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Landlord proposes 14-unit residential building in Roslindale Square

32 Cummins proposal, Roslindale

Architect's rendering, featuring ever circling birds.

City Realty, a Brookline landlord and property-management firm, wants to tear down a large house at 32 Cummins Highway and replace it with a 14-unit, four-story building.

All of the units would have two bedrooms and would range in size from 820 to 1,000 square feet, , according to a copy of plans posted to Keep Roslindale Quirky group on Facebook.

The proposal would need approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals because it exceeds several maximums allowed under the lot's zoning: It's too dense, too close to its lot lines and two stories too tall. Also, the zoning calls for 21 parking spaces; City Realty is proposing 14.

The Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services has scheduled a meeting on Sept. 20 in the Roslindale Community Center on Cummins Highway to discuss the proposal. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

City Realty bought the property, under the name Kronick Fatigue LLC, for $600,000 in September of 2015.

The proposal is the latest example of a development mini-boom in Roslindale Square, which had gone decades without major new construction, save for the Village Market and the Greater Roslindale Medical and Dental Center.

A developer is currently building a 19-unit condo project on Taft Hill Park, behind the municipal parking lot, while landlord Vinnie Marino is finishing up construction of eight apartments in two new floors above Redd's in Rozzie and the space recently vacated by Tony's Market.

People are now living in the 43-unit Parkside on Adams building, which wraps around the old trolley substation now being renovated for use as a restaurant and craft-beer shop - and in a 14-unit condo building on Roberts Street, just past the train tracks off South Street.

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Comments

Just build it already.

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It may be fine, Roslindale Square could stand more residents, but there's probably a reason that stretch of Cummins is zoned two-story rather than four like in the square itself - see the two-story house right next to it?

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Because snob zoning? http://www.equitablehousing.org/exclusionary-housing-policies.html

It's not like there's any real logic to the zoning regulations being what they are today. Most of them were just set based on what was already there, or worse, set as a blanket policy across the whole neighborhood with exceptions granted on a case by case basis to the politically well-connected.

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Zoning is what it is. There's a process for changing it. I don't see any good reason for an exception here other than the developer wants to make money.

That said, the zoning citywide needs to be dramatically changed. HOWEVER, that means the BRA loses lots of power and the politicians lose contributions from the all powerful development biz, so not holding my breath.

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"developer wants to make money"

Yes, it's about money.

"zoning citywide needs to be dramatically changed"

There's a decent argument for that, sure. Not if it means neighborhood residents who payed taxes for decades are too negatively affected and don't have enough say in what get developed for more money.

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I'm going to argue no: It's a commercial district surrounds by low-rise residences that for 40 years was a largely forgotten corner of the city. There's plenty of room for adding density in the commercial district - and nearby down towards Forest Hills. The developer's going to have to make a better argument than that.

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Yes, in Roslindale Square. In fact I would argue that there are few if any places in America where height restrictions were introduced for any reason other than "fear of poor people and the kinds of conditions that bring them." If you can find a source proving otherwise for Roslindale, I'd love to see it, but my suspicion is that it was added to this neighborhood at the same time it was added for the entire city, and mainly to prevent people from building "poor houses."

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For decades people in downtown boston have fought height for several reasons, none of which have anything to do with the poors and the problems they bring. My guess is that this is true in many parts of the US.

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This is very true. People act like anything that prevents more housing is snob zoning, even if it's just regular housing that's already there.

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Acting like people don't deserve to live here because you want to protect yourself from encroaching shadows and the sight of slightly larger buildings is the very definition of snobbery. It may no longer be about keeping out "the poors" (since that would be in-PC by modern standards) but the effect is the same.

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It's not about deserving, it's about recognizing that zoning is a basic part of planning and just because other people desire more construction doesn't mean they should always allow.

The building is not slightly larger, it's substantially larger.

Also, the newer construction is often significantly more costly that the buildings it's replacing asking higher rents.

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Then move to a place where people don't care about zoning.

No, it's about neighborhood character. There's plenty of good reasons for not making buildings too large compared to the other ones in the neighborhood.

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Actually, the area around Roslindale Square underwent a comprehensive zoning revision within the past 10 years and based on community input the zoning in the square was changed to allow greater density and height while the area surrounding was revised to preserve existing lower density. Also, although Roslindale is gentrifying, there are many poor people who live here. Not all zoning that restricts density is snob zoning.

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No, because neighborhood scale matters overall.

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Yes. Roslindale zoning is conservative, but there are no 2-story zoning districts in Roslindale or anywhere in Boston. The height limit for all of the residential, commercial and industrial districts in Rozzie is 2 1/2 stories OR 35'. This wouldn't be much more than 35', and they take the upper massing away from the street edge with upper story stepbacks. It fits in perfectly fine with the street. Let's build.

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If you actually looked at the street, you would see that it's signficantly larger, taller, and closer to the lot lines than most other buildings in the area, and is a much different architectural style.

Your standard clearly is different than many others, and that's why the zoning is there.

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It's not going to make your rent cheaper.

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NOT building, when lots of people want to live here, will definitely drive up the rents.

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You can't build everywhere without making everything too crowded. Even if you do build, it's not going to lower your rents.

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But it's going to get more crowded. Whether you think that is too crowded is up to you. All neighborhoods in the city and most surrounding towns are upping their density because of re-expanding population [and the demographics of said population that means less large families in a single dwelling]. But you can relax, nobody is talking about skyscrapers in Roslindale. It's a 4 story building which puts it exactly one, measly floor higher than the surrounding homes and still lower than many old and new buildings in other outlier neighborhoods like Brighton.

The only thing that is going to slow or halt density growth in Roslindale [and other areas] would be a complete collapse of the economy in the city or perhaps a particularly vicious crime wave. For example, one area that has not seen nearly as much development is Geneva Ave in Dorchester. I'm sure you could try to start a gang of your own and start some feud with another gang if you want to try this.

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But many places are not getting more crowded unless too much housing is built. If your opinion if that's not enough.. Many places are keeping the density they have. Just because you believe rents are too high doesn't mean more is going to get built everywhere or it's going to make it more affordable for you to live wherever you want.

Also, nice try, but this building is about twice as tall as the one it's replacing and it's significantly closer to the lot line.

It's not allowed by zoning. What zoning is that? Oh the zoning that this area implemented that does the opposite of what you claimed areas are doing.

This location has, as others pointed out, recently added zoning to preserve most of the density that it already has. That means it's not going to get more crowded without these kinds of special approvals. Many of them are not going to get maxed out in size of the lot.

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The zoning they have is going to slow or density growth. Many people will complain, but not every location is going to add significant more density. The expanding population is not all going to live in these locations. Many places will decide that they do not want significantly more, and have already done so. They added zoning changes about 10 years ago to prevent too much.

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n/t

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These guys are jerks and bad landlords...

I'm generally pro-development but don't like this company and hate that everywhere they try to build, they are trying to build larger than the zoning allows for.

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I don't know anything about them either way so I'm curious if you have any sources.

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http://roslindale.wickedlocal.com/news/20160620/city-realty-donates-5k-t...

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/08/28/rents/AKltz8iYkz5wfFoucy...

Looks like they've been doing a couple things nearby to help the community surrounding the project.

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Sure - here's why I don't like em:

First, I've heard bad things about them from current and former tenants, who have said they are bad landlords who don't handle problems well. I don't know much on that front. I don't trust Yelp for much, though the reviews seem to agree with the sentiment I've heard from a couple people.

In JP, they've come under fire for rapid rent increases and evictions on retail storefronts in/near Egleston, for proposing buildings far too big on the Washington St corridor. Many articles in the JP Gazette and online, here is a link to a couple:
http://www.jamaicaplainnews.com/tag/city-realty-group

And last, they are being jerks about the property they are developing in Forest Hills at the corner of Hyde Park Ave and Weld Hill. Tried and failed for a variance there, don't shovel their sidewalks in the winter, have had contractors working without permits, block the street without warning and without adequate alternate routes for cars, block the sidewalk with their construction fencing, leave graffiti on their construction fences, etc. Basically don't give a damn about the community or the neighbors as best I can tell.

I went to one community meeting about 1.5 years ago now where a former tenant complained of bed bugs in her unit. Their rep blamed the tenant and called bedbugs an STD.

There are plenty of good developers and landlords. I don't get the sense that City Realty is one of them.

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Can you let us know who the good ones are? Any time people complain about this developer or that being "bad" or "mean" it's just another excuse for NIMBYism in my book. Has anyone gotten hurt? Have they been convicted of any crimes? We need more apartments, everywhere. Who would you like to build them?

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There are plenty of buildings going up by plenty of developers in JP that I would be happy to have build more. The ones putting up the 5-6 story buildings in FH just north of the Arborway seem to be running a professional job on a large site. The various developers doing small-scale in-fill overall seem to do OK too - I might quibble with their architecture but like the infill and welcome new neighbors. A bunch of the proposed buildings on Washington St near Green St seem good to me. I don't love the new developments in JP along the Arborway near the Pond, but again the developers seem to be pretty fine by me.

So in short - tons and tons of new development in JP where I haven't had the occasion to learn the names of the developers, and largely like what they do. City Realty has stood out by making a bad name for themselves, and when I see new proposals from them I am skeptical.

Generally, I'm also a fan of either as-of-right development that conforms with existing zoning, or development proposals that follow master-planning / community planning efforts. In these, even if up-zoning and variances are involved, the proposals can be consistent with a direction that people have had opportunity to participate in creating.

When a developer just buys properties in absence of the above and then seeks variances to build more, higher, closer to lot lines... well I just don't think that's a great way to get more housing built.

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As someone who lives around the corner from the proposed development I have my doubts about the number of units. I'm very familiar with the property in question from having patronized the year-round weekend tag sales of the former owners. The wrap-around development attached to the substation building factored parking into their plan. The height of the building is in line with the profile of the century-old substation. Still, the changes to the traffic flow to and from the square resulting from pre-existing demand for short-term parking for both the Post Office and Community Center are already reshaping traffic flow into the square. I'm at a loss when it comes to visualizing a structure that can fit that many units with room for cars without consuming all of the on-street parking between Florence St. and the Square - it's a potential bottleneck related to vital public facilities.

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Your critique of the other building seems a bit off, as their parking lot is typically pretty empty. The big change with that development was the end of the use of Higgins' parking lot as a de facto lot for the letter carriers (an issue that should not be underplayed) and the municipal building. And yes, that has been a big change. But this property doesn't have those issues.

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Again, a lot of weasel words. When you see new proposals from them you're skeptical of WHAT? That the buildings won't get built? Or that someone you don't like might make money and they don't "deserve" it?

Again, we need new apartment buildings, this looks like all the other ones that community groups will tolerate design-wise, let's build it. OH NO, 14 APARTMENTS!!!

For everyone who complains that all the new buildings look boring, try going to a few neighborhood group meetings where the developer tries to propose anything remotely novel or interesting in terms of design. You will quickly learn why all these buildings look the same.

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Well said. Upzoning can be an issue.

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However, if all current zoning is maxed out, that may be too much.

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No, not every reason against new housing is Nimbyism. They just want more profits.

We don't need more apartments everywhere, it's not like everyone needs to move here, and new housing has high costs.

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Then you'll complain when instead they buy up existing buildings to renovate and "displace" the tenants. You don't get to decide who "needs" to move here. People want to move to Boston whether you like it or not. That is a great thing. Boston turned the corner a while ago. It's not the late 80s-early 90s anymore.

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Zoning decides, and just because you want to move here you don't get to decide. People wanting to move here doesn't mean doesn't mean zoning doesn't apple. Renovating at least doesn't much change the exterior dimensions.

This area has long been better off than most other places even decades ago, and that includes whatever places everyone else is decided to move from.

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They are trying to build larger than zoning allows for.

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I don't like City Realty either, but complaining about the developer is mostly unhelpful. They're going to be allowed to build there provided they make "reasonable" concessions to the neighborhood. Given that, it's in our best interest to push them to make whatever they build as nice as possible for the neighborhood, rather than just doing everything possible to try to screw them over (and in the process, screwing ourselves).

Examples of screwing ourselves would be requiring them to build excessively large parking lots or shave stories off the building because we feel that they deserve a lower profit margin.

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Haha, Kronick Fatigue LLC!

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I heard that this developer gave money to the Sumner school to rebuild the playground. We should be encouraging developers to come into our neighborhood if they're going to be giving back like these guys are.

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As if that was such a huge expensive compared to the amount of money they will make on the project. Nevermind that they are asking for something that's not allowed by current zoning.

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lets build more in rozzie. lets build build build add enough residents to merit extending the OL to the square (or at least sunday service on the commuter rail)

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I have read somewhere, maybe here, that there is pretty much zero chance of Orange Line ever being extended to Roslindale due the need for subway and train tracks to be at different levels. In other words they can't simply slap a subway alongside the Needham Line tracks without doing a major eminent domain seizure of the houses along South St. Kinda like the deal for extending the Blue Line out to Lynn.

When I walk around Rozzie and I see mom and pop gas stations like Alfa I know it's just a matter of time before some ugly multi-unit goes up on that lot.

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Therefore, we can't just build new housing every where even though some people want to whine about "nimbyism" because they think there rents are too expensive.

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The existing right of way (ROW) is wide enough between Forest Hills and Rozzie Square for three tracks without eminent domain seizures. The major expenses would be construction of a new bridge at Bussey St., ROW grading, construction of a retaining wall to support the degrade, and a station in Rozzie Square built over a section of the upper parking lot. I've seen estimates between $150 and $200 million. It could be done and at a reasonable enough cost as things go. There just isn't any political backing or adequately organized advocacy right now.

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I'll just throw out 2 things

1. It would be 4 tracks, since the bypass track is needed from Forest Hills to Bussey Street.

2. Where is the station going?

I'm not necessarily opposed, just being realistic.

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what could be uglier than a gas station?

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Run the Orange Line all the way to Needham Junction!

Of course, I suspect that it would never fly, for much the same reason Arlington kept the Red Line out, but one can always dream.

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But send a spur of the D line to Needham and end the Orange Line at Home Depot (too many grade crossings at the end of the line)

I've started taking the 32 more, so perhaps I will start advocating for the Orange Line to Cleary Square.

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The terminus will see increased bus connections. If the terminus is at Roslindale Village, most of the buses that currently originate at Forest Hills and drive down Washington and past the commuter rail station would then originate at the new terminus, which would create the need for multiple bus parking / shelters. That corner is already enough of a mess, traffic-wise. There's more space out by Home Depot for a bus cluster, and it would increase access to the WREC.

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Just because they add more demand for service doesn't mean they will expand it. They don't exactly add much, if you haven't noticed.

Also, those residents are still going to use their own vehicles, because it's still very suburban in that area.

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A few weeks ago I was standing around, looking at this very property. My thought was "wouldn't it be great if this lot was combined with the office building next door to make a decent housing (and perhaps commercial) property like one sees across the street?" More land would mean the opportunity to make even more housing.

Other than that, I'm all for it.

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And think of how it'll affect the children!

My Gawd! This is Roslindale NOT Allston!

HARUMPH !!!!!

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It does cast long shadows, compared to most of the other neighborhoods.

Feel free to move somewhere that doesn't care about these things.

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Why don't you feel free to move to the suburbs where no other humans will encroach on your god-given territory.

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Contact your city councilor (you live in Roslindale, so I'm sure you know his name, right?) and begin the process to undo the zoning residents worked so hard to put in place 10 years ago.

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The city has decided on zoning even if you want to whine about it.

If the rents aren't affordable enough for you, or you would rather not live in a city that actually cares about what gets built, then there's many other locations.

Feel free to leave because most cities have zoning.

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In other cities having zoning means that nobody gets to whine about a developer coming in and building as of right.

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Our right to whine.

But remember who started the whining: the developer who wants out of zoning on multiple counts to build this non-compliant building.

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Having zoning that residents are happy with means they will do less complaining, it's the developers that want to exceed what they are allowed by right.

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Those who have not lived in Roslindale all that long will not be aware that within the last 10 years there was a full-fledged process that completely re-zoned all of Roslindale to specifically protect its appeal and density.

We may all have seen the references to Roslindale being "quirky" in some places (FB?) but adding all of these apartment buildings at the cost of demolishing older homes is pretty much akin to what was done to the old West End to create Government Center.

Let's understand that this process of demolishing older homes on large lots is happening all over Roslindale. There are buildings underway adjacent to the train station, on Augustus Ave, and on Neponset Ave (East Roslindale to you newbies). Some of the homes were not all that old and some even had the Victorian look that some of the homes here are known for.

The rezoning of Roslindale brought together a rather large group of City officials, the BRA, and a host of area residents, old and new, that set the pace for new construction and for business as well. That is why Roslindale is doing well, and also being protected from being gobbled up by cookie cutter apartment buildings.

These are not affordable either. As this stuff is added the gentrification of Roslindale will displace more and more.

And have any of you ever tried to park in this area? Forget it.

The new (sic) zoning holds things to 35 ft and also required at least 2 parking spaces per dwelling. A dwelling is an apartment, etc. The exception is if the abutters and City OK it.

The question we have to ask our collective selves is whether we want to allow developers to continue demolishing Roslindale to make profit. Read again above... just because this is close to the business district does not place it there, and as noted this process of tearing down good and occupy-able homes to put up more density is not acceptable.

Time to step back and re-think this - all of this.

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Ok I have thought.

*Everywhere* in the city needs 2 times the current number of dwellings. So no, you don't get to have the same amount of density.

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"*Everywhere* in the city needs 2 times the current number of dwellings. So no, you don't get to have the same amount of density.
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Nope, nothing says that all demand needs to be accommodated and other locations shouldn't expand.

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That re-zoning effort was the height of snob zoning and did not serve Roslindale well. All it's done it make it very hard to build anything new or even renovate existing structures because almost everything is non-conforming - even homes built in the early 20th century. Many of the people who spent time on that effort do not want anything built anywhere, they're still around and vocal NIMBYs.

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