By Seth Daniel
Project managers from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) told a meeting of the One Charlestown Impact Advisory Group (IAG) on Thursday evening, April 27, that the original proposal presented to the community by Corcoran/Suncal last fall has been ruled out, and the developers were told to formulate a different plan.
The meeting was the first official BPDA meeting since development review of the project was put on hold back in December. That delay in review expired on March 30, and the IAG meeting was the breaking of the ice on how the process was to move forward. While the official process has been on hold, it doesn’t mean the Town has stopped meeting and talking about One Charlestown. Numerous citizen-generated meetings have taken place, thousands of fliers have been distributed from a group headed by Eileen Donovan and Mary Boucher, and one resident has drawn up an alternative plan on his own for the project to possibly spark new ideas.
New Project Manager Raul Duverge said the IAG meeting was a way to update the IAG, and the public, on what has happened and what will transpire over the next few months.
One thing he made clear was that the old plan will not stand.
“We heard all of your comments very loud and clear,” he said. “When we got together with the development team, we reiterated there are things they needed to address before they could move this project forward in any way…That means modify. They can’t just come back with the same project.”
Duverge said that between January and March, the BPDA and other City agencies, such as the Boston Transportation Department, met with the developers to go over the comments. He said they told the developer that certain things had to change and a revised plan can be submitted.
“There is no deadline,” he said. “What they’re telling us is they would have this proposal in late spring or early summer.”
The next stage in the project is for the BPDA to produce a Scoping Document, and that is to be available very soon. That will open up Corcoran to being able to file it’s Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR), a much more detailed report that will likely have most of the changes and modifications within it.
The Scoping Document will likely detail the various comments summed up by Duverge – the matters that needed to be addressed and the modifications that needed to be made based on community and City department comments.
Once the DPIR is filed, that will trigger another 75-day comment period and a series of public meetings based upon that new plan submission.
Corcoran has said it has a new plan that it will unveil to the community very soon.
One of the major issues the IAG said it wanted to talk about was the Request for Proposals put out by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) prior to Corcoran being named as the developer.
Duverge said one helpful meeting in the near future might be to have the BHA come before the IAG to explain the differences between the RFP and the proposal. Most every IAG member expressed concern that the proposal had so many more units that the RFP called for.
The RFP calls for 2,100 units – a one-to-one ratio of 1,100 public housing units and 1,100 market rate housing units. However, the proposal unveiled last fall has more than 3,000 units with more of a 2-to-1 ratio.
The numbers of units and the density on the property will be key points to discuss in the coming months.
“Moving forward, I think that they have to figure out what the sweet spot is for the community (on the numbers of units),” said Duverge.
Eileen Donovan, who attended the meeting, said her group met with Joe Corcoran, and he has come down on the units, but not to a point of the 2,100 unit RFP.
“We heard Joe Corcoran say 2,700 units about three or four weeks ago,” she said. “That number came out of Joe Corcoran’s mouth three or four weeks ago when we met with him. That’s where he is today.”
Another point of interest was the idea of spreading the units out onto other properties, an idea that has been quietly considered by many and that was highlighted in the alternative plan created by Sy Mintz.
IAG member Andy O’Hearn said he was intrigued by Mintz’s idea to spread the project out, decreasing the density, by putting housing along the Little Mystic Channel.
“I think one thing everyone is concerned about is the density and does it all have to happen on this one site,” he said.
There has been no other official BPDA meeting scheduled yet on the project, but more are likely to come in the next few weeks.