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Board approves plan to replace old Roslindale funeral home with apartments

Rendering of 63 Belgrade Ave.

Rendering by Zephyr Architects.

A developer's proposal to replace the old Folsom Funeral Home at 59-63 Belgrade Ave. with a four-story, 31-unit apartment building won a go-ahead today from the Zoning Board of Appeal, which approved it 6-1.

Board member Joe Ruggiero cast the lone no vote, but did not say why.

Developer Michael Forde's plans for the roughly 13,000-square-foot site call for 23 parking spaces. At the board's hearing on the plans, one resident said that was too much parking for a building a short walk from the Roslindale Village commuter-rail stop and several bus lines, while other residents said it was not enough for a street they say already has parking problems, next to a commercial district that just had a number of spots removed by a BTD/MBTA street redo.

Forde said that his project does not include the old funeral home's parking lot across Belgrade Avenue. He said the Cooperative Bank bought that parcel separately and is currently using it to augment its own parking lot, also across Belgrade.

Six of the units, or 20% in total, compared to the city requirement of 13%, will be rented as affordable - four to people making no more than 70% of the Boston area median income, two to people making no more than 100% of it.

Although she voted for the project, board Chairwoman Christine Araujo expressed concern about the impact on residents of the new building of having raised commuter-rail tracks running right behind it - Forde's plans show just a ten-foot separation between the new building's parcel and the MBTA's right of way.

One thing Araujo did not want to consider, though, was the building's closeness to the train station as a reason to vote for it. After Alan Wright of Birch Street said that was one reason he supported the proposal, she said she does not see proximity to a commuter-rail stop as a reason to support a housing project because commuter rail is expensive enough that cost is high enough that it is "beyond the reach of some residents with limited incomes." Wright said the building would also be a short walk to stops on numerous bus lines.

Although some residents said they supported the project because it would mean more business for the coffeehouses, restaurants and other stores of Roslindale Square, Laurie Radwin said many of those businesses opposed the proposal. She said the recent redesign of the streets and bus stops in the Square cost them a total of 31 street spaces and that the way part of the municipal lot on Taft Hill is now set aside for Covid-19 testing has cost even more.

A Belgrade Avenue resident pointed to what she said were existing problems along Belgrade for residents trying to park - or walk across the busy street. "If anything, you should reduce the units and increase the parking spaces," she told the board.

City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo (Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan) and Michael Flaherty and Ruthzee Louijeune (at large) supported the proposal.

The BPDA board approved the proposal in June.

59-63 Belgrade Ave. filings.

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Comments

And does she formally speak for the businesses as part of Rosi Main St. or something?

Edit: appears she's some variety of NIMBY asshole:

https://www.change.org/p/roslindale-and-nearby-communities-urge-the-bost...

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Voting closed 37

But Main Street wouldn't comment on something like that.

Roslindale's kind of unusual compared to other neighborhoods - with a couple of exceptions (Longfellow and Mount Hope), Roslindale doesn't really have strong community or commercial-district associations (this isn't to dis Main Street, but they don't tend to get involved in zoning issues).

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That someone can just come to a zoning meeting and claim to represent the opinion of 'many of the local businesses' without any formal support. Can I also just do that but claim the opposite? What a waste of time...

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Voting closed 53

You know, claim to be smarter, have all the answers, dismiss the opinions of others who don't agree with them, don't follow the rules, fall back into whataboutism. Stuff like that.

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Voting closed 36

Bicyclists claim to represent bicyclists mostly and larger, vaguer groups of people like 'commuters' This Radwin person is apparently making statements to the zoning board that purport to be the opinion of a small specific group - businesses in the Square. That's what, 30-40 entities if you're counting stuff over to Washington St and down towards Target? I have less of a problem if she was just there as a local NIMBY, although I'd still think she sucks.

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Voting closed 40

Be sure to show your work to the rest of the class Jonathan!

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Voting closed 26

All of your posts are citations on the absurd belief in the absolutism of bikes and bicyclists over others and their opinions.

Perhaps you are so delusional in your thinking and commenting you have failed to notice it.

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Voting closed 29

Noted plenty of times over the years that multimodal transit options (hint: that includes cars) are the key in urban environments. I get it, your too busy waxing incoherent gotcha post to notice, its totally fine!

I do love when you give a tale of old Boston though, honestly I really do. Broken clocks and all that.

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Voting closed 39

Your bike hysteria just overwhelms some miniscule tidbit you throw out there from time to time.

Its hard to take you seriously.

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Enjoy that ratio John!

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Voting closed 30

Show me on the doll where the existence of cyclists hurt you.

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Neither of the TWO business groups in Roslindale tend to take formal positions on things of this nature. The Roslindale Business Group (RBG), on whose steering committee/board I serve did not comment. However, I can state that parking as a matter of business sustainability has been on the minds of almost all merchants in the square for over a decade.

It was first discussed and a common thread for the Roslindale Board of Trade, founded in 1926. That body ended its primary functions in 2014, and a number of local merchants rebuilt the effort in the form of the RBG. This is a business-to-business group serving all of 02131 welcoming storefronts, services, at-home business, and the self-employed. RVMS (Main Streets) has a defined mission district of the core "village" of storefronts and usually does not extend beyond that under its founding documents. Both RVMS and RBG have worked cooperatively on a number of past projects to assist area business, and participate in charitable efforts.

Merchants in Roslindale Sq. are primarily small niche market business, and that was created by design, however these businesses will tell you that not all of their customer base is local. Many of the restaurants and other shops bring in people from Newton, Dedham, Brookline, and from even further away. Other business draw people from a wide radius as well. Their customer base, by majority, is not walking or taking a bus there. They need a place for their people to arrive, park, and stay for several hours. Laments about employees and customers circling the block is a very common thread.

Most of the parking in Roslindale Sq is privately owned and limited to the stores or store blocks that own them. Actual public parking is limited to the Taft Hill Terrace lot (City) and for a fee some people park in the MBTA lot. Boston's Transportation department deems roads within a 1/4 mile radius (1320 feet) of the business district to be often used for business access parking along with use by abutting residents. Traffic mitigation efforts and changes to bus stops in the business district did loose many parking spaces, and by a majority this impacted mostly minority and immigrant owned business. Temporary spots reserved for food pick up also impacted this but most of those are gone now, or will be soon.

I listened-in to the ZBA meeting as did Adam since I was aware that a number of area businesses had reservations. And no... I won't say which ones because a number of them have been "leaned on" by special interests suggesting that if they didn't go with the flow their business would be impacted. So a lot of them are now operating their business in fear at a time when sustainability is at a critical juncture. So much for open democratic participation.

I assure you this has been brought to the attention of multiple city departments. It's Ok to have an agenda and opinion but when that is forced upon small struggling business, that is not acceptable.

As to the ZBA meeting itself, the one thing that stuck out in my mind was the comment by a participant in support of the project because, "... it will bring more professionals to the neighborhood." I guess us old townies are not welcome here anymore, and clearly since I am not a professional maybe I'd not be allowed to live there by some people's standards.

I cannot think of a more gentrifying comment than that, and maybe some will also see the racist overtones as I did. Maybe even some "white entitlement."

Is that truly the "quirky" Roslindale that so many want?

As to the ZBA doing their job by upholding the zoning, the ZBA does not rule on proximity to transit. Their function is footprint, design, safety, and how it fits in the surrounding area. Also worth noting that your Zoning is not changed by bitching and moaning in social media or demanding that we need a new board. Any new members are charged with the same expectations, uphold the zoning that is on the books.

It might be worth noting that the current Roslindale Zoning was created by a consortium of RVMS, local business, and local residents in cooperation with city government and a private company hired to assist. The objective was to preserve what people wanted and to create the small business district we have, and set the tone for how our community will look and feel. It was a true democratic process buy the local people. A grass-roots process.

It's sad that so many of the ZBA staff cannot even visit social media these days with out some winger (left and right) hijacking the topic just to air their displeasure, when in fact the people were just doing their job.

I've always seen Roslindale to be better than that, but there is an air of change in the wind.

As to Dr. Radwin (PhD) she is a self-employed consultant to major business and government, a long-time resident, and has taken an interest in this issues faced by locals.

Dr. Radwin commented as an individual and made that clear in her comments. She has taken time to speak individually to local business that she trades with , and was not speaking on behalf of any group, organization, or specific commercial interest. Anyone can do that. There was no claim to be representing anyone.

Had the commenters all listened-in, they would have understood that, but it seems much easier to derive this (read: make a guess) from a few limited words on a page and make assumptions based on little to no fact. Seems we just got over that for the last few years? Maybe it's catching like COVID?

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Voting closed 18

I gave up attending these meetings after the Petco one so I'll take your word for it. (Remember how that store destroyed the fabric of our neighborhood?) Truly an enormous waste of time unless you want to lecture people about how long you've lived here (which you have, congrats for getting that in.) You only cursorily referred to the real problem the ZBA members face which is that the zoning system should be greatly simplified so they don't have to weigh in on every single development that comes along.

Can't for the life of me imagine why the level of education Radwin has matters unless it's in urban planning or something similar. Way to strike a blow for townies I guess? Guess since I've only lived here for 18 years and don't have a PHD, I should just be a little quieter online.

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"Unleased by Petco" was a victim of early emerging fake news. It was portrayed on line as being a large "big box" store like "Petco" in shopping malls and elsewhere. In fact, "Unleashed" was a cut down version of the large chain using a similar name, cut down content and size, and under localized franchise operation. To be clear, it was not the main "Petco" brand name, but was openly and falsely portrayed as such.

This is a trend in some business of late, i.e. smaller footprints. Though corporately owned, Target is doing similar with their cut-down versions like the one in Roslindale.

The web site that was put up against Unleased, to opposed the move-in which was essentially a small business, (not unlike many franchised McDonalds and similar), was loaded with posts adding to the fake news and hysteria about "big box stores." Indeed some of the opposing public posts came from out-of-state and had nothing to do with local wants or needs, and was opposing the business solely on the fake news that it was a "big box" chain. It fed the hysteria of big corporate take-over.

And then we wondered how fake news became part of our culture.

The franchiser had two locations but in just a couple of years and all of the fake news, they folded, much to the joy of the naysayers. And since then, that storefront that was employing local people has stood vacant.... what 4-5 years now, or so?

Same thing was about to happen with Target. By then the "word was out" about Roslindale and there were no public meetings. Everyone found out about the change from Staples to Target after the ink was dry on the contracts. Then, and only then, after the fact, they held public meetings.

For what its worth, public meetings are not required for commercially zoned areas. Public input was never required, though a lot of people felt left out of the equation. Unfortunately that part of the law escaped them.

I sat in on one of those courtesy public meetings and heard from "members of the public" who opposed it, and even one outspoken activist actually threatened their reps stating that they would do everything in their power to stop them or cause them to go out of business. A few others agreed in similar statements.

Needless to say Target opened and has been doing a remarkable business.

Being one to lurk in various social media I also observed that many of the same people in that meeting that night, openly stated they would have preferred a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes in that building. Of course, those are chain stores and just as much a part of the "big box" chains like many others.

It was then that I came to a conclusion, right or wrong, that a lot of this was not about "big box" stores but classism and gentrification.

Virtue signaling is not always sincere when you dig deeper.

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...was a thing for about a hundred years, but Main Streets kinda took it over and killed it off.

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Voting closed 12

Ask any merchant in the square you trade with if parking is an issue for them.

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It is crowded with bus lanes, bicycle lanes, and “No Parking” zones, and there are very few parking spaces near the intersection. The redevelopment will increase traffic and promote double parking – both of which will make this intersection even more dangerous, particularly to the elderly, the disabled, and parents and schoolchildren at the Sumner, and particularly during icy and snowy conditions.

Is it the development causing danger for pedestrians and the elderly or illegal actions from road users? The world will never know.

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Voting closed 44

This is like asking what the roadway was wearing at the time.

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Who is Alan Wright?

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but he's not claiming to represent specific businesses in town at least.

Lot of middle-aged/old meddling cranks in this little village, no?

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Both Radwin and Wright are probably equally qualified to pontificate on this matter. That I tend towards Wright’s opinion on this is irrelevant.

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But again only one is claiming to represent a specific block, business owners in the square.

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I reread what Adam wrote. She never claimed to represent business owners. She offered that the project may negatively affect business owners, but again, just like how Alan Wright can discuss transportation issues, at the end of the day it's all personal opinion.

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Chairwoman Christine Araujo expressed concern about the impact on residents of the new building of having raised commuter-rail tracks running right behind it

The street is lined with houses and triple deckers that all back up the train tracks. Renters would certainly be aware of that before they decided to move in. That's no reason to think this shouldn't be built.

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Voting closed 46

I'm starting to think Christine would be concerned if a plan didn't have 2 minutes of sunlight at 3:52pm on the second sunday in November that shined in thru the skylight in a bathroom on to someone's fanny at the exact moment they are getting out of the shower.

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Voting closed 32

The new building will extend further back than a majority of homes along Belgrade, so it will be closer to the RR tracks. For a majority of the homes there is a decent 75-100 ft between the dwelling building and the railroad right of way. Garages are often up against the fence.

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Voting closed 5

is there some kind of plan in place to hide that from people looking to live in the space? Because if not, it feels like "too close to the tracks" is something that prospective tenants can easily determine if its a problem for them.

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First Hearn, then Higgins, now Folsom. I guess Russo is still around, no?

That said, it looks like a solid proposal.

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I apologize for this joke, it could not be helped.

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Voting closed 39

No to corpse-viewing site in HP, but yes to one in Rozzie. Who can predict which will be haunted?

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Araujo supported this. Amazing.

Then uncorked this winner:

[Araujo] said she does not see proximity to a commuter-rail stop as a reason to support a housing project because commuter rail is expensive enough that cost is high enough that it is "beyond the reach of some residents with limited incomes."

We can’t build new housing near public transit because… Araujo thinks the public transit is too expensive.

(Over/under on the number of times the Royal Highness of Rozzie Parking has taken public transit in the past five years?)

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Voting closed 41

$214 for a monthly Zone 1 pass is like crazy expensive compared to the cost of a car note, plus insurance, plus gas. We definitely don't need any affordable housing near the commuter rail because the train is just too damn expensive. People can just live in Walpole and take the 34E because that's $1.70.

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Voting closed 25

This is the same board that approved a "boutique hotel" with zero parking, because it's going to be in a place with transit. Something smells.

Do they not like housing, or what?

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Voting closed 17

I know the Wu admin has their hands full, but it's time to relegate these dinosaurs to the dustbin of history. Everything is a friggin' Goldilocks with her: "not too close to the train, but not too far."

Also Wu should yell at the T and get Zone 1 fares inside the City of Boston made permanent post-OL shutdown.

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Voting closed 37

Since everything within the city is either Zone 1 or 1A apart from Readville. Probably would have been a better use of stimmy $ to make all of Boston Zone 1A than like 3 free bus lines.

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Voting closed 16

A Folsom Street and accompanying fair of our own here?

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a bit off topic but ill answer (as someone who organize a bear run here, that would have had sexaually charged events)

Thank our blue laws on nudity for this. A good chunk of what goes on there would never fly with our blue laws. I mean you can't even go to an underwear party in a jock strap here because you can't show your ass crack cuz its illegal.

And you think hundreds of guys being naked or close to it having sexual acts out on a city street will fly?

LOL Not on your life.

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Voting closed 7

Let's not forget some of our conservative states have laws against appearing "in a turgid state," meaning if your physiology is large enough to see through your pants with an uncomfortable bulge, you better "tuck" or get arrested.

Yes, this is true.

Baggy pants only. No skinny jeans.

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Voting closed 4

West Roxbury: "That would have been a great spot for a bank, especially with another one almost right across the street."

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Voting closed 17

No way!

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Voting closed 6

damn, even the dead peeple cant afford to live here no more.

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After all, when it was a funeral home, people were dying to get in.

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Voting closed 4