erlich, who is also executive secretary and treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, used the proposed modular construction to open an attack on the project. City officials have frequently expressed skepticism of such prefab units being bolted together, he said. But he added:

It also removes a lot of [work] hours that could be done by people who live and work in the city vs. people in Maine, who wear sneakers.

Mayor Walsh supported the project. Last October, the BRA approved an earlier plan calling for 48 apartments and 81 parking spaces.

City councilors Matt O'Malley (West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain) and Michael Flaherty (at large) opposed the proposal, citing neighborhood concerns about traffic and the size of the project, even at 40 units.

Tim Sullivan, vice president of the West Roxbury Civic and Improvement Association, also questioned what neighbors could expect given the upkeep of Argiros's existing buildings at Carol Circle and VFW Parkway in West Roxbury and in Davis Square in Somerville. The type of problems he said exist there doesn't "fit in with out neighborhood of West Roxbury" - and the fact Argiros has let the Lagrange property rot after the fire doesn't speak well of any future development there.

Residents living near the project said they were concerned about condo dwellers refusing to use the building's garage and instead taking up spaces along Lagrange Street - and using nearby side streets as shortcuts, showing typical Boston-driver lack of concern for all of the runners, bicyclists, parents with strollers and young kids who frequent the area, such as, as one resident pointed out, the annual Shamrock Shootout street-hockey tournament a few blocks away on Temple Street.

One resident questioned why Argiros wasn't using the property for stores, as he'd be allowed under its zoning, in a part of West Roxbury that hasn't seen new commercial development in 50 years; another noted the lack of a loading dock and questioned why the board should let the project be just one foot away from a rear lot line rather than the 40 feet required by zoning.

In response, Quilty said his client has been put in somewhat of an impossible situation: He said that at some meetings, residents complained that many of the existing storefronts along Centre Street are vacant; that Argiros removed the loading dock after a complaint from the same guy who complained about the lack of one at the hearing, and that the rear setback is along the property's border with a cemetery, whose denizens are not raising complaints about the issue.

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Sneakers

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But board member Mark Erlich, who is also executive secretary and treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, used the proposed modular construction to open an attack on the project. City officials have frequently expressed skepticism of such prefab units being bolted together, he said. But he added:

It also removes a lot of [work] hours that could be done by people who live and work in the city vs. people in Maine, who wear sneakers.

Not only do I call this a serious conflict of interest, which should mean the man recuse himself, but also sneakers??????

What a great reason to not build a desperately needed housing development.
IMAGE(https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/98/cf/20/98cf20ae623ae0a6e650701a037782a3.jpg)

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Sneaks

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Blast those those made Maine men and their fancy sneakers! *shakes fist*

For what it's worth, the builders of the pre-fab units probably also wear steel-toed boots, per OSHA.

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Perfect example of 'we got

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Perfect example of 'we got ours now the rest can GFY.'
With low density and high prices, sooner than later those same construction labor work forces they're trying to protect will have to live in Maine anyways.

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prefab is better

I used to be an anti-prefab snob until I started seriously looking into it as an option.

The evidence is clear now that engineered modular units are stronger, better and more consistent in build quality than what is done onsite during piecemeal construction in varying environmental conditions by workers with huge ranges in experience. The engineering drawings are precise, the stuff is built indoors in controlled conditions by experts who know what they are doing and the level of integration with stuff like wiring and plumbing is pretty slick.

Plus the buildings go up an order of magnitude faster resulting in less traffic delays and annoyance to the neighborhood.

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Question about prefab -

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Question about prefab -

Is it possible for the prefab manufacturers to create panels and piece that look more like brick, siding, traditional building materials? Do they regularly make these? Is it just that developers are too cheap and greedy to invest a little extra to make a beautiful building that blends in with the neighborhood, or is there a manufacturing reason?

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Maybe they don't because it is out of scale?

I find these "colonoids" - giant buildings pretending to be residential small units with clapboard siding - to be utterly absurd. Brick on everything looks tired and tedious and kind of dumb after a while, too. The ultimate expression of this sort of out-of-scale stupidity is the library at UMass Amherst. The pentultimate are all the suburban "colonial styleee" megaplexes popping up along the freeways. They not only look silly, massively out of scale, and absurd, they burn down spectacularly.

Just because certain surfaces were used for triple deckers doesn't make them attractive on larger buildings. In fact, it can make them look downright ridiculous. Just because you "just aren't used to new siding" doesn't make it unattractive or inappropriate for the scale of the building.

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Those things are hideous

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There is so much interesting architecture in the world. And there is so much uninspired, depressing blah that you describe above.

As pointed out further above, prefab has many good points. There is no requirement that prefab needs to be ugly.

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What a load of nonsense

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Any chance we can see the membership rolls of the carpenters union to make sure that it's only Boston residents getting this kind of work? No, because of course tons of the trade union members live OUTSIDE of the city. That's fine, but let's not limit construction inside city limits so Jimmy from Quincy has a nice gig lined up.

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Tim Sullivan

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The Tim Sullivan mentioned is the same guy who got into a Twitter beef with John Connolly on election night a few years back. He's the head of a neighborhood association on Washington St even though he doesn't live within the boundaries. He's inserting himself into all these development meetings to marshal NIMBY forces against any housing. It's shameless. He probably has political ambitions, though he's a Republican. He all but accused this developer of committing arson on the property if you watch the hearing. Now the neighborhood is stuck with a blighted and abandoned factory. Great work.

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Great headline

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The NIMBYs are absolute idiots. There is no need for more storefronts. Look at Route 9 in Natick - There has been a Dunkin Donuts in a building that has not been able to attract/keep anything else.

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Think

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Condos/people/shoppers = good.
Eyesore/firetrap/vacant = bad.

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To be fair

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The neighborhood should have to buy the property at market rate from him since they won't let him do anything with it.

Oh and lol at the traffic concerns. I doubt people living in condos could be any worse than all the drunks flying in and out of the liquer store right across the street.

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What would the neighbors accept?

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Has anyone who is objecting to this proposal said what they would prefer on the site? I can think of many possibilities that would be much worse than this one.

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Yes, they have

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Over the past two years, suggestions have ranged from stores to several two-family homes to just keeping the abandoned building as is (granted that was before the fire and the flood) to leveling the whole thing and turning it into parking lot.

The proposal for stores is absolutely lovely, because after spending two years screaming about traffic and little kids getting run down by crazed Massholes who are apparently the only people who would buy those 40 units, residents would, I'm sure, really, really enjoy all the car and truck traffic that would be associated with a shopping area.

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There are also no direct

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There are also no direct residential abutters to the site. Abutters are a credit union, train tracks, and a cemetery. Guarantee this lot will now sit vacant with this burned out building on it for a couple years now. And the same people opposing it will start complaining about that too.

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>granted that was before the

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>granted that was before the fire and the flood

How do you start a flood? :)

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Building a youth / community

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Building a youth / community center would be great. I know everyone is screaming for more condos which are usually luxury, but how about something a little more forward thinking for a change.

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Why?

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What's wrong with the Roche Center?

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Or the YMCA

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Or the large public library, both of which are a short walk away.

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Who would pay

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for a youth or community center? This proposal is for market-rate housing, which means the developer is paying for everything, and hopes to get his money back by selling the units. He couldn't afford to build a community center, because he wouldn't get back the money he spent to buy the property and build the center.

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Sorry to bother you with my

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Sorry to bother you with my suggestion. Clearly the overwhelming support on this thread is for building high-end luxury units. Again, sorry to offend with my difference of opinion.

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Market rate is not high-end luxury

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Well, maybe downtown, but in West Roxbury, "market rate" is far from luxury. Why, the building wouldn't even have a concierge, let alone a rooftop pool or, I assume, granite countertops and Sub Zero appliances in the kitchen.

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Sounds like a good location

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Sounds like a good location to propose a homeless shelter or SRO. That might put the nimbys in their place.

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Medical MJ dispensary

Boston's having trouble figuring out where to put those, right? Sounds like a good location for one.

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Stop The Whining!

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Tear yourselves away from
your lattes,and attend a
Community meeting, And
then you keyboard warriors
can bitch.

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I attend many a community

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I attend many a community meeting. And the opposition to this project was short-sighted. Cheers!

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Argriros

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I'm for this project, I don't see any problem with it. Are we going to do endless protests for no reason at all? It reminds me of Nov. 8th, someone wins and someone loses, there are no ties !!

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Shamrock Shootout

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That people are invoking the Shamrock Shootout and playing the "I'm against loading docks, wait where's the loading dock?" game, shows that at a certain point, people need to prove their level of seriousness to be allowed to participate in these meetings.

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