By all accounts, Ryan Acone did everything that a developer should do when proposing a large project in the community. Before filing a letter of intent with the city he met with neighbors, talked with abutters, and had a few brainstorming sessions at the Harbor View Neighborhood Association before even coming up with a proposal.
After listening for months to the community, Acone first proposed building a 26-unit condo development on a 19,000 sq. ft. vacant lot at 181 Coleridge St.
Reaction from HVNA members wasn’t good. While they liked some aspects of the project such as the open space–they thought the design was too ‘boxy’, the unit count was too high and the overall proposal didn’t fit well with the neighborhood because it blocked water views.
So Acone and his team went back to the drawing board and worked with the community and abutters on a better design.
They reduced the number of units to 22 and completely redesigned the look of the project, and after further meetings he dropped the unit count to 20 and again to 19.
Of the buildings’ design, Acone removed the box building everyone complained about and implement an architectural design that was respectful of the other homes that line Coleridge Street. Because Coleridge Street is made up of a mix of A-frame and flat-roof homes, Acone and his team came up with a design that cherry-picked some of the street’s architectural elements.
The design included one larger flat-roof building and a smaller A-frame townhouse. Acone also broke up the project into two buildings to keep sight lines down to the water for neighbors across the street.
All these elements and changes were the result of months working with abutters and the HVNA.
However, even after all this the group voted on Monday 31 to 12 against the development with many HVNA members citing parking as the main issue.
“Have you seen Bennington Street in the morning?,” one member complained. “A big development like this is just going to bring in more cars and more traffic.”
After the meeting, some who supported the project wondered what one has to do with another. The argument that building more units with no parking somehow will add to the neighborhood’s traffic woes has been touted at numerous community meetings. However, some in the minority feel that’s the furthest from the truth and they may be right.
Take the Eddy for example. There the developer created 259 rental units with 155 parking spaces. Once the Eddy was fully occupied less than 40 percent of the 155 parking spaces were being used by tenants living there. This was evidence that many of the people looking to live at the Eddy, and Eastie for that matter, did not own or want to have a car in the city. Eastie’s proximity to downtown and other modes of transportation like Uber and Hubway are flipping the script on how people get around the city.
At Monday night’s HVNA meeting the very people complaining about the neighborhood’s traffic are the same people calling for ‘more’ parking spaces tied to development projects thus encouraging more cars to come into an already congested neighborhood.
“It doesn’t make sense,” one resident sighed after the meeting.
Aside from parking what makes the project tricky is the parcel is subjected to the state’s Chapter 91 regulations, which means half the land needs to be public open space and the larger building must include space within one of the buildings for public use.
“The public accommodation space can be anything from a meeting room, to a yoga studio, to public art space,” said Acone.
The parcel is the last lot on the right before Constitution Beach and abuts Rice Street, which leads down to the East Boston Yacht Club.
Acone’s proposal would includes long-term planning as it relates to sea-level rise. The project would be built above the projected sea level rise totals and would use other climate ready and resiliency techniques to ensure the project stays dry for future generations.
The Chapter 91 public access would consist of a harbor walk in the rear of the development that would be accessible from Rice Street and the project would include a community room or some other public use space inside the larger of the two buildings.
The developer has enhanced landscaping in the back since the last meeting and after hearing from abutters, the harborwalk that will be mandated by the state under Chapter 91 will have a fence at the end to protect the adjoining properties from potential trespassers.