The new Hood Park revised master plan didn’t get too many supporters on Tuesday night, Oct. 2, at the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), with most councilors and audience members wary of the 200-foot-plus heights proposed.
Mark Rosenshein of Trademark Partners appeared before the CNC to give his presentation of the new plan, which was filed last month with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and has had several showings around the Town since then. This, however, was the first CNC meeting since the amended plan had been filed.
The plan calls for a phased approach to building out the Hood Park with taller buildings, but more open space. Rosenshein stressed that Hood already has an approved plan to build out the same amount of office buildings in shorter buildings, but without any open space. The idea would be to allow taller buildings with more open spaces, as well as a change of uses that would allow offices, residential and retail/commercial.
The idea would be to have a series of taller buildings on the back of the site closest to the highway, with one proposed tower in the last phase of development – likely 10 years away – at the 295 foot total height. A second building that would become the Indigo Agriculture company’s new headquarters would reach to 220 feet and would ideally start construction in August 2019, if approved.
Most of the bargain comes down to a trade-off – more green space for more building height.
“That’s what I believe we will be doing over the next six months, having a community conversation about whether the community would trade off more height for more green space,” he said, noting that they would like to be at the same heights as the buildings across the highway in Cambridge at the Crossing (which he said top out around 275 to 290 feet).
But the community on hand at the CNC wasn’t entirely ready to enter such a bargain on Tuesday.
Chair Tom Cunha said if the community allows the increased height limits, it could set a standard for the entirety of other side of Rutherford Avenue.
“This is setting a standard with the height and that developing up and down Rutherford Avenue that the community will have to live with,” he said. “As a community activist, I say how about taking some of those buildings down a little.”
Community member Bill Lamb said he has great concern about the height, and didn’t think it was appropriate for abutting an historic neighborhood like Charlestown.
“I am concerned about the height,” he said. “I’m not convinced there needs to be as much open space as proposed. I’d prefer to have lower buildings and less of the green space.”
Elaine Donovan said the height is not something she would ever agree to.
“I also feel that when we have a 295 foot building in the one square mile we’re setting a precedent for everyone else to build a building that high,” she said. “Maybe they won’t go 295 feet, but what if they go 175 feet or 200 feet. This is a lovely little community and some of us would like it to stay that way…We are being swallowed up from every angle. We have a casino coming in like 10 minutes and we don’t know what’s happening with that…I feel like we’re being buffaloed. There’s a lot of talk going on and it’s offensive.”
Megan Barrow added that she feels the community is getting “smashed in every single direction.”
“We don’t want it,” she said.
While many have seen the proposal already a few times, there were a couple of new twists that Rosenshein added Tuesday.
First, he said they have committed to putting a temporary, on-demand, pedestrian crossing light by the Santander Bank so that residents can get to the Hood Park site without having to play Frogger with the oncoming cars.
He also said they have committed to have a police detail at the new intersection of Spice Street and Cambridge Street – a key new connection that will allow northbound Hood traffic to avoid the Square and Rutherford Avenue. However, with concerns over traffic “blocking the box,” Rosenshein said they would pay for a traffic detail to be there for one year if their development is approved.
- MOVIE FILMING THIS WEEK
Chair Cunha related to the CNC that a full-scale movie production will be filming in Charlestown this week. The movie is dubbed ‘About Eve,’ and will be in three areas – off Bunker Hill Street, in the Navy Yard and on Rutherford Avenue by Bunker Hill CC. He said they’ve asked them to start filming no earlier than 9 a.m. and stop by 6 p.m., though that’s just a suggestion.
- TRAFFIC ON MONDAY
Something went particularly haywire on the roads Monday – more so than the typical madness that dominates the throughways on the edges of the Town.
Members of the CNC reported getting numerous calls for concertedly worse traffic on Monday than usual. Cunha said he did talk to the contractors on Sullivan Square to see if the tie-ups were from that, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for the sudden surge.
On Tuesday, traffic patterns were back to their normal nightmarish levels.
- DUFFY BUILDING
The development at 610 Rutherford Ave. in the old Duffy building has seemingly hit a bit of a slowdown, according to Cunha.
He said he had heard some contaminated soils were found and are being removed, and maybe that has changed some of the scope of the plan. Developers told the Patriot Bridge in August that they plan to start the development with townhouses on the Main Street side this year.
- ONE WAY STREETS PETITION
Councilor Mary Boucher said they have assembled a team and will be collecting signatures to try to find a solution to the one-way street problem between Medford and Bunker Hill Streets. With Allston Street changed a year or so ago, now almost every street runs one way in the same direction, causing drivers to have to go all the way to Polk or Monument to take a right.
“There are 15 one-way streets that run the length of Bunker Hill Street,” she said. “Monument is two-way, but its full of potholes and beats up the car so much.”
She said they will be in front of the Whole Foods and CVS Oct. 5, 6 and 7 collecting signatures to make a change – even if it’s just three streets.
- MURDER AT RYAN FIELD
The murder of a homeless man at Ryan Field last month is still under investigation by police. It seems two homeless men got into a fight as they tried to seek shelter in the field house at the playground. An argument ensued and one allegedly killed the other. The police Public Safety meeting will be on Oct. 24, 6 p.m. in the Police Station.
- NEEDED: NEW TURF
The turf field at the Charlestown High School is in tough shape. There are major holes in the playing surface and the general surface is worn thin. Members of the CNC called last month for information on the plans to refurbish the field. Cunha said the Parks Department and the Boston Public Schools are coordinating, and the hope is that an RFP will go out soon for the repairs.