The Zoning Board of Appeal yesterday approved plans by the owner of the Linden Street block that houses the Garage nightclub with a three-building complex with 349 tiny apartments, including some lofts set aside for artists.
The Allston Green plan by Partners Properties also includes tearing down several houses along Pratt Street and calls for roughly half an acre of public space on the currently densely packed Linden Street. The complex is across the street from part of City Realty's four-building re-do of the intersection of Harvard and Cambridge streets and just up Pratt from the 17-story apartment building City Realty has proposed.
Partners won approval to build under the city's "compact living" pilot, which seeks to increase the number of units normal people can afford by letting developers build apartments smaller than normally allowed
Plans call for 186 studios, 116 one-bedroom units and 41 two-bedroom units. Some 53 of the units will be rented as affordable, including six loft spaces set aside for working artists. The artists will have a gallery and co-working space.
Partners attorney Johanna Schneider said the company, which will also manage the building once it's completed, has agreed not to rent to students - in an area of Allston that is saturated with them.
She said that in addition to asking would-be renters if they are students, and rejecting those who answer honestly, rental agents will also bar anybody who needs a co-signer for a lease, just in case some sneaky students lie about being students but need mom or dad's help making the rent. Also prohibited: Apartment subletting.
A skeptical board chairwoman Christine Araujo asked Anabela Gomes, president of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association, if she had heard any complaints about students at Partners' building at 1505 Commonwealth Ave. Gomes said she had heard no complaints from association members, including some who live in that building, who have said the building is "very well maintained" and "very quiet."
View down Linden Street:
Board members also expressed concerns about the way Partners proposed to comply with the "compact living" standards, which require developers to provide extra "amenity" or common space for residents in exchange for their smaller units.
After Schneider said Covid-19 had caused the development team to re-think the layout of some of the spaces to allow for more spaced out communal activities, Araujo said she was concerned that some of the units might still be too small. Referring to some of the studio apartments, she asked, "And in the age of Covid you did not look at the mental health being stuck in a 352-square-foot space?" Schneider said only two studios were actually that small, and besides, somebody feeling crammed in could always go outside to the new park space the complex will have. She did not say what this hypothetical resident would do in the winter or during a storm.
Board member Eric Robinson, an architect, criticized the fact that of roughly 10,000 square feet of communal space, some 1,900 square feet consisted of the lobby of one of the buildings. That's "not in the spirit of communal space," because lobbies are not usually the sort of place where people would get together to do anything, except leave. Schneider said Partners would re-examine the use of space.
The Partners complex will have 125 parking spaces.
The mayor's office and the offices of City Councilors Liz Breadon, Annissa Essaibi George and Michael Flaherty supported the project.
Despite the concerns, the board voted 6-1 to approve the plans. Member Kosta Ligris cast the lone opposing vote.
The BPDA board approved the plans in December.
The largest current building on the site, on Linden Street, went up as an industrial building in 1940, before being converted to office use. It eventually became home to the Russian Benevolent Society - managed by Alex Matov, one of the partners in Partners - which gradually morphed into Garage and the Crystal Restaurant.
Allston Green documents and renderings.
The view down Pratt Street:
The view from across Cambridge Street. The old Jack Young building, part of City Realty's project, is on the right: