A developer who set out to give a proposed Readville apartment complex an industrial look in homage to the neighborhood's industrial history and to set his apartments off from all the other apartment complexes approved in recent years is being told by city officials to ditch those plans.
While they're at it, the Boston Civic Design Commission and the BPDA want Jordan Warshaw to bring his buildings, in particular one with a planned restaurant, right up to Sprague Street because they're convinced the somnolent collection of industrial buildings on the other side of the street, between the Sprague Street bridge and the Dedham line will become a vibrant, walkable area, or as the commission put it, "a real street in the future." Warshaw had proposed keeping his four buildings, housing 521 apartments, as far away and down the hill from Sprague as possible to minimize their visual impact on the surrounding area.
The comments from the commission and the BPDA are in a "scoping determination" the BPDA sent to Warshaw last week, in response to the initial plans he filed with the BPDA last year for a four-building complex to replace what is now a collection of warehouse and truck-repair buildings down a steep slope from Sprague Street, just south of the Sprague Street bridge and next to the Readville train station, the Northeast Corridor tracks and Sprague Pond.
Warshaw said he deliberately set out to make his buildings look different from all the other complexes that have gone up in recent years both in Boston - Forest Hills, anyone? - and in its suburbs. And the way the land slopes away from Sprague Street, he said, would let him put taller buildings - one up to eight stories - with less of a visual impact on nearby residential areas.
Warshaw's initial proposal, across Sprague from buildings shown above:
But it turns out city officials don't want such an industrial look in a neighborhood full of industrial buildings - some of which have been repurposed for residential, office and school use:
BCDC commissioners expressed that the buildings architecture should try to look less industrial/factory like. That the buildings should be located closer to Sprague Street anticipating the future development that could happen opposite the proposed project. By doing so Sprague Street can become a real street in the future.
The document also quotes some of the discussion among design-commission members Deneen Crosby, David Hacin and Michael Davis, who also asked Warshaw to make more public connections into the site and a proposed Sprague Pond park than the single driveway/road and pedestrian bridge off the Sprague Street bridge, to make the site more inviting:
Crosby: Sprague could become a real street.. .make more connections. Development could occur across the street. Hacin: An interesting site. This is a good attempt to add residential into an area that's at a remove. The discussion should be about connections. As much as the views were discussed as proving it was NOT visible, I would actually like it to be visible, and more attractive - that's how it sets up a future for Sprague Street. Davis: Agreed. What is your location vis-a-vis 1B2030? 1W: Readville is mentioned there. Davis: This is a kind of development corridor. It's an important site, and important to understand what potential there might be. Also, the architecture of the higher buildings is good enough to ask why the lower building is so impoverished. It's a question of level of investment; it doesn't have to look exactly like a factory building.
In addition to design considerations, the city seems to have given up on the idea of trying to convince the MBTA to reduce fares at the Readville station to match the subway-like fares at all the other stops on the Fairmount Line, instead calling on Warshaw to offer discounted Zone 2 passes to residents that would cost them no more than a monthly subway pass.
Complete scoping determination (27M PDF).