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Would-be Readville developer sets Sisyphean tasks for self: Fixing neighborhood traffic and commuter-rail fares

Proposed Sprague Street building

Architect's rendering of two of the proposed buildings

Developer Jordan Warshaw today showed up plans for a 521-unit middle-income apartment complex in four buildings that would rise as high as eight stories in what is now an industrial/warehouse area off Sprague Street between Sprague Pond, the Northeast Corridor and the Readville train station.

Before an audience of about 200 Readville residents - and a few from neighboring Dedham - Warshaw acknowledged the small neighborhood's increasingly intractable traffic nightmare, caused by being a cut-through for people going pretty much every which way on roads never designed for them. Residents said it can take them half an hour to get from one side of the Sprague Street bridge to Wolcott Square.

Warshaw vowed to work with the developers of the Yard 5 small-industrial park and with officials from the city and the two state agencies that have jurisdiction over the Father Hart bridge to finally install traffic signals at either end - and to tie that into a new traffic-signal system in Walcott Square.

Many people have proposed similar work in the past only to crash and vanish on the rocks of bureaucratic inertia. Warshaw said that with two developers fightig for the work, this time things might be different.

Another key part of Warshaw's plan to minimize traffic impact from his complex is the fact that it's right next to the Readville train station, which he said would appeal to Millennials who don't want to buy cars. He said he would put in a sidewalk to the train station.

Residents did not quite snort in derision, but said they doubted things would work out quite so well in part because the new residents would do what the old ones do - drive the mile to Fairmount station, where the fare is $4.50 less per trip.

Warshaw acknowledged how empty the Readville parking lots are because so many people do that. He said he recently met with T officials, who he said seemed amenable to the idea - also pushed by city councilors Tim McCarthy and Michelle Wu - to reduce Readville fares to the $2.25 Fairmount rates. However, he acknowledged that God only knows if that will actually translate into anything.

Because the 6.5-acre site sits on a slope down from Sprague Street to the train tracks, Warshaw said he would be able to do something really different with the project - put parking underground, freeing up much of the land for open space - including a linear park, open to the public, along Sprague Street, which many people don't even realize exists.

He said the complex will be mainly aimed at two groups of people without children - people just getting out of school who don't want to pay Seaport or South End rents and local empty nesters who no longer want to deal with the problems of home ownership. Amenities aimed at these groups would include the obligatory rooftop pool, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a large exercise room - featuring a basketball half-court - and what Warshaw said would be Boston's first apartment-complex-based co-working area. Zipcars? Of course.

Three of the four buildings would look like old industrial buildings, in homage to the area's history - and to break with the fake clapboard stuff prevalent at pretty much every apartment complex built in the Boston area in recent years. The fourth building would have more of a modern feel, he said.

In addition to underground parking, the slope means that the buildings won't be nearly as visible from surrounding areas as if the land were at the same height as Sprague Street - one woman exclaimed "Oh, my God!" when Warshaw said one of the buildings would be eight stories tall.

One thing that would be visible, if Warshaw goes with it, would be a large antenna-like tower that would read READVILLE on each side, in an attempt to give the area a unique feel, almost like the Citgo Sign, he said.

In general, opposition to the project increased with the age of the person who rose with questions. Residents agreed with Warshaw that Readville is a great place to live, but expressed doubt that Millennials would ever want to move there. What guarantees, one resident demanded, would Warshaw give that when regular renters stay away, Warshaw wouldn't just let the whole thing become a gang-infested project?

Warshaw, who has been building luxury projects in Boston since 2011, said he wouldn't do that. There would be no subsidized or low-income apartments on the site. Some 15% of the units would be set aside - as required by the city - for residents making up to 70% of the area median income, or about $60,000 a year.

One Millennial who moved to the neighborhood a year ago, however, said she would love to move into Warshaw's complex, because it would let her ditch the car she said she had to buy when she moved from downtown.

Warshaw would need a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals because the land is now zoned for industrial use. If he doesn't build the apartments, the neighborhood could find itself with another Amazon warehouse - or worse - he said.

Resident Craig Martin, though, objected to Warshaw's denigration of light industry. Readville is already home to a coffee-cake factory, a place that makes gluten-free food and a candymaker - which show that light industry can be inoffensive and provide jobs, he said.

Martin also got Warshaw to acknowledge that if Brinks decides to give up its warehouse along the train tracks - Warshaw had originally envisioned a fifth apartment building on that site, but Brinks didn't want to move - he would try to buy the parcel and put more housing there.

All four Sprague Street buildings

Rooftop pool with READVILLE sign:

Readville sign
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Comments

Thanks for the exhaustive write up... I couldn't make it tonight, but it sounds like it went as expected. I'm not opposed to development in Readville, but the parcel north of the station is a better candidate. Anything south, especially south of the Sprague St bridge, is going to make our daily gridlock impossible. And despite what any of them say, no developer has the clout to fix commuter rail fares and traffic.

Readville has huge undeveloped parcels in a city with a housing crisis. Want a more supportive community that can get behind the idea of a new urban village in Readville? Bring in the city to fix the three back-to-back traffic bottlenecks and get the T to drop fares to match Fairmount, THEN try to convince us that we want condos. We need planning and leadership by the city, not another money grab by developers.

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If it's "another money grab by developers," doesn't that just mean they're meeting demand? Maybe people besides you want to live in Readville.

"I got mine..."

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Yes, it definitely means they're meeting demand. And unlike many of my neighbors, I support some development in Readville... It's historically been a transitional neighborhood, where working families can afford their first homes, and I'd like to see us build enough housing to stay that way. But without planning and infrastructure improvements, it will be a mess.

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Good point. People really aren't saying that there shouldn't be any development, but if there's not enough planning you add to traffic by adding too much housing certain locations.

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nothing to do there

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That's why fewer housing units means there won't be as much even if people do bring their cars.

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Build Baby BUILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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It needs more planning for the the affects on the rest of the area.

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Because OMG CHANGE!!!

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Name an agency that is doing comprehensive planning for development in Readville.

Oh right, there is none. So the only "planning" consists of zoning variances, which is, by definition, not planning at all.

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And nobody does it for these areas because the OMG CHANGE NOOOOOO! people come out in droves to say DON:T CHANGE ANYTHING.

You know it - you just won't admit it. The resources are there.

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They aren't opposed to change but the scope of it.

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They are scared of change. Of having to actually buy parking. Terrified that black people will move in. Scared stupid that they might have to share things with *gasp* OTHER PEOPLE!

Scared of change, and going lose a lot of things that they could have had because their resistance to change won't ultimately work.

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Buying parking? Drive around there a bit first.

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What you are saying is not accurate. Plenty of people are OK with some new real estate development, they just don't as much. Traffic and parking is a real concern. Your rant is just not based on the actual situation.

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People have been saying that want fewer units, not so much no building.

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Will it look like an antique postcard in real life?

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The pool photo actually does look like something from the 60s, doesn't it? But the coloration is due to me taking photos in a darkened room of images projected on a large screen, which, at least with my camera, produces that sitting-in-a-box-for-50-years look (I suppose I could switch off auto mode and try some of them there fancy manual settings, but that would require effort).

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IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/tuxino1-e1412972371280.jpg)

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Those are only useful May-September. Why not enclose it in glass so it's useful all year?

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...what better way to enjoy the byproduct of nearby commuter rail: Diesel exhaust?

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There is a rooftop pool on the Colonnade Hotel and plenty of roof top decks much closer to the Southwest Corridor and the Pike as this development.

Argument refuted.

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Do you know what the buffer zones are that health scientists use? Why not express it in terms of those?

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... recognize humor.

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That'll be April to November

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How many cars could be gotten off the road if the Readville fare was same as the Fairmount fare? It's such a glaring issue and would make a huge difference congestion-wise and environmentally. Along the same lines, how many cars would be off Washington St, Centre St, etc if the Needham line fare was same as Forest Hills so people wouldn't drive up there and park? This single issue would have a dramatically positive impact. Sigh.....

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Preach!

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how many cars would be off Washington St, Centre St, etc if the Needham line fare was same as Forest Hills so people wouldn't drive up there and park?

Do people really drive to Forest Hills from West Rox or Roslindale to avoid the fare? I'm skeptical. For one thing, parking is just as expensive at FH as any of the local Needham line stops (no savings there) and when I ride the train, hardly anyone gets on at FH as opposed to the crowds at Roslindale, Belview etc.

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Do people really drive to Forest Hills from West Rox or Roslindale to avoid the fare?

People don't drive to or near FH to necessarily avoid commuter rail fare. They hop on the Orange Line and head downtown. I personally know a number of people who do this. Most would take the commuter rail instead if the price went down. They don't bother with the bus to FH because it takes too long.

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I drove through FH this morning and there was a line of cars out to the street waiting to get into the pay parking lot north of the Dogwood. They're getting on the Orange Line, not CR>

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Live in Roslindale, work downtown, our daycare was in Dedham. I always had to do daycare pickup, and they closed at 6pm. Most nights taking the 35/36/37 home to get my car would have caused me to arrive at daycare after 6pm.

Depending on weather and traffic, some days I would drive to Forest Hills, others I would drive to Roslindale Sq. and walk up Washington.

Sometimes tight schedules mandate the flexibility of personal car use.

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It's going to be fun when the developer up that way shuts the Laz parking lot. Maybe, maybe, that will help convince the T to reduce the fares at Readville to draw away some of the people who now drive to the Orange Line.

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What if the North Leominster fare were the same as the Fairmount fare -- how many cars then?

A better idea: Run the commuter rail more efficiently and more often, and lower all the fares outside zone 1A to 40 cents per mile or less. There's no justification for charging upwards of 65 cents per mile. Assuming there's a place to park, why would anyone voluntarily take the train when even a solo passenger is more expensive than driving?

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The developer could provide a shuttle to and from the Fairmount Station at train times or even a bit further to Mattapan station until the MBTA lowers the fare at Readville. Or Bridj could be used....http://www.bridj.com/#how. Hopefully they will put the necessary pressure on the MBTA to get them to improve themselves!

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I'm not arguing fairness, I'm arguing economics.

If the Readville fare were 50 cents more than Fairmont, you think people from this site are going to walk/bike/drive a mile for that fiddy? I don't. Even less so for a quarter.

The fares need not be the same. They do need to be close enough that it's not worth the effort for the savings. I only bring that up because it's possible a compramise where the fair is substantially lowered, but not all the way to Fairmont levels, is a way forward.

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Selfishly, I'd like them to be the same. But the reason people go to Fairmount is because it's otherwise the most expensive mile in Boston. If you come up with a new incremental fare between zones 1 and 2 for Readville, I'm all ears.

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Then, being fair, Wedgemere and Winchester should cost the same as West Medford.

The distances work out in the same way.

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Agreed. Readville is 8.8 miles from South Station, which is consistent with other Zone 2 stations (Lynn, for example, is 8.9 miles from North Station).

The problem isn't that Readville's fare is too high, it's that Fairmount's is too low.

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one woman exclaimed "Oh, my God!" and clutched her Readville pearls when Warshaw said one of the buildings would be eight stories tall.

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I attended the meeting and was very pleased with the presentation and the thoughtfulness that went into preparing it. Mr. Warshaw answered all of my questions during his presentation. Traffic was the main concern. (It came up at least 10 times.) People seemed to be grasping at straws to find something they don't like, but he had answers for all of the questions that NIMBYs always ask. The temperature in the room seemed to have the people under 45 for and the people over 45 against. The older folks can't seem to fathom the fact that millennials don't want to have cars. Hopefully this goes through and then hopefully someone takes a look at the Todesca lot in Wolcott, which would also be a good spot for a mixed use development. I have one question though, is this Craig guy trying to speak for everyone in the neighborhood? Seems like he knows his stuff on zoning, but I'd rather have people living here than industry.

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The older folks can't seem to fathom the fact that millennials don't want to have cars

Ugh, I'm so sick of hearing this line. We would LOVE to buy cars, we just can't afford to.

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You would have more money if you moved to an area that didn't have quite as high rents, and there are many throughout the state.

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Tell that to all of the companies moving to the city! Exhibit A: Reebok moving from Canton.

What do you do in that case?

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Unfortunately that's not how it works. For one thing, my job is in Boston. I used to commute in from the North Shore because rent was so much cheaper, but then gave up and moved into the city after my commuter rail pass jumped in price by $50/mo and service barely ran for 2 months. So sure, rent is a lot cheaper outside the city, but when you're spending 3 hours a day on the T, and paying $300+/month to do so, you don't actually save that much money, and is it really worth it time-wise?

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Communing from Marblehead to boston is one thing, but commuting from Readville is another. Not eveyone can or wants to live in boston proper right? Hyde park is an option, a cheaper one that isnt that far. In a perfect world we'd all have a short walk or a one stop train ride to work...but that's not the city we live in.

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The MBTA really needs to get on the ball with DMUs for the Readville line, and probably the Needham line, as well. Both of these are shorter than the Red Line, yet are powered by the big heavy rail stock used for intercity trains, which costs more to maintain, puts more strain on the infrastructure, etc.

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Actually DMUs are more expensive to maintain, and put just as much "strain" on the infrastructure.

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Traffic is everywhere! It seems like anytime something nice is proposed for hyde park the response is always, oh but traffic!! HP is pretty depressing and needs a revival. Many other parts of city and surrounding areas (quincy for one) are booming, getting new restaurants, real estate is doing great, but HP seems to be stuck. I certainly dont want this place to continue on the detroit-esque route it's on so i say bring it. If i see anothet nasty grocery store or hair salon I might croak. It seems like all the people opposed to hp changes are old people and im sorry folks but us young folks need places to live with nice stores to walk to. So get out of your old ranch vinyl sided homes and get with the program. We are the next JP.

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          ( because you can't change the laws of Physics )

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I take the fairmount train twice a day 5 days a week

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