Walsh raises concerns about Savin Hill condo project

Mayor Marty Walsh said this week that he has concerns about the height of a condominium building being proposed for a neighborhood eyesore, a long-vacant parcel on Savin Hill Avenue next to Savin Bar and Kitchen and across from the MBTA station. On Tuesday, Walsh, who lives a block away, on Tuttle Street, said, “I haven’t seen the full plan. I certainly know that spot has to be filled. It’s been vacant for years, a decade now.”

While saying the developer of the project does “great, quality work,” Walsh added, “Three stories concerns me.”

The proposal calls for 13 units of housing and a single commercial unit on the first floor. The building will be cantilevered over Savin Bar. David Higgins, a private developer who co-owns the property, has partnered with the owners of the bar, Ken Osherow and Driscoll Docanto. RODE Architects’ Eric Robinson and Kevin Deabler are working on the look and feel of the building.

The Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association’s planning committee tackled the project on Tuesday night. After a contentious discussion the committee recommended that the association’s general membership approve the concept of 14 units with mixed use, contingent on the project getting a long-term off-site parking agreement. The final design of the project would be subject to approval from the planning committee or a subcommittee, according to a person who attended the planning committee’s Tuesday night meeting.

The planning committee will likely re-convene to review the proposal before the civic association’s May meeting. The project will be going before the Zoning Board of Appeals, though no date has been set.

Earlier, on Monday night, the transit-oriented proposal came in for criticism at a full meeting of the civic association from members skeptical that the new condo’s residents would stick to taking the MBTA.
Sydney Street is already jammed with cars, they said. One resident said the parking issue was a deal-breaker for him, but added that he was willing to support adding height to the project if parking was built onsite and under the condos. Such a move would likely drive up the cost of the project. “We can’t let that block be the way it is,” Docanto said. “We have to do something about it.”

A Dorchester resident, Docanto said there were ongoing talks with SPIRE, a printing company, to set aside parking spaces for the development. “We’re in a tight neighborhood,” he said. “They are stepping up as good neighbors.”

District 3 Councillor Frank Baker, who attended the civic association meeting, raised the possibility of condo occupants not being able to get resident parking stickers. The South End has a similar restriction, he said. Baker also said he was concerned about setting precedent in allowing for that many units with no parking.

“I think we definitely need to see something there,” Baker said of the empty parcel. “I’m still waiting for it to shake out.”