The Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) held their monthly meeting at the Knights of Columbus on May 7, where they had a packed agenda with appearances by city officials and discussion of happenings in the community.
CNC Chair Tom Cunha led off the meeting by talking about the proposed billboards on Cambridge St., which were deferred at the Zoning Board of Appeal on Tuesday. People were displeased with the idea, Cunha said, adding that billboards are against the zoning for the area.
Brewer’s Fork and CPA Updates
Next was a presentation from Michael Cooney of Brewer’s Fork, who told the community that he is looking to take over the space that is currently occupied by the Navy Yard Bistro. Cooney said that the lease is up at the end of August, so he would like to start a new lease and put in a new restaurant that would serve both lunch and dinner with American bistro fare. He also hopes to have beer and wine, but “more on the wine side,” as Brewer’s Fork is already heavy on beer. Cooney proposed to gut the space to the studs and “start up fresh again.”
Comments from the CNC were that the Navy Yard Bistro has been an excellent neighbor and very generous to the community, so they would like to see the new restaurant act in the same manner. Cunha said that this matter would move to committee, where it will be discussed further.
Thadine Brown, Director of Community Relations for the City of Boston, gave an update on the Community Preservation Act. (CPA) Charlestown did not receive any funds during last year’s pilot round of CPA, but were recipients of $526,000 for three projects in the fall round. Charlestown received $500,000 to restore the exterior of Memorial Hall, $20,000 to add new sod, benches, and fencing for Kelly McGoff Park, and $6,000 for informational signs for Gardens for Charlestown.
Brown said that the next application round starts in August, and applicants can apply for funds for projects in the categories of affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space and public recreation. The deadline for applications is September 28.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards
Next up was City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who spoke on a number of topics ranging from development to affordable housing. She said that she thinks the CNC should consider a CPA committee to make sure Charlestown is asking for enough money from the CPA funds.
A large part of her presentation was related to the Bunker Hill development. She told the community that, as per a recent announcement from the mayor, the city would be putting out $30 million for phases one and two of the redevelopment. This money would be paid back over time through tax dollars from the development. Edwards said that the current proposal has four phases and would take 12 years to complete. It is being done this way in order to tear down as little as possible at a time so residents can stay on site.
Right now, Edwards said the proposal is 2800 units with 100 units off-site, but she said she would like to see those units stay somewhere in Charlestown. The current 1,100 deeply affordable units would be replaced one for one. Edwards has a tentative public meeting scheduled for May 29 at the Harvard-Kent to reveal the proposed design to the public “to make sure that we all see what it’s going to look like,” she said. The ultimate goal is to slow down the displacement of families and make sure they can stay on-site while their units are being rebuilt, Edwards said.
There were concerns from the CNC about how all of those extra people from the extra units would be handled, as well as parking. Edwards said the question of an infrastructure plan has been asked since day one, and said that having the phases will slow the process down and allow the neighborhood to better adjust. Though she did not have the phase-by-phase plan with her at the meeting, she said she will provide it to the community as soon as she has it available.
She also briefly discussed the capital projects that have been announced for Charlestown, including $1 million for the Ryan playground and $1.4 million for the Eden St. playground.
Edwards also spoke about the Cambridge St. billboard proposal, saying that she has received 59 emails in opposition of the project, as well as “calls all day for three days” from concerned Charlestown residents. “I don’t think the issue is yes or no,” Edwards said. “Mr. Owens is looking for ways to make money on his property.” She thinks that since people have not felt that they have had a conversation with him about his project, one would be effective to come up with a solution that works.
As far as the Little Mystic parcel that has a lease up at the end of June, Edwards wondered, “What can we do for Charlestown?” She said that the likelihood of getting housing in that location is “very, very low” due to the restrictions that are placed by the state on the use of the land. She said ideas like a dock for a ferry stop and a kayaking program that have been thrown around, and they are working on ways to use part of that land to access the water for free.
She also spoke about the pilot program for the activation of the Navy Yard this summer, with a beer garden, among other things. “I encourage folks to be attentive and express concerns,” Edwards said. “If it ends up being a hot mess, it could end.” She said that this is just a pilot and it is very open to changes and tweaks.
For the ambulance bay proposal, she said that the developer is still committed to building that and making sure we have two new spots, and is working out concerns about building too high and blocking the natural sunlight that currently hits the Gardens for Charlestown.
Chris Breen, BPDA
Chris Breen of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) gave a quick update about the BPDA activity in Charlestown. He said that there are currently no outside developers who have submitted a letter of intent with the BPDA for any other potential projects in Charlestown. There is an upcoming meeting for the Building 108 demolition, they are working on the lease and mitigation for the Little Mystic parcel, the Request for Proposal is upcoming for the EMS station, and the Navy Yard Waterfront Activation is currently working out a lease.
He said that while there is no official date set yet, he is looking at late May or early June for an environmental meeting of the Navy Yard to discuss how things like sea level rise are going to impact Charlestown and what can be done about it. He also talked about various other projects that are currently under construction or in development, such as 100 Hood Park Drive and 610 Rutherford Avenue. The CNC announced that there will be a public safety meeting on Wednesday, May 29, at 6 p.m. at the police station in Hayes Square.