The Zoning Board of Appeal this week approved plans by a local non-profit group and a Philadelphia-based builder to turn the former William Barton Rogers Middle School on Everett Street in Hyde Park into a 74-unit LGBTQ-friendly apartment building for seniors.
The BPDA board approved the project in August.
Under plans by LGBTQ Senior Housing and Pennrose, LLC, which has a regional office in Boston, the interior of the building will be converted into 27 studios, 39 one-bedroom apartments and 9 two-bedroom apartments, with 50 rented to people making no more than 60% of the the Boston area-median income. The remaining units will not have income restrictions, but Pennrose said they will be priced to people making up to the area median income.
Also to be added to the building, which originally opened as a high school in 1902, when Hyde Park was still an independent town: An office and display space for the local 54th Massachusetts Regiment group and an art gallery. The school auditorium will be turned into a community space. The exterior of the building will remain the same, although a sun room will be added to overlook the courtyard that the school playground will be turned into.
The building will have just five parking spaces, but Charlie Adams, Pennrose's regional vice president, told the board the city was able to figure out how to carve out some 25 additional spaces on streets around the building where parking was formerly prohibited.
Adams said the company is also talking to the city about possibly using some spaces in the nearby municipal lot, but said he doubted that would be needed because he's expecting most residents won't have cars or will use public transit - the building is within walking distance to two commuter-rail stations.
Ethos, a non-profit group that provides support services for senior housing across the Boston area, will provide services for residents at the new building, including some targeted specifically at LGBTQ residents.
The mayor's office and the offices of City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale), Annissa Essaibi-George (at large) and Michael Flaherty (at large) supported the proposal. Unusually, two other district councilors - Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) and Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) also attended to support the proposal. Also speaking in support: Arroyo's predecessor, Tim McCarthy
Pat Tierney of Hyde Park, who is a landlord in the nearby business district along River Street, also praised the proposal, both because of the creative reuse of a historic building for housing for people who need it and because of its potential impact on the businesses along River Street and Fairmount Avenue. "We need the energy, we need the vitality, we need the density, because we need people to come and make my business district busy and happy and alive again."
Craig Martin of Hyde Park said he did not oppose the project in general, but said it would be a mistake to let its residents share the municipal parking lot, because that's already in high demand by patrons of both local businesses and the Hyde Park branch library. He said if Pennrose really wants to use the lot, it should consider building a parking deck above the current lot.
The board unanimously approved the variances the project needed because of its density and location in a two-family zone, the less-than-zoned number of parking spaces and less open space than called for by the lot's zoning.
More details on the proposal (10M PDF).