GSCA Pondering Two Development Proposals

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Following the presentation of two separate proposed developments — 9 Geneva Street and 9 McKay Place — at the Gove Street Citizens Association’s (GSCA) regular meeting on Monday, members of the community got together to discuss each project.

Each of these projects was presented to the GSCA at last month’s meeting; however, Monday’s meeting served as an opportunity for both the project teams to respond to previous concerns about the projects and for the community as a whole to discuss the projects once again before a vote is held.

The proposal at 9 Geneva Street, which was presented by Attorney Richard Lynds, is to build a five-story, 28-unit building that is just over 52 feet tall on a site that consists of seven separate parcels spanning about 15,000 square feet that will be combined.

The project would also include 16 parking spaces and five IDP units — 17.85% of the total units proposed.

During this meeting, members of the GSCA’s Board displayed a list of concerns that were compiled after last month’s presentation. Some of these concerns included parking, the height and density of the project, the road quality of Geneva Street, and more.

During his presentation, Lynds discussed these concerns and why certain parts of the proposal are how they are. In his response to the parking concerns, Lynds referred to a maximum parking ratio plan from the city.

The plan gives “mobility scores” throughout the city, which corresponds with a maximum parking ratio for new rental or condo developments. For most of East Boston, the neighborhood’s mobility score correlates to a maximum parking ratio for rentals at 0 to 0.75 and for condos at 0 to 1.0.

Using this plan, the project’s proposed parking ratio would fall within these ranges at 0.57 (16 parking spaces for 28 units). “Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m simply passing along how the city approaches development when it comes to parking,” said Lynds.

It should be noted that the table Lynds provided in his presentation points out that this maximum parking ratio plan is for developments 50,000 square feet or larger.

However, Lynds said, “I can confidently tell you based upon many of the Article 80 projects I have ongoing right now in the City of Boston — this applies to all Article 80 projects.”  

In his response to concerns about the height and density of the project, Lynds pointed to PLAN: East Boston, a neighborhood planning initiative from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

In speaking about the initiative, Lynds pointed out that the Gove Street area is in a district outlined by PLAN: East Boston that would allow for developments that are four stories tall with 60% lot coverage as the norm.

He also talked about how height can increase within the district where additional community benefits are added. Lynds pointed to having more IDP units than required and other public realm improvements as benefits.

“We feel that there are going to be appropriate community benefits to ask for a fifth story in this instance,” said Lynds.

Lynds also said that the Gove Street area is a “transition area” in the BPDA’s planning initiative which is an area that allows mid-rise residential buildings, notably of four or five stories.

Lynds went on and addressed other concerns that members of the GSCA had and then fielded some questions following the presentation.

As for 9 McKay Place, the project proposes to demolish four existing buildings at the site to build a five-story building comprised of 41 units and 35 parking spaces.

Other aspects of the proposed project include seven IDP units — 17% of the total units — an amenity gym, public park, community meeting space, bike parking, and more.

Similarly to the 9 Geneva Street project, the GSCA compiled a list of concerns from the community that included aspects such as how the project would affect the McKay School, a direct abutter.

The concerns regarding the McKay school involved the building’s parking garage and its safety, with it being right down the street from the school.

However, Monday’s meeting reaffirmed plans for the garage mentioned last month, including equipping it with alarms, beacons, mirrors, and more to make it safer.

Other concerns relating to the school addressed Monday included shadows and how they might impact the school’s learning garden. A shadow study was shown, along with a commitment made by the project team to donate $25,000 to the school to upgrade or relocate the learning garden.

There were also other concerns about the project, such as parking, height, and, notably, problems with the developer due to issues voiced by residents at another property owned by the developer.

However, Armindo Goncalves, a member of the project team, indicated that these issues with the developer had been quelled with the creation and near completion of a punch list. “The residents are at a much more satisfactory level right now than they were nine months ago,” he said.

Following the 9 McKay Place presentation and question and answer session, the meeting moved on with a twist.

The twist involved asking the development teams for each project to leave, and the remainder of the meeting was used to speak about the projects amongst community members and the GSCA Board.

During this discussion, members of the GSCA board and the community brainstormed ideas for improvements to each project. These ideas ranged from asking the project teams to add an additional IDP unit or to deepen the affordability of the IDP units.

Other ideas were to figure out a way to make it so residents of East Boston would be the ones moving into these new units. However, there was unclarity among residents whether this idea might be possible legally.

Overall, the end of Monday’s meeting was a way for the community to begin a discussion about potential benefits the community would like to see for each project and have some discourse on each project before it goes to a GSCA vote.

As of this writing, it is unclear when a vote will occur on either of these projects, as the GSCA is off next month and will not meet again until September.

If you are interested in learning more about each of the projects, the community’s concerns, and the discussion about the projects, you can visit which will have the meeting’s notes, recording and other documents regarding these projects.

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