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Developer shows off 19-story South End proposal that would include some affordable units aimed at working artists

Proposed Harrison-Albany building

Architect's rendering.

Leggatt McCall yesterday filed formal plans with the BRA for a two-building, 710-unit apartment complex it wants to build between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street and E. Dedham and E. Canton streets.

The Harrison Albany Block, which the company first outlined last fall, would replace a parking lot and some low-rise office buildings the developer bought from Boston Medical Center with two main buildings, one 19 stories tall, the other 11. In addition to housing, the buildings will include retail and office space. The existing Gambro Building would be renovated as part of the project; its existing tenants - a Boston Medical Center dialysis center and offices - would remain.

Leggatt McCall proposes digging out enough space for a 745-car garage.

The Project's design responds to the scale and history of the South End context through massing and materiality while identifying itself as a transformative, contemporary development.

The company says it will set aside some of the required affordable units for working artists, although it did not specify a number in its filing. It adds:

The Project will devote a minimum of 5% of its new non-residential floor area for affordable cultural space. The Project views this as an opportunity to embrace the Project Site’s location between a vibrant artist community, historic industrial uses, new small business, and the strong residential neighborhood. This will likely include a gallery and maker space. The maker space could be a shared workshop for residents and community members to work with their hands or build prototypes for new business ventures, a shared artist studio for artists from within the building and around the South End to practice their art, or a shared commercial kitchen where the community could gather around culinary workshops in celebration of an art form that is a key characteristic of the South End. The exact use will be confirmed at a later date, but the objective is to create a space for the community to collaborate and create.

The company hopes to begin construction early next year and build the development in phases that would end in mid-2022.

Harrison Albany Block

Harrison Albany project notification form (55M PDF).

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Comments

Michelle Wu tweeted this article out about development and it's worth a read

http://www.sightline.org/2014/07/08/are-you-planning-to-have-kids-part-1/

Basically, it compares the amount of kids in downtown Vancouver vs. Seattle and Portland and examines the ways in which zoning was used to promote spaces which would appeal to families. There are still issues such as a lack of school options and more, but I'd love to see this kind of thinking from the BRA.

Other examples of family friendly zoning:
required open area in the complex for playing
additional storage areas in the unit for bulky stuff like strollers
dedicated spaces within the development for businesses such as daycares to open up
availability of lower floor units for families with high rise towers for DINKs, single people, etc...

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Neither of those cities have oppressive zoning foisted upon the respective cities by an entity like the BRA which depends on red tape to extort vast sums of money.

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This article actually states the exact opposite of that: these cities have families in them because of municipal planning boards that required high-density construction to function as family housing, rather than targeting empty-nesters and students. "Oppressive zoning" (which is independent from the BRA, which I think we all agree is a giant clusterfuck) is how you encourage the sort of growth patterns you want for long-term growth and stability. We're now seeing the collision of demographic changes (the reversal of white flight and the sudden sea-change in how people view walkable neighborhoods) and horrible long-range planning.

It doesn't help matters any that BPS is a Balkanized, top-heavy institution that parents can't rely on. But what the hell, I'm making a go of it (kid starts school next fall, and we're staying in Boston), and if enough people see a path to affordable housing and halfway decent schools, then we'll start looking more like Vancouver.

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No middle class family is going to willingly live in the city with the risk their kid could end up at the equivalent of Hyde Park High if they can afford to be elsewhere. Fixing the schools is step 1.

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BPS is a pain to deal with, but lots of middle class families who could afford to move make it work somehow.

There are some less than stellar high schools, which people with options might balk at, but the exam schools take what, a quarter of the kids? Have you ever met a middle class parent who doesn't think their kid is in the top 25%?

The kindergarten lottery is a time when families leave. AWC test is a time when families leave, and this week, after the exam school letters were received, will also send a little business to suburban realtors.

Fixing the schools- if it ever happens - will only happen as part of a positive feedback loop. It will require a lot of disappointed middle class parents.

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Lots of middle class families choose to live in Boston, and put their kids in the BPS - thousands, in fact. We're one such family, Adam's is another.

Yeah, there's plenty of room for improvement in the city's schools, and some are real clunkers and should be completely overhauled. But there are also many that are quite good or even excellent. We live in undeniably working/middle-class Rosi, and our kid is getting a very good education. A big part of that is because we made the effort to research and make good school choices, and also have been active members of the parent community, and so added value to already good schools.

No doubt that Boston is a tough city to make ends meet for everyone, unless you're part of the 1%. But the myth that there's no middle class left, and that the public schools all suck, is just flat out wrong and so cynical that it short-circuits any productive conversation about what practical and doable improvements could/should be made.

Easier to bitch and moan though.

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Would you stay if your kid was not good enough for BLS/BLA and got tossed into English or Madison Park, and you didn't have the money for private school?

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You actually have to apply now. I'm not trying to reduce your moment of rhetorical triumph or anything, but so often arguments about Boston public schools tend to veer towards "facts" that are no longer true.

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Is that why BPS schools do not racially reflect the population?

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Hyde Park High School because of this common sense fact you point out. They first tried remodeling Hyde Park High, then renaming it...then...hello....

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I am aware, hence I said equivalent. HPH is why I went to private school as a kid and schools like it are why I am unlikely to stay in the city when buyinh a home.

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On the other hand, Boston actually has a LOT of family-sized housing stock. The trouble is, our large units in duplexes and triple-deckers become occupied by students or young professionals, who would much rather have a studio or 1BD, but units of those size or hard to come by or expensive. If we can build more low BD housing units we can free up some of our existing stock for families.

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that aren't assigned at random with no regard for the type of commute the parents and children will have in getting to school each day.

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That's not the reality, and hasn't been for decades. Repeating it just shows how uninformed you are.

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So if I wanted to live in Boston and enroll a child in the Boston Public Schools, I could read this page and follow this procedure:
http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/assignment

Or move to Newton and do this:
http://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/107

If I'm a concerned parent, which seems easier? Which seems to have a more predictable outcome for my child?

I worked with BPS kids and parents for a long time: if I'd had children I'd happily give the BPS assignment a shot and see how it goes. But the reality is, the parents who did well in that system put a lot of Extra Work into it, and let's face it, not everyone has the time, fortitude, or risk tolerance to do so.

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I can't speak to the current assignment system, but the one it replaced was agonizing to the point that we joined a parent group for our assignment zone that had weekly meetings where parents compared notes on visits to schools and talking about stuff like how to "take over" a school by having everybody in the group make that their first choice.

But at least for us (Jeff can obviously chime in), there was a value to all the agita (and don't get me started on the AWC process): From kindergarten on, our daughter has been in a school system that far better reflects the socioeconomic realities of a big city - most people are not just like her. It's not something she would have gotten in, say, Norwood (which is where middle-class folks from Roslindale were moving when we moved in). It's cool you could afford to live in Newton, but obviously that's not something most of us can say.

But beyond that, she got a good education - there are good schools and there are good teachers in Boston. It's a shame it can be such a struggle to find them, but it's really tiring reading comments from people who don't realize it's not the 1980s anymore.

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You forgot, earn enough money to buy a home in Newton THEN do the form.

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But A) You can sub any other town in for Newton with regards to school registration and B) You can rent instead of own and C) Renting or owning in Boston isn't cheap either.

Unless you're building dedicated low income housing, people who have an income will be weighing all these factors in deciding where to buy or rent. (Heck, I know someone who moved their kids to Malden to be able to afford laundry-in-unit. The kids were little and messy, the washer was more important than the commute.)

A complicated education system is just one more uncertainty to calculate into your decision.

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If they have enough money.

And some conclude they want to live in a suburb and some conclude they want to live in the city. To each his or her own.

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Maybe you can explain why BPS just assigned a kid from the south end to an underperforming school halfway across the city for kindergarten. It's still happening and one example is too many.

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Because of this type of administrative shit show the cost of administering this Monte Carlo calculation to place kids is pure madness. Shift resources back to developing great neighborhood schools.

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School busing is expensive, but it's a tiny, tiny part of a $1-billion budget. And because Boston has tons of tiny little schools, busing costs wouldn't go down all that much because you still need to bus special-needs kids around the city. And you'd need to build more schools in neighborhoods, such as the North End and West Roxbury, that don't have enough "neighborhood" seats already.

Also, as charter schools become more popular, BPS's busing budget goes up because a) charter schools are open enrollment citywide and b) State law requires BPS to provide busing for them.

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How about instead we just encourage building and let builders build what will attract tenants? The BRA has way to much involvement in development, largely in hindering it, already.

Until neighborhood schools return middle class families that are unable to afford private school are unlikely to return to the city.

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I'd like our government help prevent downtown Boston becoming a wasteland of empty investment properties in the portfolios of offshore buyers.

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Without buying controls building more won't help much with housing for locals or people that have jobs here rather than outside investors. Other places already have restrictions.

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And what type of restrictions?

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Vancouver is often mentioned as a "success" story for retaining families with children.

Boston is larger by ~50,000 people (in US dollars). Boston's metropolitan area population is larger by about a million people. Land mass is about the same (45-48 sq. miles).

However, I've read that Vancouver is also losing families with school-aged children. There are hypotheses about the reasons (higher home prices, the draw of the suburbs and more space, schools). Boston and Vancouver both have around 55,000 students in their public schools, although Boston has another 20,000 or so in private / parochial / charter / METCO schools.

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Is based on that hidden inconvenient truth that becomes apparent once you look at the demographics data for the two cities - notice anything different?

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Reading between the lines, I think you're saying Vancouver has a very large Asian community.

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What else?

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Canuck games are broadcast in Punjabi on CBC.

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I have friends who grew up in Vancouver and the neighborhood they grew up in and their parents grew up in is now chock full of investment/anchor homes of Chinese nationals, so there are fewer kids in many of the traditional residential neighborhoods.

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Other places have restrictions on buyers to try to prevent speculation from displacing locals and other workers. Canada and the US don't have those restrictions.

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So, I read that article (column?). Apparently, it will a two-parter, so keep an eye out.

The author ::brags:: that Vancouver has five-times as many children in its "downtown" than does Seattle and Portland, a total of 5,500 or so.

Boston, a larger city, has more children in its "downtown", too, if by downtown you mean Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End (#1), North End, Fenway, and Waterfront. And, of course, South Boston has over a thousand, but didn't include them.

So, problem solved? lol

(02116, 02115, 02118, 02110, 02109, 02113, 02114, 02108)

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that had units set aside for artists. Huge drug use in an expensive building, including strange smoke (not just weed smoke) getting into his expensive market rate unit.

They were actually an artist couple themselves, and had been looking forward to living in a building with artists. But were not happy about the druggie artist scene here, and how that made their building in some ways worse than drug-ridden public housing project.

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The one in Hyde Park that was selling for like 150k per unit 4 years ago? That project was and is public housing.

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My guess is some of the lofts down the Seaport area. They had some of the best parties where you could smoke strange stuffs late into the night.

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Looks like a large-scale hospital building that you would see in the Longwood medical area. It's over-sized and completely out of character with the neighborhood. Soon the South End will go the way of Scollay Sq. and other vibrant neighborhoods. It seems like the goal of South End developers is to eliminate character, diversity and uniqueness. What a shame.

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just to nitpick, this part of the South End was never Union Park. It was already pretty much demolished to make way for railroad-related stuff and has been kind of a mishmash of industrial and transportation for a while now. It's too bad that the artists who lived here at various points are gone, but I think that ship has really sailed.

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Its replacing a parking lot and is across the street from a highway. No one is going to miss what is there now. The real shame is still having surface area parking lots in dense parts of the city.

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The guy in charge of Clip and Paste some trees really earned his pay. I can hardly see the 700 units and the traffic.

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Maybe the building will allow some "artistes" like the
Cambridge architect profiled in Boston Magazine whose below market rate artists unit was filled with high end furniture and appliances, the likes of which many of his non-artist friends probably could not afford. Not to mention his high salary position at a local architecture firm.

My building has several below market rate artists units. One "artist" paints probably one canvas a year. The others all seem to have spouses or significant others who have incredibly high salaries. I wish I knew the "right people" so that I could live in a high end luxury building as an "artist." I would gladly paint my one painting per year or save my dryer lint to make a wall hanging or whatever.

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Yeah, that sounded pretty egregious, enough so that somebody I know actually called the BRA to ask what the deal was. And the deal was that at the time they bought that unit, they did qualify for the income requirements for an affordable unit - his business only took off after they'd already moved in, and there's no requirement that somebody sell a condo just because they do well in life after their purchase (however, when he sells, he'll still have to follow whatever the affordable-unit guidelines are, at least now that the BRA says it's learned how to use computers to track such things).

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Anon here is trying to tar an entire civic program because of one story made up--er, reported by Hannity. There's no room in here for the actual facts of the situation; the man has an agenda to push!

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In this case, I think it was a Boston Magazine writer so in awe of the amazing things the guy had done to turn a condo the size of a bathtub into something fit for a family of four, who had no clue about the BRA's affordability requirements or why highlighting the fact the guy installed an oven and couch pricier than many people's cars in a unit he bought in a housing lottery would strike a nerve.

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No condo giveaways to artists. Relatively few artists add value to society. Target those who add value, and pay them money. Just like everyone else.

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And it isn't very polite. So read between the lines.

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It was disappointing to read that only 5% of the units will be set aside for affordable units. In such a large development where economies of scale are often required by developers to accommodate affordable units, I had hoped that we would see something closer to 15-20% of the units designated as "affordable".

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