My comments on the Charlesview PDA Amendment

September 13, 2010

Jay Rourke
Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201-1007

Mr. Rourke,

For years, the Chief Planners of the City of Boston and Harvard's Allston Development have supported multi-story new construction on Western Avenue as essential to the future of North Brighton and North Allston.
On May 27, 2009, Boston's Chief Planner Kairos Shen presented the North Allston / North Brighton Community Wide Plan (CWP) for future construction on Western Ave. For the site of the First Amendment to Charlesview Planned Development Area, Mr. Shen stated that new buildings should be 4-6 stories tall.
The building proposed in the PDA Amendment is 1 story tall. Article 80 requires that a PDA "conforms to the plan for the district, subdistrict, or similar geographic area in which the Planned Development Area is located." Because the proposed 1 story building does not conform to the CWP, I oppose this Amendment to the PDA and it would be inappropriate for the BRA to approve it.
On June 10, 2009, Harvard's Allston Chief Planner Kathy Spiegelman recognized that land including the site of the First Amendment to Charlesview Planned Development Area presented "an opportunity for an existing urban neighborhood, city and an institution to comprehensively plan together for redevelopment of a significant portion of their neighborhood, city and land." Unfortunately, Harvard and the BRA chose to plan the PDA Amendment in a piecemeal, not comprehensive, approach. The planning for this amendment was also, unfortunately, done without including residents of the Allston/Brighton neighborhood.

Ms. Spiegelman also noted that "The densities and land uses presented [in the Kairos Shen May 27 plan] may not create enough value to support the amount of public infrastructure and open space represented in this alternative." Given that Harvard is now supporting new construction with a density much lower than the Kairos Shen May 27 plan, it creates grave doubt about Harvard's support for the development of the thriving community envisioned by Mr. Shen's CWP.

During the review of the Charlesview PDA in 2009, the BRA was well aware of the need to resolve the McDonald's site. Members of the Boston Civic Design Commission and Allston/Brighton residents attempted to integrate the planning for the Charlesview residences and the McDonald's site, but the BRA did not allow this discussion. That the BRA is now considering the McDonald's site in an amendment to the PDA, raises concerns that the BRA is segmenting the review and evading Article 80's requirements for a clear and predictable review "to protect and enhance urban design quality; to encourage the most appropriate use of land; to improve the overall quality of development...and to maintain and improve a healthy economy by augmenting the City's attractiveness as a place to live, to conduct business and to visit."

Harry Mattison
28 Mansfield St
Allston 02134

To reach me by phone, please use my new Google Voice number: (774) 277-9678


  1. Great letter. I am curious, what is the argument for building another 1-story suburban-style McDonalds? It seems like a bad idea from every angle I look at it, but surely someone must benefit from that plan. Any thoughts?

  2. McDonald's certainly benefits, but why Harvard and the BRA support this I couldn't tell you.

  3. Somebody mentioned the fact that McDonald's had an iron clad lease. Which meant that McDonald's could stay where they are.
    This may be worth looking into.