Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Did the BRA Board Delay Vote Over Charlesview Relocation Proposal?

The Boston Redevelopment Authority announced today that its Board was postponing a vote on the proposed development project to relocate the Charlesview apartments to Brighton Mills.

The BRA's stated reason for the delay dodges the salient fact that local elected officials want the project modified -- a stance reiterated by District 9 City Councilor Mark Ciommo as recently as last week.

A group of North Allston-Brighton residents had recently written to the BRA Board requesting the delay:
[The residents] said the planning process was “tainted by a project manager biased against the residents of Allston and Brighton,” referring to a number of e-mails recently released by a [Public Records Law] request in which senior BRA project manager Jay Rourke expresses frustration with Allston-Brighton residents for their continued resistance to the proposed Charlesview Development project.
The BRA gave a different reason for the delay, namely, that it had something to do with the future plans of the Brookline Machinery site, which is not part of the current development proposal. BRA senior project manager Jay Rourke emailed today:
The BRA feels that the Charlesview redevelopment project has completed the public process and is ready for consideration by the BRA Board of Directors for approval. Nonetheless, it will be removed from tomorrow night’s agenda because there is no finalized agreement between Harvard University and the BRA concerning the future of the adjacent Brookline Machinery site. The public hearing will be rescheduled and re-advertised once a satisfactory agreement with Harvard has been achieved.
The real reason? The A-B elected officials are not in support of the current proposal without significant modification, such as including the Brookline Machinery lot as part of the project. As I wrote several weeks ago, all A-B elected officials wrote in October to the BRA:
They wrote requesting the BRA and developer to: expand the area of land in the development to include the Brookline Machine building; reduce the number of rental units (those that are beyond the low-income units for the current Charlesview tenants); reduce overall the project's density; increase the number of home ownership units; reduce of the height of the eight-story Telford Street building; express a concern about a "lack of open and recreational space" in the project; increase the amount of retail space; and halt further development of Harvard property in North Allston-Brighton until "significant development of the Holton Street Corridor is realized." Pretty broad stuff which will take a while for the BRA and the project's developers to modify and accommodate.
Councilor Ciommo reiterated his position last week at a meeting of neighborhood residents:
Ciommo supports many of the requests of the ABNNF.

“It better be different than the one that was presented at the last meeting at the Honan Library, or I won’t support it,” said Ciommo.

Asked what would happen if the BRA approves the plan, Ciommo said, “Then they’ve stepped over the community.”
With opposition to the current version of the project coming from both residents and elected officials, the BRA had little choice but to put off the project's consideration until changes can be made to it.

Update (11/17/09): The Boston Globe has an article here. BRA Director John Palmieri told the Globe that he had promised to have a commitment from Harvard about developing the Brookline Machinery site -- which has yet to happen. The Globe concludes that "the move is an effort to placate Allston neighbors, who insisted additional housing be built on that site to help create a more vibrant neighborhood with residences, shops, and Harvard’s planned $1 billion science complex."

Image of proposed Charlesview development from the website.

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