Quantcast

Public probes Dudley tower plan

Affordability, parking, condos discussed

Yawu Miller | 8/2/2017, 10:25 a.m.
Affordability, density and parking have become the three points of contention between real estate developers and residents of Boston neighborhoods. ...
Joao DePina (right) asks a question as (l-r) Lara Merida, Beverly Johnson and Lisa Guscott look on. Banner photo

Affordability, density and parking have become the three points of contention between real estate developers and residents of Boston neighborhoods. In Dudley Square, where a team of black developers is planning a 26-story office and residential tower, those factors were at the forefront of a meeting with the development’s project review committee.

The July 25 public meeting was held as part of the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Article 80 process, through which neighborhood residents weigh in on possible effects of a building project on its surrounding community.

Long Bay Management CEO Lisa Guscott makes a point. Looking on are David Lee, Beverly Johnson, Dana Whiteside and Lara Merida.

Banner photo

Long Bay Management CEO Lisa Guscott makes a point. Looking on are David Lee, Beverly Johnson, Dana Whiteside and Lara Merida.

While the developers of the Guscott Rio Grande project plan to set aside 20 percent of the 219 apartments as affordable — in excess of the 13 percent required by the city — the project would be the tallest building ever in Dudley Square, and includes plans for offsite parking only.

Project architect David Lee gave an overview of the project, showing renderings of the tower, which will incorporate the limestone façade and much of the interior of the existing 1899 Roxbury Institution for Savings and a glass-enclosed atrium that will connect the former bank building with the tower.

Shadows cast by the tower will have a limited effect on the surrounding area, reaching the playing field at nearby Madison Park Technical Vocational High School only during winter months.

Project Review Committee members asked immediately why the development team is not planning to include condominium units.

“The quality of life in Roxbury is dependent on homeownership,” said Project Review Committee member Scotland Willis.

Development Consultant Tom O’Malley, who is investing in the project on behalf of Building America CDE, an AFL-CIO affiliate, said the market would not support condominiums in the building.

“We would not finance condominiums,” he said. “It’s too risky.”

Long Bay Management Co. CEO Lisa Guscott said the project may incorporate condominiums at a later date.

“This project is moving too fast,” she said. “We had to take condos off the table for now.”

Affordability debate

Asked about why the affordable units in the Guscott Rio Grande project were designated for incomes 70 to 80 percent of the HUD-defined Area Median Income, as opposed to lower incomes, Lisa Guscott said many other units in the area are deeply affordable.

“When you look at affordable housing in the Dudley area, the percentage is very high. We’re trying to create a mix of people,” she said.

“Roxbury has the highest percentage of affordable housing in the city,” added Greg Janey, whose construction firm Janey Company is in a joint venture with Gilbane construction to build the tower.

Project Review Committee member Luther Pinkney said bringing more market-rate tenants to the area would be a boost to businesses like the Dudley Dough restaurant he manages.

“We need people who can buy our products so we can better serve our community,” he said. “We need more mixed income. We need more people with higher incomes.”

But Roxbury social entrepreneur Bridgette Wallace argued much of the new housing being built in Roxbury and its surrounding neighborhoods is creating a racial imbalance in the city.