Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Notes From Last Night's BRA Meeting on

Summary:
  • Representatives from the proposed 316-322 Summer St. and 49/51/63 Melcher St. projects presented overviews of the projects. In spite of both projects receiving very strong criticism from the neighborhood last Spring, both were unchanged.
  • Residents reiterated concerns over both projects as well as the lack of residential development, artist housing and work spaces, open spaces, and general progress towards the vision of a mixed-use neighborhood.
  • FPAC approached the Mayor and the BRA a couple of weeks ago trying to get something for the artists loosing their leases in those buildings. As a response to this, the BRA has been working with Archon to get $600k allocated to create studio space for a small group (20-40?) of arists in 319 A St. rear for two years. The $600k will come out of linkage money and will pay for the conversion.

My rough, incomplete notes (if you have corrections/additions, mail them to me at: fpna@dewdrops.net):

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BRA Community Meeting
316-322 Summer St. and 49/51/63 Melcher st.
12/1/2008

Kairos Shen, Chief Planner, BRA, spoke first. He said that the city has been working with Archon to secure 319 A St. rear to relocate artists displaced from the Archon space to that building for 2 years at rents of $9 / square foot. And, hopefully, they will be able to get Archon to extend leases of those artists for their existing space until 319 is built out.

The BRA has been talking to Archon about deeding a building to the city a la the Midway Studios project. 327 Summer St. is the building they're looking at (~47K sqft or about 40 units). Linkage payments from the district would be used to pay for the buildout.

On Thursday, there's a public BRA hearing on 316-322 Summer and 49/51/63 Melcher. He recognizes that at the last public meeting, there were significant community concerns about a number of issues with the project.

Kairos also said that talks had begun in doing the engineering work behind the streets and open spaces for the 100 Acres plan.

The team for 49/51/63 Melcher St. then spoke and presented the same project shown last Spring, which is still office space with first floor retail and involves a large rooftop addition and a filling in of the notches of the building on Necco St. My notes from the Spring meeting are in this post.

The team for 316-322 Summer St. then presented their project which was also unchanged since last Spring and, like the Melcher St. project, is office space with a significant rooftop addition.

The community then asked questions. The concerns raised included:

  • The BRA is putting the artists who would get space at 319 A in a tough position (essentially buying their support for the development project... and buying it cheaply). Some residents called it cynical and divisive of the BRA to do this. Kairos responded that he made it clear to everyone that no one was asking them to automatically support the project. He also said that he had not initiated the talks. A month and half ago, he had assumed that a solution wouldn't be found to the artist leases, but that FPAC had initiated the talks at the 11th hour through the mayor and the BRA and that that is why the BRA explored it this late in the game.

  • The Summer St. project was granted a rooftop addition as part of a residential project. The addition is worth many millions of dollars ($18 million was thrown out; the developer said it was a lot less.. probably $4 million). Now that it's office space, they should not automatically still get to keep it.

  • The Melcher St. project is the first under the 100 Acres plan and it's setting a bad precedent by allowing the plan's development to be front-loaded with additions and office space build-outs happening first and residential, civic, and open spaces being put off (which jeopardizes their happening at all).

  • A representative from Studio Soto (which was evicted from Melcher St in the past year) asked to be included in the lease negotiations. Archon said they'd look into it, but the leases would first go to those with existing space.

  • A representative from them electrical workers union voiced his support for doing the project for the jobs it would create.

  • A common theme expressed by a number of residents was that people are angry that while, large visions of a mixed-use neighborhood have presented by the BRA and developers like Goldman, the reality has been that the development has been mainly office space with some retail, there has been little progress on open spaces, and that 100s of artists and local businesses have been forced out of the neighborhood. People are tired of seeing developers get favorable concessions from the BRA and little progress being made towards the building of a real neighborhood.

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