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Board holds off vote on conversion of former convent into condos in Dorchester

Expanded convent next to old church

Rendering by Context, showing expanded convent building next to old church.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today deferred a vote on a developer's proposal to turn the former St. Matthew convent, 43-45 Stanton St. in Dorchester, into 14 condos - two of them affordable - to give the developer and neighbors a couple more months to try to reach agreement on the size of the project, in particular, its roof.

The board initially voted to approve the Volnay Capital's project 4-1, but that meant the project would be defeated because state law requires at least 5 votes for zoning variances. Chairwoman Sherry Dong cast the lone no vote, saying she felt Volnay and neighbors should keep trying to come to terms on the project.

The board then voted 4-1 to deny the project without prejudice, which would have let the developer submit new plans within a year, so that motion failed as well, again for lack of five votes.

Board members then agreed unanimously to give Volnay owner Ricky Belliveau and Stanton Street residents until Jan. 23 to reach some sort of agreement. Six board members were present, but member David Aiken recused himself.

Volnay, better known for its projects in East Boston, proposed preserving the current convent building - built in 1889 and vacant since 2020 - and adding a four-story addition to its rear.

Volnay originally proposed a flat roof on the addition, but the BPDA urged it to put in a "hip" or peaked roof to better fit in with the design of the equally vacant St. Matthew Church, which is not part of its project. The proposal also calls for moving parking spaces in the front of the convent behind the building, which would allow for green space along Stanton Street.

Ironically, it was elevating the roof of the addition that was one of the concerns raised by neighbors, who said it would simply make the building too large for a street that consists mainly of one- and two-family homes. But even with a flat roof, some residents said the proposal was just too large - especially since a local non-profit group is looking at using the remaining church property for a development with more than 70 housing units.

With the peaked roof, the building would tower over both Stanton and Ufford streets, Stanton Street resident Alice Nelson said.

Nadie Brathwaite, also of Stanton Street, said Stanton is a relatively narrow street and that the new building would cause additional parking and traffic issues. Volnay's proposal calls for 16 parking spaces.

Christina Baron, whose parents and grandparents own houses on Stanton, said that even with a flat roof, the building would overwhelm the street. She called for a three-story building with eleven condos - and two of those affordable.

Volnay's attorney, Marc LaCasse, however, said that while Belliveau is intent on preserving as much as he can of the historic building, he determined that 14 units was as small as he could get and still make any money from the project.

The project needed variances including for not having enough parkin, for being a multifamily project on a site not zoned for that, for being closer than allowed to its rear lot line and for being denser and taller than allowed.

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Comments

This says

The project needed variances including for not having enough zoning

Did you mean to say not enough parking?

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The project, in fact, has more than enough zoning!

Thanks for spotting that, fixed.

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These NIMBYs are awful. If you are scared of a 4 story building then why are you living in the only major city in all of New England? If parking is so important to you then provide it for yourself or move to the suburbs where there is 17 parking spots for every person.

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Or any other street in Boston that consists mainly of single- and two-family houses? Not all of Boston is consists of multi-story condo buildings.

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That's sort of the whole problem, really.

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Yes, many of the buildings on this street are single-family, but many are multi family. What they almost all are is 3 stories. There is also a 3 1/2 story former school on the street so a 4 story building will hardly tower over the neighborhood. It’s also quite set back from the street and shorter than the existing church.

That said, single family housing is not sacred and Boston streets shouldn’t be frozen in time. My
Street is all residential and most single-family with a few two-families thrown in but there is one six story building, senior housing, directly across the street from us. Is it taller than everything else? Yes. Does it “overwhelm” the street? Not at all.

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elevating the roof of the addition that was one of the concerns raised by neighbors, who said it would simply make the building too large

Any excuse in a storm.

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.. in Boston for what they actually cost the city in lost primary housing, we might not need to build so many more investment opportunities.

4 stories is not bad, Bostonians in denser neighborhoods would envy such moderation. But any building that goes too close to property lines is building bloat.

Eliminate on street parking for all. New and old.

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Eliminate all street parking new and old?

"Why do we have to lug all our groceries back two miles from the grocery store Mommy? It's really cold and I have to do homework and this is taking forever"

"Well dear, some muttonheads spew out hysteria like Gilda Radner when she played that girl scout on television and kept screaming while they bang into a wall. They were in their 30's then when they saw it. They act like they know what they are talking about". That's why we can't have a car on a street in a place like Dorchester".

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Brookline manages without overnight street parking.

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…. “Run along dear, it’s time for you to go play in traffic.”

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Bad developers. Good mayor.

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What would Jesus do? I'm folding laundry just as I read this and one of my t-shirts that I bought from an artist who did wood block print t-shirts with hip humor years ago in JP Stonybrook says, "What would Jesus dribe?" below a picture of Jesus driving a vintage 70s Cadillac with sun roof rolled open.

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This would be exactly the kind of place I'd want to live. I'd just gut it and renovate the place though. I love the idea of a raised from street level building with a covered walkway leading to a small, what I guess is a bicycle garage at street level?

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to the one next to it which is not part of the same project, and more importantly, vacant so it may not stay in its current form. What do they expect to happen if the church gets sold and the new owner wants to redevelop it into something other than a church - will it then be tied to the design of the redone convent?

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I think it's hood that we can convert something like an old convent into housing. It's just fixing our current infrastructure. I understand though how the neighbors feel. Yes Boston still has a supply and demand issue but even so the property taxes will worsen and become more of a burden for us landlords. Healey's new tax relief bill won't work either. If Wu tries for rent control then there goes Bostons future.

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telling neighbors what is good for them.

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Once they get it done, that's the perfect advertising slogan.

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The nunnery at Saint Joseph School in Roxbury had the old style cells for the nuns (For the non-Catholics, no bars were involved in a nun's cell they were just an incredibly spartan row of single rooms).

So the rehab on this structure would have to involve an almost complete gut out. The Mother Superiors office was actually kind of posh looking what with built-in library shelving an all.

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I was not a bad boy. She wanted to start a reading tutoring program and I was one of the biggest book nerds in 6th grade. She asked me to tutor some fellow kids.

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