By Stephen Quigley
Following last week’s public meeting that was coordinated by the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) on the proposed redevelopment of the former Constitution Inn in the Navy Yard, Boston City Councilor District 1 Gabriela Coletta sent a letter to Chief Arthur Jemison of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) seeking the denial of a request to waive Article 80 requirements by the proponent of the project located at 150 Third Avenue in the Navy Yard and to be renamed The Helm on Third.
Developers are seeking to remake the Inn into a residential facility with 126 dwelling units housing formerly homeless people into permanent housing. The project is being jointly sponsored by St. Francis House, the largest day shelter in Massachusetts, and the Planning Office, a non-profit housing developer affiliated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
The overview of the potential residential facility brought up multiple issues including the waiving of Article 80 requirements and other questions on safety from the more than 200 public attendees. Concerns over the profile of the potential residents, their stability, their ancillary problems such as mental illness, the occupants’ ability to adjust to a residential living environment after having been on the streets or shelters were aired. As the profile is likely to be more male than female, questions were raised as to whether any violence would occur in and around the facility. While the representatives from St. Francis House and the Planning Office who were in attendance tried to answer questions during the session and also took the community’s concerns under advisement, it is clear that more forums on this proposal will be necessary as the planning evolves. Neighborhood participants also noted that more advance notice for future open sessions on this proposal would be appreciated.
Coletta’s office heard concerns from many Charlestown constituents who are against the waiver and desire for a longer timeline that includes community input. Coletta believes the residents of Charlestown deserve to have a seat at the table and equal opportunity as other neighborhoods do under Article 80 to provide feedback and have their voices heard.
“A proposal of this size far exceeds the threshold of a large project review which triggers a community engagement process that could last upwards of one to two years” said Councilor Coletta. “Large project review allows for all stakeholders, both in the City and in the community, to adequately review and provide input to various components which include: affordable housing, transportation, environmental protection, climate resilience, urban design, historic preservation, utilities, and accessibility.”
Coletta said that the Article 80 process will allow more time for residents to review important details that will impact Charlestown and ultimately help define what this site will look like for future generations.
Coletta’s letter is printed in full:
RE: The Helm on Third, 150 Third Avenue in the Charlestown Navy Yard Request to Waive Large Project Review
Dear Chief Jemison,
I write to strongly encourage the Boston Planning and Development Agency (the “BPDA”) to deny the Planning Office for Urban Affairs and Saint Francis Housing, Constitution Inn LLC (the “Proponent”) request to waive Article 80 large project review for 150 Third Avenue in the Charlestown Navy Yard otherwise known as The Helm on Third. Residents of Charlestown deserve to have a seat at the table and equal opportunity as other neighborhoods under article 80 to provide feedback and have their voices heard.
The building located at 150 Third Avenue will be renovated to include 126 units of permanently affordable housing at different levels of income, as well as community space and amenities. There will be 96 studios dedicated to formerly homeless individuals and 30 units (2 studios, 24 one-bedroom, and 4 two-bedroom) of income-restricted workforce housing. A proposal of this size far exceeds the threshold of a large project review which triggers a community engagement process that could last upwards of one to two years. Large project review allows for all stakeholders, both in the City and in the community, to adequately review and provide input to various components which include: transportation, environmental protection, climate resilience, urban design, historic preservation, utilities, and accessibility.
My request to deny the Article 80 Large Project Review waiver is not to diminish the serious need for affordable housing in Charlestown or to call into question the intentions of the St. Francis House or the YMCA Boston. Income-restricted units help both low and middle-income households who are struggling to find units they can afford in our City’s expensive housing market. Additionally, St. Francis House has a good reputation for its existing services that provide support for residents including career training, job search assistance, mental health counseling, etc. Through the Article 80 process, we look forward to learning more about the proposed services provided as well as the critical components of the project. Residents deserve to have time to review important details that will impact Charlestown in perpetuity and ultimately help define what this site will look like for future generations.
In summary, it is my request that the BPDA deny the Article 80 Large Project Review waiver so that all stakeholders in Charlestown may be able to adequately voice their concerns, provide feedback, and have their questions answered. It is my hope that in further conversations through the Article 80 process we can achieve a modified proposal that addresses our dire affordable housing crisis while those who reside in close proximity can rest assured in the community process for this project and in the future of their neighborhood.
Tom Cunha, Chair of the CNC, said that more public meetings with the developers are planned. In the interim, Cunha urged residents to contact their local elected officials and let their views on the project be heard.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency has scheduled a virtual meeting on October 24 starting at 6 p.m.
The public is encouraged to submit comments about the proposed project. The current comment period will be open through November 07 2022, and can be extended if necessary. After the conclusion of the comment period, BPDA staff will review feedback and determine next steps. Proposed projects often go through multiple rounds of review. For any questions or concerns related to the comment period, please reach out to the Project Manager Sarah Black at [email protected].