OHNC Votes Down Saratoga Street Project

By John Lynds

The long saga of trying to redevelop a former auto mechanic shop into a market rate residential development hit a roadblock at Monday night’s Orient Heights Neighborhood Association meeting.

OHNC Members voted 23 to 6 against the project at 944-946 Saratoga St., the former site of D&Z Auto Repair adjacent to Noyes Park.

Despite making yet another change to the project to address the concerns of OHNC members and abutters, the group still felt the massing of the building was too large, and there was not enough parking–something that is becoming a common theme when OHNC members review development projects.

At Monday night’s meeting attorney for the developer, Matthew Eckel, said since the project was first pitched to OHNC and after a series of community, abutter and Boston Planning and Development Agency meetings the entire project was scaled back.

Eckel said that the developer, after listening to neighbors, eliminated the entire fifth floor, reduced the square footage by 7,000 sq. ft. and reduced the number of units from 46 to 39.

“We went from 46 units to 42 units to 39 units,” said Eckel. “We originally changed the fifth floor and set the entire level back but after hearing from neighbors at meetings we’ve completed eliminated that floor.”

At a recent BPDA meeting regarding the project it seemed the developer and neighbors would reach common ground. While some still thought the massing and height of the building was a bit much for the area. After several back and forth discussions at that meeting it seemed the neighborhood would be more supportive if the developer was willing to knock an entire floor off the building in order to scale it down a bit.

At Monday’s meeting, the developer did just that but was still met with resistance from OHNC members.

Eckel said the goal of the project is to revitalize the neighborhood by replacing the existing commercial use structure with a residential building that  will add new market rate housing units to the increasingly popular Eastie community. As part  of  the  community benefits related to the proposed project, the existing and unsightly commercial building will be demolished, and replaced with a residential building that the developer, and some who supported the project, would be more conducive to the surrounding neighborhood.

The project will also include the creation of a lobby and bike room on the ground level. The building will be comprised of units of different sizes, which will accommodate Eastie’s  diverse  and growing population according to Eckel. The units will be comprised of one and two-bedroom units.  Many of the units will have exterior decks, which will provide residents with exclusive usable outdoor space.

As for parking and not being able to meet the two parking spaces per unit ratio,  Eckel said that his client was cognizant that parking considerations are important to the neighborhood. The developer is proposing a ground-level interior, parking facility that would be slightly greater than a one-to-one parking to residential unit ratio. Eckel also pointed out that the proposal’s proximity to the Orient Heights  MBTA station and numerous bus lines will minimize community impact from resident parking.”

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