Neighbors Object to Reduction of Parking Spaces at 135 Bremen St.

Special to the Times-Free Press

“We are choking on traffic,” is what John Walker told developers of 135 Bremen St. project last week. The developers who were seeking a project change request reducing from 110 to 47 under ground parking spaces while maintaining the same amount of units at 94 received an earful from neighborhood residents.

The developer appeared before the Boston Planning and Development Agency to show the changes and how the final building will look. The change was necessitated when the lower level of the two story below ground parking had to be eliminated due to the fact the  the depth for the lower level was too close to the Blue Line MBTA tunnel as the building will be directly above.

Artist rendering of the 135 Bremen St. project.

The present architectural elevations did not change since the lower level of parking was below the street level.  The courtyard also remained the same as well as the upper floors of the building. There will also be landscaping for the building.  The only major change was that there will be only one driveway into the parking area.  The commercial rental square footage space was reduced from 8,520 sq. Ft to about 5,380 sq, ft. Matt Eckel who represented the developers noted that the space can be used either as a restaurant or convenience store. Eric Bradanese who represented the developers noted that the project will have “significant storm water improvements.”

Karen Sullivan told developers that loss of 63 parking spaces was “a concern.” Eckel mentioned that switching the units from rental to condominiums should eliminate cars as the parking spaces will be assigned to certain  condominiums.  Explaining, buyers who need cars may not buy a condominium if it does not have parking linked to it.

Stewart Landers noted that there has been a lot of change in the neighborhood since the project was first submitted such as the hotel and the proposed development of the old Mt. Carmel site. “There is more traffic and the neighborhood can not absorb a building of this size.  It is not compatible with the neighborhood,” he added.  He suggested that the developers should give the land to the parks since the building is less than 20 feet from the Mary Ellen Welsh Greenway.  “This is unreasonable, but best for the neighborhood,” he added.

Eckel noted that a bike room will exist as a part of the public amenity that one can do tire repairs and have pumps available.

More cars, more people and more demand for city services concerned William Schneiderman.  He said  “I am not sympathetic to the developers who come to the meeting with a slick representation.  There is a dramatic reduction in parking,” he added.  “This is a flawed equation.”

Neelesh Batra added, “seems logical to reduce the number of units if parking gets cut.”

The following are remarks from the Gove Street.

“This project was originally approved in 2014 despite strong objections from the community. The objections were based on the intrusive size and density of design, a lack of pedestrian access on the majority of Bremen Street, damage to the character of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, and increased traffic in the surrounding area.

This project was last re-approved in 2017 following a requested change by the developer to convert the housing units from rentals to condos. It is strange that now, five years later, they are again requesting a change that should have been foreseen years ago. This request to dramatically reduce the number of off-street parking spaces will add tremendous stress to the already limited parking availability in the surrounding area. The new proposal does not address the original faults of the proposed building on that particular site – it is still too large and at egregious design odds with the predominant three story homes along Bremen Street and does not address pedestrian safety concerns or current community needs in the area.

The residents of East Boston have spent decades transforming the old crumbling manufacturing infrastructure and freight lines into the Bremen Street Park and into the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway. This new development will cast shadows over this public space and encroach upon the openness that currently exists.

The best use of this site, if something other than pure profit is considered, would be inclusion as an additional park and playground in the Greenway. The next best would be housing designed through a community-participatory process built to the scale and needs of the existing community, with a special emphasis on providing affordable housing.

The comment period for this project ended on September 19.

The following letter sent from the Gove Street Citizens Association to Daniel Polanco, Project manager Boston Planning & Development Agency.

Dear Mr. Polanco:

The Board of the Gove Street Citizens Association (GSCA) wanted to submit the following comment regarding the 135 Bremen Street Project:

On September 13, 2022, the development team for the 135 Bremen Street Project presented an overview of their project and their requested change of reducing 110 offX street parking spaces to 47 off-street parking spaces.This meeting was held on Zoom.

This project was originally approved in 2014 despite strong objections from the community. Objections during the 2014 community process were based on the intrusive size and density of design, a lack of pedestrian access on the majority of Bremen Street, damage to the character of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, and increased traffic in the surrounding area.

The 135 Bremen Street Project was re-approved in 2017 following a requested change by the developer to convert the housing units from rentals to condos. That second zoning approval expired in June 2022, but was granted an extension because the developer claimed special difficulties in completing the design due to Blue Line T tracks running under the proposed site. The project developers knew since 2014 of the existence of Blue Line T tracks running across the proposed site, a fact that was recorded twice in the 2014 Project Notification Form (sections 2.3.3 Nature and Extent of Any and All Public Easements and 4.4 Geotechnical/Groundwater Impacts Analysis) submitted to the BPDA. The 135 Bremen Street Project developers are again requesting a change as a result of a problem foreseen eight years ago and that the BPDA has continuously overlooked with the project’s subsequent re-approvals and extensions.

The current request to dramatically reduce the number of off-street parking spaces will add tremendous stress to the already limited parking availability in the surrounding area. Since the original 2014 proposal the neighborhood has undergone radical development, with even more still on the books. Traffic patterns have intensified as Bremen Street is now a major route to the waterfront luxury apartments and all the new buildings in between. Unfortunately, the city has widened neither Bremen nor parallel streets to address the traffic growth or current parking needs in the neighborhood. The intersection of Bremen and Porter Streets, where project developers plan to place a now diminished retail outlet, involves a four way stop coming from five different directions, including an underpass and an approach to the Sumner Tunnel that is jammed every morning, and whose lack of sidewalks and cross walks present a safety concern for pedestrians. The new request for change does not address the original faults of the proposed building on that particular site—it is still too large and at egregious design odds with the predominant three story homes along Bremen Street and does not address pedestrian safety concerns or current community needs in the area.

The residents of East Boston have spent decades transforming the old crumbling manufacturing infrastructure and freight lines into the Bremen Street Park and into the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway. This new development is planned to be built up to the property line, which will cast shadows over this public space and encroach upon the openness that currently exists. Almost all the ‘landscaping’ plans proposed by the developer involve that rear strip of the building, which is now a sharp slope down into the Greenway. The project’s proposed landscaping was designed without community input and negatively affects the existing greenery of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway.

The best use of this site, if something other than pure profit is considered, would be inclusion as an additional park and playground in the Greenway. The next best would be housing designed through a community participatory process built to the scale and needs of the existing community, especially affordable housing.

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Carlos J. Muñoz-Cadilla GSCA Board Member

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.