By Michael Coughlin Jr.
During its meeting last week, the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Board of Directors approved a project at 2 Ford Street and 970 Saratoga Street.
As Tyler Ross of the BPDA explained, this project will bring two four-story mixed-use buildings with commercial space on the ground floor. The 2 Ford building will contain 27 units, while the 970 Saratoga building will have 14 units, for a grand total of 41 units.
Regarding affordability, seven of the 41 will be Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) units at a range of 70 to 100 percent area median income (AMI).
In terms of parking, there will be up to 14 parking spaces and 59 bike spaces for residents and visitors. Other aspects of the project to note include that each building’s retail space will be along Ford and Saratoga streets and that several street trees are proposed in the area.
Also, it was revealed in a BPDA press release that there are plans for a $50,000 contribution for pedestrian improvements, an art installation, and upkeep for Noyes Playground or another public park in the neighborhood.
The release also mentions that “a final portion of the contribution” would go to the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) for the bikeshare program.
In terms of background on the project, it has origins that date back several years, according to Attorney Richard Lynds.
“This project is the result of a number of years of involved community process that has included multiple meetings with civic groups, abutters, elected leaders, and of course with the help and diligent efforts and input from BPDA staff,” said Lynds.
Components of this project have actually been opposed three times in votes by the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC).
During an OHNC meeting in July, Lynds revealed that this proposal was initially shown as two separate projects. Back in October 2018, the OHNC opposed the 2 Ford Street project, and in May 2021, the OHNC opposed the 970 Saratoga Street project.
Then, at its July meeting, the OHNC voiced its extreme displeasure with the parking situation and opposed the combined project by a whopping 40-3 margin.
Although most of those at July’s OHNC meeting opposed the project, the proposal received support through a letter from City Councilor Gabriela Coletta.
Coletta indicated in correspondence with the East Boston Times that she wrote a letter supporting the project due to its additional affordable housing contributions, adherence to proposed PLAN: East Boston guidelines, stormwater and flood zone mitigation strategies, and support from surrounding abutters.
Additionally, she mentioned a promise to provide commercial space for locally owned businesses and the project’s public realm improvements, which focused on pedestrian safety, as other reasons for supporting the project.
When it came time for questions or comments from the Board, the parking situation was questioned by the Board’s Chair, Priscilla Rojas. Rojas asked how it was envisioned residents would be getting around.
Lynds responded to the question about parking with a statement identifying that the parking question was important and something the project team worked closely on with the BPDA, BTD, and community.
“We heard loud and clear from BTD that this site should not emphasize parking and should really focus on adding retail at the ground level,” said Lynds.
He also mentioned the proximity of Orient Heights station and the bus route at Bennington and Saratoga streets as ways residents could get around.
Aside from Rojas’ question about parking, there were no other questions or comments from those on the board, and the project was unanimously approved.