150 Centre Street developer to nix all parking spaces at city’s request

A rendering of the proposal for residential units at 150 Centre Street.

The developer seeking to build an affordable housing complex next to the Shawmut MBTA Station has reworked the proposal to drop all parking spaces – the latest plan had called for 39 spots – after a request from city officials.

In addition, Boston-based Trinity Financial now plans to reduce the number of units from 74 to 72, the vast majority of them marked for affordable housing, and lower the overall height of the building by three feet, while adding a bedroom to two of the income restricted units. They also propose to add a solar array to the project.

Trinity, which has spent years seeking to develop the 150 Centre St. parcel long occupied by an auto body shop, unveiled the latest update to its planning at a Monday night virtual meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency, which is reviewing the project.

But city officials asked, and Trinity has agreed, to eliminate parking from the project. The move follows a 2021 change to the city’s zoning code that discarded off-street parking minimums for developments where at least 60 percent of units are income restricted.

The developer also plans to install changes to Centre Street, Clementine Park, and Allston Street with an eye toward pedestrian safety and slowing down cars. The proposed changes include raised crosswalks, new sidewalks, lighting at some intersections and pedestrian crossings, curb extensions, and speed bumps.

Supporters of the proposal say it will bring affordable rental housing to the St. Mark’s and Melville Park neighborhoods, as the Boston region struggles with high demand and low housing supply.

Opponents say the proposal is too big for the area and have raised concerns about traffic. Domenic Accetta, a skeptic of the project, said the city’s desire for more housing seems to “trump” everything else. “There doesn’t seem to be any serious discussion about what the neighborhood needs, what the neighborhood can accommodate, what can fit in this neighborhood,” he said.

The meeting of the proposal’s Impact Advisory Group (IAG), which includes neighborhood residents who oppose and support the project, came after the public comment period ended on March 4. IAG members get to weigh in on mitigation measures for a project, but no consensus is needed, and the power to approve a project remains with the BPDA.

BPDA staffers asked Trinity to present an analysis on traffic, which the developer says will be at a low volume when the project is built.

Michael Lozano and Chris Stanley, two Trinity executives, joined an engineering consultant working for the developer to discuss the traffic situation and plans to eliminate parking from the site. Andrew Saxe, a member of the IAG and an opponent of the project, disputed the low traffic numbers that project is expected to bring. “I’m just concerned that if your calculations aren’t right, it’s the neighborhood that pays the price,” he said.

Lozano noted that there is little usage of cars for a residential complex next to a train station.

As the meeting grew heated, Joe Blankenship, a transportation expert with the BPDA, spoke up, saying “I do want to reassure you that the methodology in this filing is sound.” Blankenship added that he is among the city officials who pushed the project to eliminate parking spaces.

Philippe Saad, an architect and IAG member, said he observes “plenty of parking spaces” available on Lyndhurst Street, which sits across Allston Street and runs one way up to Codman Square.

Saad said his other observation is about the front of the Carruth building next to Ashmont MBTA Station, an area that Trinity was involved in redeveloping. There is “very little” activity coming from the parking garage underneath the Carruth. “Zero parking for TOD [transit-oriented development] is totally appropriate,” he said.

He and Arlene Simon, an IAG member and an opponent of the project, were in agreement that a full Boston Transportation Department traffic study for the immediate area and beyond is needed. Saad said there are too many one-way streets.

Simon said it’s good to build units right next to the T “in the abstract,” but “it doesn’t mean everybody is going to use the T for every trip they’re going to make.”

She added she is “shocked” that parking would be eliminated when Trinity previously said 25 units would use cars. The streets in the area are full of parked cars when people come home at night, she said, and believing people will park their car a quarter mile away from 150 Centre and walk the rest of the way home is a “pipe dream.”

She also encouraged Trinity executives to speak with Epiphany School leaders after Michelle Sanchez, the school’s principal, weighed in, saying the elimination of parking spaces feels like a “smack in the face.” The move would affect the school’s parking, Sanchez said.

Trinity executives said they have spoken with leaders at Epiphany School multiple times, including a few weeks ago, and they would continue to do so.

Later in the meeting, Saxe, the IAG member and project opponent, said he obtained an email through a public records request, where one of the Trinity executives forwarded the company lawyer’s opposition to the potential appointment to the advisory group of Epiphany’s head of school, Rev. John Finley, or another Epiphany representative, in an email to the BPDA.

Finley was part of efforts last year to make a competing offer for the 150 Centre St. parcel, but he and the school backed off once Trinity reiterated that the developer has a purchase and sale with the auto body shop owners and accused the school of illegal interference.

As the evening’s virtual meeting moved along, Saxe sent the email he obtained to IAG members and the media, in which a Trinity lawyer voiced concerns about placing someone from Epiphany School “in a position where they could poison or derail that process from within.”

Sanchez, the principal, was eventually appointed. The project opponents, including Saxe, had waged their own effort to question the placement on the IAG of supporters of the project, at one point sending a letter to the BPDA raising questions about one appointee’s Twitter posts. That person, Nevin Lorden, remained on the IAG.

At the end of the meeting, which lasted for about two hours, BPDA staff members stressed that the project is still under review. “We do listen to every comment that you guys say and take it into consideration,” said Caitlin Coppinger of the BPDA.

This post was updated with additional information and reporting from Monday's virtual meeting.

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