CNC asks Developers for Better, Thoughtful Mitigation

The new residential building at the Bunker Hill Mall that proposes to surround the 99 Restaurant got an airing at the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) on Tuesday night in what was the CNC’s first attempt at an in-person/Zoom hybrid meeting.

New England Development was the main presenter for the meeting on April 6, and they relayed a presentation about the seven-story, 240 unit building that looks to be a new gateway to the Town and spark new investment in the Mall on Main Street – the Main Street wall of brick being a sore subject for a number of years.

After the presentation, the CNC got straight to the point about the lack of parking, having 76 spaces, and the mitigation that is being proposed – including fixing a regional sewer pipe under the Mall that many have ignored for decades.

Chair Tom Cunha said he doesn’t necessarily believe the development – though very close to transit – will fully support a transit-oriented development.

“I just don’t think everyone who lives there will be working downtown,” he said. “I would like to see the backup data that proves that will work – it’s critical here. That’s a big thing for me.”

The unifying tone by the CNC though was that mitigation needed to be real mitigation.

“We need to negotiate that a little bit,” Cunha said. “None of our mitigation should be paying for O’Reilly Park to be taken care of because the BRA didn’t take care of it for 30 years…I don’t want to see things that should be done anyway. Some of the stuff you’re putting in your mitigation program the BRA and developer should be responsible for.”

Member Elaine Donovan said New England Development should have long ago improved the Main Street side of the Mall and giving support to a new housing building shouldn’t be attached to improvements at other parts of the Mall that are long overdue.

“Sewer systems and O’Reilly Park are things that should be on you anyway,” she said. “That shouldn’t be on us. I don’t like that this is the catalyst for improving our Main Street. You couldn’t afford to update the front of our shopping center for 45 years? We shouldn’t have to support a building to finally upgrade our Main Street so it looks like part of our community and not like the Charles Street Jail from 1972.”

It being one of the only commercial centers in Charlestown, and also the project surrounding a popular restaurant in the 99’s, many were worried construction on the new building would shut down stores.

“We’re not at all worried about our ability to do it and keeping the stores open and viable and thriving during construction,” said John Twohig of NED. “You’re not going to lose any stores…”

Cunha and Ed Grace were concerned about AirBNB’s and short-term rentals in the building, and also about ride-shares like Uber not using the designated spaces and snarling traffic.

The CNC has revived its Development Committee, and Cunha said he wanted to set up a meeting with Member Rich McGuinness and New England Development to discuss the problems identified and the mitigation presented. He also proposed a public meeting on the development for the community in person at some point later.

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