The years-long saga regarding the purchase and development of the Fitzpatrick Brothers property on Centre Street near Shawmut Station took a strange and “awkward” turn at the July 6 Codman Square Neighborhood Council (CSNC) meeting: The Epiphany School announced plans to purchase and develop it despite the fact that Trinity Financial had filed plans of intent with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) for an apartment building on the site on June 13.
The Epiphany announcement was a surprise to some, especially to Chris Stanley, assistant vice president of design and construction at Trinity Financial, who called the move by Epiphany “awkward,” and added that it was “unfortunate” that Epiphany was taking this route.
Epiphany School Director John Finley, who was accompanied by a cadre of school leaders, said the institution planned to make a “serious offer” for the Fitzpatrick Brothers property on which it would develop 100 percent affordable housing with less density than the Trinity proposal and potentially expand their school by also utilizing their existing parking lot adjacent to Fitzpatrick.
“We’ve been aware of [Trinity’s] project for a long time and we have our own proposal that respects the need for transit-oriented development that is needed but without the same density,” said Finley. “We would utilize the auto body shop and our parking lot and that would allow us to develop with less density. We’re prepared to make an offer for the property.
“We’ve built two buildings in the neighborhood and have a track record here…We’re not saying the Fitzpatrick Brothers should give it to us. We’re prepared to make a very serious offer…We have secured the funds to purchase the site.”
Finley noted that the school has a donor who stepped up recently to bolster their fundraising for the purchase. Long-time Epiphany Principal Michelle Sanchez said that since they aren’t developing as a business, they have more leeway – highlighting the model they used previously of building affordable housing for teaching staff.
Added Epiphany Buildings and Grounds Director John Kennedy, “We are totally committed to making this happen.”
Still, this was all news to Trinity Financial, which filed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the BPDA last month to purchase the Fitzpatrick Brothers property and build a three- or four-story building containing 74 units in a mix of studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedrooms. The project would include 60 percent of the units as affordable and would have 39 parking spaces in an underground garage.
“This is awkward, and I can’t put it any other way,” Stanley said. “Everyone has a story. I think John Finley is telling a story that he feels is the appropriate way to tell the story, but Trinity has a different story. We feel like this is a great site.” He added that Trinity had approached Epiphany three years ago to work together on developing the site and were turned away.
“Chris, that’s not true,” retorted Finley in an exchange that went on until CSNC President Cynthia Loesch-Johnson stopped it.
“This kind of presentation is problematic from my point of view,” said Stanley. “We control the site, and we are doing our best to present our project transparently to everyone.”
Stanley indicated that he had tried to present the project to CSNC, but never received a response. Loesch-Johnson said that was not the case, and that anyone can present at the Council. She said she recalled an invitation to participate in a joint meeting of several associations, but nothing specifically for CSNC.
“I’m not aware of a request to present to this Codman Square Neighborhood Council,” she said, but noted they would schedule Trinity for a future meeting.
Several neighbors from Melville Park and from the St. Mark’s Area Civic Association (SMACA) indicated that recent meetings they have had with Trinity about the Fitzpatrick Brothers site resulted in a majority of members being against the proposal.
“We had Trinity present at St. Mark’s in November, and most were against that proposal as presented at that time,” said Doug Shaheen of SMACA. “I would like to see the school expand its school functions to help more kids in the neighborhood.”
Finley said they haven’t fine-tuned any proposals, but they have donors willing to help them purchase and build something over time. “Our plan would be to work with the community over a long period of time to see what goes there,” he said. “Our school is an abutter to the property and the largest abutter and we don’t support the project that Trinity has proposed. It’s not what we want next to our school, so we are looking to get in there and…we have the capacity to make a serious offer for the property.”
There have been no meetings scheduled within the Article 80 process with the BPDA for the proposed Trinity Financial project, but Stanley said they are working on an expanded Project Notification Form right now that would trigger public meetings once filed.