61 Murdock Street - Erect a first floor rear addition and a deck on the new addition
More info at http://www.cityofboston.gov/ons/pdfs/allstonbright.pdf
So I found it interesting a few days later when a few days later the Census Bureau and HUD issued this press release about new residential housing construction. The rate of new housing construction is of course much less than it was a year ago, but it is also far from zero. Somehow these other developers are figuring out how to move forward with new housing in the present economy, and apparently Harvard could learn something from them.
Here is the data for building permits issued during the month of May for the greater Boston metropolitan area.
|Total||1 Unit||2 Units||3 & 4 Units||5 units or more||# of structures with 5 units or more|
|New Privately Owned Housing Units Authorized||472||233||24||14||201||16|
|New Privately Owned Housing Units Authorized Valuation (in millions)||$96.5||$58.3||$3.6||$2.8||$31.7|
Taking a broader view, in the Northeastern US during May there were:
- Building permits issued for 56,000 privately-owned housing units
- 13,000 privately-owned housing units authorized, but not started
- 51,000 units that began construction
- 138,000 units under construction
- 93,000 units completed
City Council candidates: Demand more money from colleges, hospitals Universal Hub
The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard Announces Impending Layoffs
"When combined with other moves to cut expenses, such as the salary freeze, limits on hiring, slowing the pace of Allston construction and other capital projects, and so on—all driven primarily by the projected 30 percent decline in the value of endowment assets—these staff-workforce reductions will make an impact on the looming budget pressures in several of the schools and allied institutions. But they do not nearly close the biggest gaps, such as the $220-million deficit looming over FAS. As reported here, FAS had identified just $77 million of the expense savings it anticipates needing to make; presumably whatever staff reductions are being announced now within FAS were counted as part of that initial $77 million of cuts, leaving $143 million in costs still to be removed from the core academic budget."
The building is only 1800 sq ft but has attracted interest from several people who would like to open a restaurant there with a 10 year lease from Harvard. This would not be a chain or franchise, but someplace unique and attractive for neighbors and others to enjoy a nice meal for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Wouldn't it be great to see this happen sometime soon!
- 23 Griggs St. Update on project scheduled to be built at this location.
- 29 Denby St. Proposal for change of use for existing property
- 139-143 Brighton Ave. Proposal for take out restaurant.
- Harvard: Discussion on leasing concepts for Harvard owned property. (eg; uses, types of businesses etc.)
Along those same lines, this story in today's Times looks at the changes in Atlanta as segregated housing projects are being replaced by mixed-income housing.
“We’ve realized that concentrating families in poverty is very destructive,” said Renée L. Glover, the executive director of the Atlanta Housing Authority. “It’s destructive to the families, the neighborhoods and the city... For us to think that a program that was conceptualized 70 years ago is still the right answer, it makes no sense,” she said. “Today is a whole new era.”
On the 6 acres where last year The Community Builders wanted to build 290 low-income apartments there is not enough space to create a mixed-income neighborhood. So many will be hoping to hear a different tune next week after last week's meeting when Harvard seemed unwilling to provide the land needed to build this new community the right way.
Compared to 15 other Boston neighborhoods, A/B ranked:
- Last in percentage of adults who reported having attended a neighborhood meeting during the past year (24% vs. 34% citywide)
- 3rd best number of people using or being addicted to drugs was a big problem in their neighborhood (only 6% vs. 18% citywide)
- 3rd highest % of Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels (1.4% vs. 1.2% citywide)
- 4th highest % of Births to Women Ages 15-44 (7.6%)
- 4th lowest % of low birthweight newborns (8.2% vs. 9.5% citywide)
- 4th lowest % of Emergency Department visits (84 per 1,000 vs. 110 citywide)
- 2nd lowest % of people perceiving more guns during the past year (3% vs. 12% citywide)
- 3rd lowest % of people think gangs are in neighborhood (8% vs. 19% citywide)
- 3rd lowest % of Nonfatal Assault-Related Gunshot and Stabbing Victims (1.2 per 100,000 vs. 9.1 citywide)
- 3rd lowest % of adults with asthma (8% vs. 10% citywide)
- 2nd lowest % of adults with diabetes (4% vs. 6% citywide)
- lowest % of High Blood Pressure in Adults (13% vs. 20% citywide)
- 2nd lowest mortality rate (543 per 100,000 vs. 753 citywide)
- lowest heart disease mortality rate (86 per 100,000 vs. 147 citywide)
- 2,000 residential units at Assembly Sq in Somerville
- 2,800 residential units at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station
- More than 900 housing units, a hotel, and 200,000 square feet of stores, restaurants, and offices in Revere
- The $1.5 billion Westwood Station project
State offers potential commuter rail stops in Allston-Brighton - The Bulletin Newspapers, Inc.
The presentation from Monday's meeting will hopefully soon be posted on the Urban Ring website with previous Allston "multimodal study" presentations.
Yesterday's New York Times includes this story about Judge Sonia Sotomayor and property rights, and the Black & Decker building is an interesting situation to consider the rights of the property owner, the interests of the community, and appropriate use of the power of our government.
Based on the signage on the building I assumed the building was still owned by Black & Decker, but in November 2006 Black & Decker sold the property to Waverly Street Associates LLC, an entity that seems to have been created solely for the purchase of this property, for $1.6 million.
Waverly Street Associates is comprised of a Waltham real estate broker a resident of Encinitas, California. Based on the condition of their property they don't seem inclined to do much of anything with it in the near future.
The City of Boston's Responsibility
The City's first problem is that the property is dramatically under-assessed for real estate tax purposes. The 2009 total assessed value is $332,000 which yields a $9,000 annual tax bill for the owner. The City had the property assessed for the same amount in 2008, just after the property sold for $1.6M - almost 5 times the assessed value! If the City corrected its assessment the owner would pay an extra $36,000 each year, making it much less attractive to let his empty property sit idle. This is yet another example of the City's inequitable taxing system based on inaccurate real estate assessments.
Boston's Department of Neighborhood Development claims to do "an annual survey of buildings in the city that are abandoned", but the most recent data on their website is a 2007 survey that does not include this building.
Our City should be creating a safe and livable community for its residents and taxpayers, and blighted buildings like this clearly detract from both. When faced with a situation like this the City could start with having Inspectional Services issue as many fines as possible to try to get the owner to clean up the property. But if the City has done that it hasn't worked.The much bigger stick that the City has, and should consider using in situations like this, is taking the property by eminent domain.
History is filled with horrible examples of cities using eminent domain to take homes where people live. The Kelo case from New London, CT received a lot of attention a couple years ago and Boston's history includes the destruction of the West End and Barry's Corner. But there is a big difference between throwing a family on the street and demolishing their home and taking a vacant commercial building that has been neglected for years. I doubt that the person in southern California who owns this building will experience any "personal pain and sorrow" other than the disappointment of not being able to someday sell the property to Harvard for millions more.In most situations, Justice John Paul Stevens is probably right that “The free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials.” But because of Harvard, North Allston and North Brighton don't enjoy a "free play of market forces".
Everyone knows, or has reason to expect, that Harvard will continue to purchase property along Western Ave to connect its Allston campus (Business School, Athletics, and the Science Complex hole) with its Watertown property (29 acres purchased in 2001 for $162 million). This gives property owners, who in some cases don't seem to care at all about the condition of their property today, motivation to wait until tomorrow (or a decade or two from now) when Harvard may come along and create an enormous payday for them.
"Genzyme said that although the virus is not known to be a threat to humans, production will cease in order for the facility to be sanitized. Genzyme expects the plant to be operational by the end of July."
Taking care of street trees is not rocket science - mostly is about choosing an appropriate species and making sure it get enough water. Many of the dead trees are London Planes - a popular species used as a street tree in Boston and elsewhere. The Boston Parks Department recommends at least 20 gallons of water each week regardless of temperature from the spring thaw to the winter freeze.
This tree, one of many ready to go through the wood chipper, is across the street from the Gulf station in Barry's Corner.
“We were like, ‘What’s your plan? What’s your vision? He would never tell us what his ultimate plan was.”
Shaniko Journal - A Lonesome Oregon Ghost Town May Remain So - NYTimes.com
But general agreement with high-level ideas is nothing new. In the 2005 North Allston Strategic Framework, Harvard and the BRA agreed to many of the same concepts - enhance access to the river, create new housing, create "new local streets to knit the Brighton Mills district together with adjoining neighborhoods". That in 2009 all Harvard can do is generally agree with these same ideas shows how far we haven't come.
Harvard refused to provide any information about when any of their Holton St Corridor property beyond the Charlesview 6 acres could be developed. That leaves unknown the future of 22 acres and Harvard certainly didn't show any eagerness or excitement about moving forward with any of them.
Harvard was clear that not much more land has been made available for the Charlesview relocation. The BRA was equally clear that they have instructed Charlesview to lower the density, include homeownership units, and add more income diversity in addition to relocating the existing 213 apartments. Still bound by a 6 acre site, it is hard to imagine how this is possible and it would seem that we remain in basically the same situation as when the Globe wrote the following in March 2008:
Felicia Jacques, a spokeswoman for the developer, Community Builders Inc., said the nonprofit is constrained by the 6.9-acre size of the site, obtained from Harvard University in a swap for the development's current 4.5-acre locale, and by the project's finances.So the next CWP meeting should be particularly interesting. On June 24 Charlesview will present their first update to the public since the plan they submitted to the BRA 16 months ago.
"Harvard has offered what Harvard has offered," she said.
More info at http://www.cityofboston.gov/ons/pdfs/allstonbright.pdf
"Urban planning fails whenever designs, policies and programs are imposed on unwilling or unsuspecting stakeholders. And, phony commitments to participation or consultation don't fooled anyone. Decide-announce-defend has been the mantra for far too long (and it still is) in a many urban planning settings. Serious consultation requires that problems be defined jointly, options be considered together (in light of information collected in concert), decisions be made transparently and accountably; and monitoring, adjustments and learning be truly collaborative"
|For most of the year there have been four huge tower cranes at the Science Complex construction site. But as the project turns from a gaping hole to a vast concrete slab, one of the four cranes is no longer active on the site.|
While it is unclear if stem cell researchers will still eventually move to Allston, the current fiscal crisis has greatly complicated the University’s plans to bolster interdisciplinary science.
“Allston is just one part of the University. All the education and science currently happening on this campus—that’s what we are all concerned about,” says Catherine Dulac, chair of the Molecular and Cellular Biology department. “What the solutions are, we have no idea. The discussion is just starting.”
The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Once Ambitious, Harvard Revisits Allston Planning
Harvard is in the midst of graduation, and Drew Faust's Baccalaureate Address echos my observations last month in this blog about uncertainty. She tells Harvard's new graduates that "we do not need to become uncertainty’s victims. We must claim its uses."
This is a great idea, but it doesn't seem like Harvard has been "improvising our way to new solutions" in Allston. To the contrary, Harvard's closed and cautious approach couldn't be further from the jazz musicians and improv comedians that Faust sets forth as examples in her speech.
Faust is right that "the world needs good improvisers." So does Allston, especially in the Cambridge offices where so much power is held.