Mixed-use project on Hancock St. earns support from the neighbors

A proposed five-story mixed-use building on the slope of Jones Hill received predominantly positive reviews in public comments submitted to the city this fall. The 233 Hancock St. project approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in October would bring 36 rental units and street-front gallery and retail space to a corner now occupied by auto shops.

In another endorsement of the development, the Meetinghouse Hill and Hancock Street civic associations both voted in support of the proposal.

Out of more than 70 comments submitted to the BPDA, some 60 neighbors, abutters, and nearby business owners said the project would bring needed investment in the area and contribute new workforce housing.

“To reiterate a point that has been stated many times, the current dilapidated property has been blighted for a generation, and it is to their great credit that the developers are hoping to turn this corner of our neighborhood around,” wrote Jonathan Lashley of Meetinghouse Hill Civic.

Along with the 36 residential rental units, the project would include 700 square feet of ground-floor retail space, 400 square feet of ground-floor gallery space, and 22 accessory off-street parking spaces in the building’s garage, which is accessible from Hancock Street. About 38 bicycles can be stored in a designated ground-floor area.

Those opposed — nine comments in total — primarily objected to the project’s density, size, and number of parking spaces.

“The size of the building and the architectural design do not fit into this neighborhood,” wrote abutter Charles Hulme, who was also distressed by new building designs across Dorchester that he considers too modern or blocky. “If the proposed design of 233 Hancock St. is approved, it will totally block any cool sea breeze that I have enjoyed for my whole life,” he wrote. “It will also effect [sic] the amount of sunlight and privacy that I am accustomed to. Is this the future of Dorchester, to build tall, square buildings with very little architectural appeal? I hope not.”

Five units are designated as affordable units for households earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the area median income, or about $50,000 to $100,000 in annual income.

Janet Jones of the Dorchester/Roxbury Labor Committee called the project “ill-conceived and in no way provides for the needs of our neighborhood.” She said the area needs more “stable housing with many more affordable housing units.”

Commenters were split on the amount of parking that would be adequate. Some said there should be a one-to-one ratio while others noted there were often available spots along the stretch and the site is near enough walk to the Savin Hill or Fields Corner T stations.

“I commend the development team for their willingness to bring change to the area,” wrote Vivian Girard, who owns the home.stead bakery and cafe with his wife. “Although I would favor more housing — especially more affordable units — and less parking, the building as it was presented appears of the proper scale and purpose for that street.”