CAD Builders says it's heard residents loud and clear: It will be coming back to the neighborhood with a new design for its proposed 21-unit condo building at the corner of Centre and Park streets, where the former Peoples Federal Savings Bank bunker and the ol' Gilmore place now molder.
But at a meeting of the West Roxbury Neighborhood Council's zoning committee tonight, some residents said no matter how nice the new design - even if it's as good as the design of the apartment building next to Lord's and Lady's down on Belgrade Avenue - more condos in the heart of West Roxbury's main shopping district would hurt the business district rather than help it.
The zoning committee took no vote on the proposal, which calls for 33 parking spaces and one small ground-floor commercial space, saying it would await new plans from CAD, which is currently building an actual subdivision of 29 single-family homes, at the end of the bird streets off Washington Street.
Chris Tracy, representing the company, said CAD is "in the process considering and making changes" based on the dislike expressed for the proposed design at a March 8 BPDA hearing on the proposal. "That resonated with our team, that the aesthetics and design have to be improved," he said.
He did not give any specifics, but said that unlike some builders, CAD did not come in with a high number of units to gauge community sentiment only to reduce them during the planning process. CAD, he said, doesn't play "that shell game" and came up with a project he said met the existing zoning of the two lots.
Not so fast, some residents said, expressing their view that the proposal would definitely need approval from the zoning board before going ahead.
May Jew, who lives on Richwood Street, behind the former Gilmore real-estate office, said one example is that the CAD plan shows the land behind the Gilmore house and hers as a side yard, when it's actually a rear yard, which requires more of a setback than CAD showed on its initial plans. Other residents said the developer's traffic study includes access to the parking via both Park and Centre streets, but that CAD eliminated the Centre Street access as a potential menace to pedestrians.
But even aside from the impact on her home, which her family has owned for more than 40 years, is the impact on the Centre Street business district. Centre Street "does not need a canyon of condos," she said. CAD was a partner in the development of a smaller condo building on Centre Street across from the Starbucks.
Joseph Impellizeri of the Highland Neighborhood Association, which re-formed because of the project, warned that putting so many condos in one spot along Centre Street means the business district "could actually implode," because what it needs are more businesses, not residents in cars.
Jim Hennigan, who owns the James W. Hennigan insurance agency on the same block, agreed.
"This is the heart of West Roxbury, he said. "This is the heart of the business district, the commercial retail district. All of a sudden, you put in 22 condo units, it's going to take away from the heart and soul of West Roxbury."
Other residents worried about the environmental impact of all those cars and urged CAD to agree to install only electric-based appliances and heating.
Tony Seroufim, chairman of the zoning committee, said that if he had to vote on the current proposal, he would vote against it. But he urged residents to work with CAD to try to come up with something that would benefit both the developer and the neighborhood, rather than just becoming a neighborhood of no.
"We definitely can do better," he said. "This is the center of the center of West Roxbury. We really need something we can be proud of when we walk by, when our kids walk by. ... Let's come up with something we all really want."