May 11, 2017
Developer James Baker is expanding the scope of his proposed local market project on the corner of Savin Hill Avenue and Sydney Street to include more parking and 15 condominiums in a separate building, he told members of the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association at their planning meeting Tuesday night.
The long-empty corner property— once a busy variety store— will get a second chance as a neighborhood market, Baker says. Its design has not been altered much from the version pitched to the civic group in March, a staggered three-story structure that would house a first-floor market and two floors of retail space above. That plan was met with general support from members of the planning committee.
Baker purchased the property at 102-110 Savin Hill Ave. last July for $850,000 from longtime owner Anthony Desmond. He then closed on the abutting 10 Sydney St. in April for $1.1 million. He announced at the meeting that neighboring 14 Sydney St. recently came under agreement.
With the addition of the third parcel, Baker’s LLC controls the abandoned corner store, the three-decker, and a single family home, all abutting the Cristo Rey High School on Savin Hill Avenue.
The project is growing to include a residential component on the two Sydney Street lots, Baker said. At this early stage, Baker is pitching a 15-unit, three-story apartment building along Sydney Street, leaving room for 10 parking spaces behind the structure. Another two spaces would be allocated for retail only, he said.
Cristo Rey is in talks to help accommodate the retail needs, Baker said. The high school may allow them to move the location of the handicapped access ramp to open up some space along the property divide, as well as allow use of the school parking lot during non-school hours.
“We’re working to formalize an agreement,” Baker said, though nothing has been signed yet.
Kevin Deabler with RODE Architects said they are working on the design to allow the properties and the school to “cohabitate” in the neighborhood.
“If you ever come back there during the day, during the school periods, this parking lot gets kind of jammed, kind of a do-si-do parking lot, just kind of jam in there and hope you come out,” Deabler said, pointing to the lot at the rear of Cristo Rey on Sydney and Tuttle streets. “If it’s done correctly, we should be able to provide some parking for them, so they can keep all their needs as is but also have this opportunity for a shared portion for this to operate more efficiently.”
Given the project’s proximity to the Savin Bar and Kitchen site and corresponding Flats on Savin, attendees worried about cumulative parking congestion in the neighborhood. The 14 condominiums above the Savin restaurant were approved without parking spaces, which remains a point of some displeasure for the civic group.
“You know, when you came to us two months ago, you were a hero, because you were taking an abandoned building to do something really nice, and I thought you had a tremendous amount of support,” said Don Walsh. “Well now you’ve got something which is very different, and if you were doing this any other place, where you weren’t adjacent to the problem building on Savin Hill Avenue, I don’t think you’d get any support from this group.”
Baker said he understood. “Being from the neighborhood, I probably wouldn’t have proposed it anywhere else.”
Its access to the Savin Hill T station and the Cristo Rey parking component are central to the pitch, he said.
Baker is soliciting community feedback through a project page on coUrbanize.com. Residents will be able to see plans and offer comments on the project through the website.