OHNC Opposing Project on Leyden Street

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

The Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC) opposed a project at 36 Leyden Street during its monthly meeting on September 18.

The project proposes demolishing the existing building on the site to erect a new eight-unit residential building with eight parking spaces. Of the eight condominium units, there will be one accessible and affordable unit, three two-bedrooms, and four three-bedrooms.

This project was initially presented to the OHNC earlier in the summer. Since then, there have been some changes, according to Attorney Jeff Drago, who presented the project along with the Developer David Gradus and the Architect David Choi.

Since the team’s last presentation, the project’s unit count has dropped from nine to eight, the floor area ratio (FAR) has gone from 2.25 to 2.24, and the building’s height has decreased from 37.66 feet to 35 feet.

Additionally, the front yard setback has increased from zero to four feet, there are additional landscape plans, and the fourth floor of the building has been pulled back.

Drago also gave some context about how this building could fit into the area, saying, “The proposal isn’t the only multi-family residential in this area. There’s four-story across the street, there’s multi-family at the corner, and as you go up and down it, there’s also townhouse, there’s also two-family and some ones.”

After Choi went through floor plans and some renders, Gradus took the floor and talked about a concern that residents voiced at the last presentation — parking.

In speaking about parking, Gradus said, “At my end of Leyden Street, we actually have a ton of parking; it’s not so densely packed.”

After that statement, Gradus went through slides that displayed what he called an “amateur parking study.” In this study, Gradus seemingly took images from Google Maps showing the parking situation on the street during different years and designated open spots with black rectangles.

While the slides shown seemed to indicate that spots were available, some residents were not fond of the study, with the central question concerning the time the pictures were taken. To which Gradus said he did not know what time Google Satellite took its images.

Even with some pushback from residents about the study, Gradus maintained his position about there being available parking in the area.

“I’m there at all hours of the day, and again, at that end of the street, there’s always parking available,” said Gradus.

One resident, who has lived in East Boston for 11 years and Orient Heights for the last five years, backed up Gradus, saying, “I drive through that street every day, and out of all the streets here, that’s probably the easiest one for parking.”

In addition to the parking study, Gradus also spoke about the need for housing in the area, calling Boston “severely under-housed” and said, “I think that we just cannot build a single or a two-family on a lot this large; we have to have families that want to live in the area.”

When the floor was opened for comments and questions, several topics were covered, including the cost of the condos, which Gradus said would be between $500,000-$600,000.

There was a comment commending the project for having an affordable unit. There was also a comment from an attendee that they were happy that the units were condos, but they also asked if they would actually end up being built as condos.

“The 100% goal is to build condominiums to add housing to the area, not apartments,” said Gradus.

Other comments about the project concerned the building’s height, the proposed roof decks, and more.

In the end, there were not enough votes from those in attendance for the project to gain the support of the OHNC, and the project was opposed 23-5, with one voter abstaining. The OHNC will meet again at its regular time on October 16.

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