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Community rips BRA at Parcel 3 meeting

Yawu Miller | 4/8/2009, 4:49 a.m.

Members of the development team say they had financiers committed to investing in the project and that the BRA stymied their efforts by refusing to grant them the legal permits necessary to gain access to the site to test the soil.

Dennis Tourse, attorney for Elma Lewis Partners, submitted to the Oversight Committee and Palmieri copies of correspondence with BRA staff documenting his attempts to obtain access to the site and demonstrating interest from financiers.

“How can we hear the BRA say we have done nothing when they have received in writing expressions of interest from well-capitalized financiers?” Tourse asked. “That seems disingenuous.”

City Councilor-at-Large Michael Flaherty, who is running against Menino in the upcoming mayoral election, asked why the BRA de-designated the Elma Lewis Partners during an economic downturn that has effectively put dozens of construction projects on hold.

“I think the role of the BRA is to support the community,” he said. “How is this project different from Heyward Place, a project that had no community support? It was designated in 2003. It’s now a parking lot.”

Flaherty pointed to Harvard University’s stalled development projects in Allston, which have left gaping holes in the ground there, and the halted redevelopment of the Filene’s site in Downtown Crossing, which he likened to the bombed-out Iraqi city of Fallujah.

“Everybody’s calling out [for] a moratorium,” Flaherty said. “[But] when it comes to Parcel 3, they want to de-designate.”

Palmieri said the development teams for the other projects had already completed their Article 80 processes, obtaining the necessary financing and permits.

Numerous audience members, including Flaherty’s fellow at-large city councilor and mayoral candidate Sam Yoon, asked Palmieri to restore the designation to Elma Lewis Partners.

Palmieri would not entertain the notion of re-designating the team, although he said the BRA would put the parcel out to bid again.

Yoon told Palmieri that community members no longer have faith in the BRA.

“How do you expect the process going forward will have any trust from the community?” he said. “I haven’t heard a single word of support for the BRA’s decision.”