Last night, staff from The Community Builders ran a meeting about the future of the Charlesview housing project. For brief background, Charlesview is 213 units of affordable housing on approximately 5 acres of land at the intersection of North Harvard St and Western Ave in Allston. The meeting was well attended, with more than 100 people in the audience.
Harvard University very much wants the land where Charlesview is currently located, and Harvard has offered 6.5 acres to build a new housing development in two parts - a large set of buildings where the KMart and OfficeMax used to be in the Brighton Mills shopping center and other buildings on land north of Western Ave next to the Skating Club of Boston.
The new design increases the number of housing units at Charlesview from 213 to 400. There was no information provided about how many people would occupy these new units, but it would probably be 300-500 new people living in the neighborhood. Many people at the meeting voiced concern that this many additional people would further overcrowd our already tightly-packed neighborhood. The woman from The Community Builders said that the reason for the additional units is that the neighborhood has a need for more affordable housing, but someone in the audience suggested that, because this is federally subsidized housing, there would be no preference given to Allston or Brighton residents so this benefit is not something that would be helping people currently living here.
The development would be divided between the two sites, with 284 units at the KMart site and 116 on the northern site between the Skating Club and the car wash. Doing some quick math on this northern portion of the project, 100 units of housing probably requires a 150,000 square foot building. The three building lots that Harvard would combine for this building total 31,500 square feet. This means to put 100 units on the site would require at least a 5 story building.
The architect, from CBT Architects, seemed to say several times that the below-ground garage would have one parking space per resident. After direct questioning from someone in the audience he said it would be one parking space per residence. The zoning requirements are 1.75 spaces per residence, which would mean 700 spaces for 400 units. So their current plans have them at least a couple hundred parking spaces short. I don't really understand why they would come to the community with a plan so obviously lacking in this key area.
There was a fair amount of dispute between residents of Charlesview, some who want to move and others who don't. Some say the building is sinking and falling apart and others say it is fine. A member of the audience asked if there was a publicly available structural assessment of the current building and he was told that this exists but it is not public.
Whatever happens with this project it will be a clear precedent for future construction in the neighborhood. The design for the buildings on the KMart site includes several 4 story buildings. These would be much taller and denser than the existing neighborhood. Maybe this should be the future. Maybe not. I think Tim McHale had the right idea when he said that we can do better - Charlesview can do better, the award-winning developer can do better, the famous architects can do better, and the residents of Allston and Brighton can do better.
A second meeting is being held on Thursday at 6 at St. Anthony's school.
Posted by Harry Mattison on 12/06/2006 12:33:00 PM