Charlestown Preservation Society Opposes One Charlestown Plan

By Seth Daniel

The Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) has issued and submitted a three-page letter of concerns to the City and the Mayor’s Office regarding the One Charlestown project in its current form.

The three-page letter is signed by CPS President Ellen Kitzis and Design Review Chair Bill Lamb, and was a true collaborative work within the organization.

The letter has been submitted to the City, and it was endorsed last week by the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC), which read the letter in its entirety during the CNC meeting.

“We thought we needed to take a more visible position on what was going on here,” said Kitzis. “People around the Town like to know what we’re thinking and they expect us to have a position.

“One of the biggest things we’re doing is to let them know they haven’t done a very good job of communicating the project to the residents and we want them to see that the CNC is a vehicle for them to use in communicating better with the residents,” she continued. “What is happening is the community is now self-educating…That’s creating a big gap in what the community wants and what the City thinks it wants. If we don’t start closing that gap now, we’re going to have a very unhappy interaction soon. People do expect us to have some thoughts.”

And plenty of thoughts there were in the letter, which comes during a 90-day delay on development review of the project by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) – a delay that ends in March.

First and foremost, CPS said it supports replacing the Bunker Hill Development with something new, but at the same time it has problems with the replacement project as proposed. The proposal looks to take 1,110 public housing units and combine them with market rate units and retail space to make a new 13-block community of nearly 3,000 units of market-rate and public housing.

“This is the largest residential project ever to be built in Charlestown,” read the letter. “It sets a disturbing pattern for future development within the historically significant Breeds Hill area. We are concerned about the number of planned units, the height of buildings on the site, and the impact on the overall life of this community. Secondly, we are concerned about the public process and lack of information available to the community. There have been only a couple of meetings of the project’s appointed Impact Advisory Group (IAG). With one of our Board members on the IAG, we know that they too, feel in the dark. This process bypasses the Charlestown Neighborhood Council which is well known for being the go to organization for issues of such magnitude for the community. We are, however, very appreciative of the IAG’s request a ninety-day moratorium on the project to allow for more community input.”

Other concerns laid out in the letter are:

  • The two-to-one increase in units will create approximately 4,400 additional people moving into the Town, which is a 25 percent increase in population. This, combined with other developments, will add even more to the population. The concern is whether the local infrastructure, school and public safety resources can handle the increase.
  • The plan call for a doubling of the allowed density, known as the Floor Area Ratio (FAR), of 2 FAR. CPS is worried this increased density could become a precedent for other developers in the future.
  • The six-story row houses within the development are not consistent with the rest of the neighborhood and will not blend in with the neighborhood.
  • The 21-story towers abutting the Mystic/Tobin Bridge would have a significant impact on the remarkable views of the Bunker Hill Monument as seen from the Bridge.

“We do not endorse these tall buildings,” read the letter.

  • CPS does not believe the developer and the Boston Housing Authority have communicated well with the greater community, and call for communications to go through the elected CNC, which CPS called the Town’s most central community resource.

“The IAG formation has lagged the project planning process,” read the letter. “Hence little engagement with the community. Much of the IAG communication has only been with the developer.  We have not heard directly from senior BPDA and BHA officials.”

  • Finally, they ask the developer to review the size of the project, use alternative funding to support this effort, recognize the CNC as a voice in the community for this project and create more active forums for feedback.

“Our mission includes protecting the unique historic character of Charlestown while guiding responsible development and educating our community,” concluded the letter.

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