Residents weigh in on residential plans for vacant Morrissey Blvd. lot

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Dec. 11, 2012

Dorchester residents and elected officials sounded notes of support on Monday night for a residential project next to the JFK/UMass MBTA station. But the chair of a task force that set up guidelines for development on Columbia Point expressed dissatisfaction with the density of the five-story project.

At a public meeting at Boston College High School, David Greaney, founder and president of Synergy Investment & Development, presented his plans for 278 units in between the MBTA station and the Shaw’s supermarket. The 270,000 square foot project would have 174 units in one building and 104 units in another.

Greaney said he is aiming for a “pretty aggressive” schedule, with a groundbreaking set for next year. The $60 million project would ideally be complete by Sept. 2014, he said.

State Rep. Marty Walsh, who represents the area, said he liked what he saw. “This has been a long time coming to the neighborhood,” he said, recalling when a past owner of the 2.35 acre property had unsuccessfully proposed an 8-story hotel.

“I’d rather look at this than a Ramada building,” said Kevin McMahon, a Crescent Ave. resident who would be living close to the new building.

But Don Walsh, who chaired a task force appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino and charged with coming up with a master plan for a burgeoning Columbia Point, said he would oppose the project.

“He’s not building enough,” Walsh said of Greaney, noting that the master plan allows for a 16-story building.

“It kills the master plan,” said Walsh. “I’m disappointed.”

During the master plan meetings in 2010, Walsh had expressed hope that the Columbia Point neighborhood would become more like the South End, and have something like the Prudential Center tower.

Greaney said the master plan, which lays out guidelines for developers for the next 20 years, had drawn criticism from residents who did not want a 15-story building in the neighborhood.

A tower isn’t economically viable, he added, because people would not be able to pay the same rents as a building in downtown Boston.

Greaney said he was hoping to charge between $1,250 a month to low $2,000s a month. The units would be for people early in their careers, nurses, city workers, and young couples who make between $40,000 and $60,000 a year, he added.

Asked by District 3 Councillor Frank Baker about the breakdown in the sizes of the units, Greaney said the buildings would be predominately made up of studios and one-bedroom units, with 31 two-bedroom units and 8 three-bedroom units.

A 2-story parking garage built into one of the planned buildings would act as a buffer to the noise from Interstate 93 and the rumbling of MBTA trains, according to Nancy Ludwig, principal at Icon Architecture. There would be 143 parking spaces available to residents.

The project would create 180 construction jobs and 4 permanent jobs for workers inside the building, she said.

A new “Main Street,” in between the two buildings, and a courtyard would also be created, she said.

The two buildings were dubbed “East” and “West.” The metal-sided East building will have 174 units and a C-shape, while the West would have 104 units and an L-shape and masonry to help with its adjacency to I-93.

Paul Nutting, a Savin Hill resident, said he was disappointed with the lack of retail space in the designs.

Greaney said he had spoken with retailers, who had said they felt the neighborhood was not yet fully established. “The last thing you want is an empty storefront,” he said.

Greaney, who also owns the real estate and the building being used by Shaw’s, was also pressed on whether the supermarket will stay where it is. Supervalu Inc. is reportedly struggling, laying off workers and closing some stores.

Greaney said the Shaw’s on his property is profitable, given its location in the neighborhood, and the company plans renovations.

“There will always be a grocery store there,” he said.