Zoning board okays mixed-use complex for vacant property on Bowdoin Street

The lot at 171-179 Bowdoin St. Google Earth image

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the construction of a new mixed-use building on what is now a vacant lot at 171-179 Bowdoin St.   The four-story project will include three commercial retail units on the first floor with elevator access to nine two-bedroom rental units. Thirteen on-grade parking spaces will be included at the rear of the building. 

The building will be constructed on approximately 10,000 square feet of land and the residential units will range in size from 915 square feet to 1,000 square feet. One of the nine residential units will be reserved as an affordable housing unit. 

Multiple individuals rose to support the project, including representatives from both the mayor’s office and various City Councillors’ offices. 

“We did conduct the community process that relates to this, meeting with the relevant civic groups. We are in support at this time and are particularly grateful that they are including an affordable unit as part of this project,” said Faisa Sharif of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services.

Dustin Gardner expressed support of the project on behalf of Councillor Andrea Campbell’s office, as did Karen Foley from Councillor Anissa Essaibi-George’s office. 

Nancy Miller, who lives near the empty lot, was the only individual to stand before the board in opposition. She cited issues over lack of parking, arguing that the complex would add to the problem. 

The proponent, Matt Mueller, co-founder of Hue Architects, was on hand to make the case for the development, which needed zoning approvals for insufficient front yard and side yard setbacks and excessive height in both stories and feet. The required height in the area is currently zoned at 3 stories, or 40 feet. 

“Are there any other buildings in the immediate vicinity that are the same height as this proposal?” asked ZBA Chair Mark Erlich of Mueller.
“Because the street is on a slope and a lot of these houses are set up, some of the houses across the street are actually higher than our building,” said Mueller. “I think that we would probably be about two or three feet higher than the current three-families and the mixed-use buildings going down Bowdoin.” 

Erlich asked the development team where the nearest transportation access to the property is, and also if they had confirmed tenants for use of the commercial space at the ground level. Mueller pointed out that the property is adjacent to two MBTA bus lines that run along Bowdoin Street, and that the team has not yet identified retail tenants.