By Adam Swift
After nearly two years of development and public meetings, the 40 Roland St. mixed-used project is getting close to a vote for approval by the Boston Planning and Development Agency Board.
The board was expected to schedule a public hearing on the project on Thursday for its September meeting.
“The sites are just west of I-93 and the Lost Village inner belt neighborhood of Charlestown,” said project architect Laura Rushfeldt at a BPDA Impact Advisory Group (IAG) and public hearing on the project last week.
The project consists of 127 housing units at 128 and 145 Cambridge streets, over 650,000 square feet of office and lab space at a 10-story building at 40 Roland St., and the reuse of the existing building at 25 Roland St. for 25,000 square feet of subsidized community retail space. In addition, the plans call for nearly 7,000 square feet of open space at 89 Cambridge St.
Twenty percent of those housing units in the two proposed six-story buildings on Cambridge Street will be affordable units.
At last week’s online meeting, Rushfeldt and the development team from RISE highlighted the minor design changes the project has undergone in the past several months.
IAG members were generally supportive of the plan, but still raised questions about the traffic impact the project will have on busy Charlestown streets and the use of green space associated with the project.
Mike Messina, the project manager from RISE, highlighted the proposed mitigation and community benefits of the project, as well as the transportation demand management measures that will be in place. Among the highlights of the transportation plan is a proposed shuttle bus service that could be operated along with other major developers in Charlestown that would be free of charge to all neighborhood residents.
The project also includes “the creation of 1.6 acres of publicly accessible open space, both activated and passive, and that includes the 89 Cambridge St. (lot),” said Messina. “We want that final design to be one the community supports and uses.”
Messina said there will be the investment of millions of dollars in roadway improvements along Cambridge, Roland, and Crescent streets among other areas.
The 25,000 square feet of subsidized community retail space will meet the needs of local businesses and the community by helping the local business community and providing needed services for residents.
The project also preserves the historic nature of the Sullivan Square neighborhood, both with the use and rehabilitation of the existing 24 Roland St. building and incorporating an historic wall and other features at 40 Roland St.
In addition to the proposed shuttle service partnership with the developers of 66 Cambridge St., 1 Mystic Ave., and 425 Medford St., Messina said there are a number of other transportation mitigation measures included in the project. Those include Bluebike membership subsidies for tenants of the new buildings, bus shelter upgrades along Cambridge Street, and low parking ratios for the buildings on the site.
Several IAG members said they appreciated the work that has gone into the project, but that there still needed to be safety upgrades, especially for pedestrians on some of the streets around Cambridge Street.
“We need to push to get raised crosswalks on Brighton and Parker,” said Steve Jenal. “Living in this neighborhood, we need to push for more safety for traffic coming through our neighborhoods.”
Nancy Johnson said she appreciated the work that had gone into revising the plans for the project over the past several years.
“I particularly appreciate the integration of the existing buildings into the design,” said Johnson.
Brian Callahan suggested the developers work with the historical society in Charlestown, especially in some of the designated open spaces, to identify and mark some of the long history of the area.
“The last person killed in the Battle of Lexington and Concord happened on Cambridge Street in the village when a British soldier heading into Charlestown proper shot a young man standing at a window,” said Callahan.
Like several other IAG members, Callahan also asked that the developers work with the community now and in the future to help mitigate the traffic that comes through the residential streets.
Several IAG members said they also supported a plan for a sign or public art that would delineate the project in Charlestown from the nearby Somerville boundary.