Residents discuss future development plans for Armory

About 30 people turned out for a meeting at the Schrafft’s Center Wednesday night to discuss the redevelopment of the Charlestown Armory.
 The joint community meeting was sponsored by the city’s DND (Department of Neighborhood Development) and a sub-committee of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council Development.
The meeting was held to get input from residents as to what requirements and uses should be included in an RFP (request for proposal) for potential developers of the historic site.
Residents discussed whether the Armory should be developed into residential or commercial space or some mixture of both.  They agreed that the RFP should prohibit 100 percent commercial use of the space.
Neil McLaughlin, whose property abuts the Armory, said parking is a problem in the area.
“Parking is the main issue.  There’s no place to park now.  If you have 100 more people coming into the neighborhood, you need to put those cars somewhere,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin and other residents say they’re frustrated with how long it has taken to move forward after plans to redevelop the site stalled in 2007.
Reay Pannesi, senior project manager for the DND, who chaired the meeting, says the economy and a bad real estate market were the reasons the project didn’t move forward but feels confident that plans are now on the right track.
“A survey has been done and title issues have been identified.  The real estate market is on an upswing.  We hope to keep this on an aggressive time schedule and have the RFP out by the spring and a developer selected by the fall of next year,” said Pannesi.
 Marc Pelletier, whose property abuts the Armory and has lived in Charlestown for 30 years, says he wants to preserve the character of the building.
“I would like to see an RFP that respects the historic nature of our neighborhood and preserves the architectural integrity of the building as it relates to our neighborhood,” said Pelletier.
Other residents felt that affordable housing for Charlestown residents should be included in any plans.
Pannesi said it was a good meeting because the focus was narrowed down quite a bit.
“We want to give neighbors a voice in this project.  People in Charlestown are very astute and community minded,” added Pannesi.
The Armory, a Georgian Revival masonery structure which is now vacant, was built in 1907.  It is located between Auburn and Baldwin Streets and spans an entire block.  It was originally built to house local military companies.
 Up until 2010, the Boston Public Library used the Armory to store the Jordan collection, the largest collection of children’s books in the world.
No date has been set for the next meeting but Pannesi expects one will be scheduled right after the holidays.

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