As Hood Park gets ready to face a vote of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Board this evening (March 14), the developer announced on Monday night that they are adding even more mitigation to the community than previously discussed.
The final Hood Park community meeting took place on Monday night, March 11, to conclude seven months of planning in nine community meetings. The prime topic of discussion for the meeting, however, was the mitigation package, and Hood announced two surprises within the ‘Community Benefits’ section of its agreement.
Those two items were a $150,000 commitment to a BPDA planning study of the Rutherford/Sullivan Square corridor, as well as a $2.5 million space on the new campus for a Boston Public Schools ‘Education and Nutrition’ program to benefit children citywide.
Mark Rosenshein, of Trademark Partners, said they had agreed to the planning study money just recently.
“We have committed $150,000 to that planning effort,” he said, “which to the best of our knowledge would be about half of the overall cost. The idea is there has been an uptick in development in Charlestown. There has been a call to have some planning done…The geographic boundaries have not been determined. The idea as we understand it is to get the funding in place and then work with the community to define the boundaries. Some might wonder when is the planning study happening. The answer is we’re putting in our $150,000 to get it started.”
The second piece was brand new and was as much a surprise as it was vague. That commitment was to carve out 35,000 sq. ft. within the Campus, or to contribute $2.5 million “for a to-be-determined program use focused on Education and Nutrition for youth in the Boston.”
That was a commitment that seemingly had come from the Mayor’s Office or City Hall, and many on the Impact Advisory Group (IAG) were surprised to hear of it. While the option existed to contribute money towards a program elsewhere, it was believed that the money option wouldn’t be exercised, as the schools are more interested in programming space than money.
But what was the space?
It wasn’t certain on Monday, but Rosenshein said it wouldn’t be classroom space.
“It isn’t going to be a school,” he said.
“The City asked us to solve a big City of Boston issue, and this is our big City of Boston issue,” he added.
IAG member Stephanie Ward-MacIsaac was concerned that mitigation for Charlestown was going to go to, or benefit, kids from other neighborhoods.
“I think other neighborhoods should also have to put something similar in so we can dip into that at some time too,” she said. “I think mitigation in our community should stay in our community.”
Said Rosenshein, “This is a significant conversation at the City level so the expectation is that it benefits Charlestown and the city as a whole.”
Beyond those two items were many of the expected items that had been hammered out over several months with the IAG.
One of the highlights is the KidLab or CitizenLab that has long been promised within the parking garage structure that is now under construction. That space would be a STEM/science based program that is new and unique to Charlestown and would exclusively serve the youth and adults in the community.
Another major piece of mitigation long in the making, which is now on paper, is the commitment to the Hood Green open space. A new wrinkle in that is that it is promised much earlier in the development phasing. Before, the open space had been promised within the last phase of development after Rutherford Avenue had been reconstructed. That has now been moved up several years to the second phase.
A final item is to build, maintain and provide a crosswalk with a stoplight across Rutherford Avenue as a temporary measure until the corridor is rebuilt. That will allow better access between the Hood Park and the core of the neighborhood.
One other smaller, but interesting, piece of mitigation within the 14-page document was that Hood Park promised to do everything it could to make sure Affordable Housing Linkage fee payments made to the City would stay in the community to building affordable housing within the neighborhood – as opposed to going into a large pot to be used citywide.
Hood Park will go before the Board for a vote Thursday evening. After that, they will proceed to the Zoning Commission for final approval. They also have to clear the state environmental regulation (known as MEPA) process before they can get a building permit to proceed.
The mitigation agreement would be solidified and signed off after the Board vote.