Upham's Corner Online

St. Kevin's Project - Dialog with the Community is Missing

St. Kevin's SchoolSince the last community meeting on April 24, 2012, the Planning Office of Urban Affairs, which is the Archdiocese in-house developer of the St. Kevin's parcel, has not updated the community on their plans and progress. 

Pre-development soil samples were taken in the fall; a contractor fixed a drainage problem on site; they "evicted" a homeless couple living on the property and have applied for funds with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

They have also removed mention of the St. Kevin's project from their website's featured projects.  Planning Office Website

What they have not done is maintain a dialog with members of the community, especially those residents who are within "earshot" or "eyeshot" of the 2.7 acre parcel.  And they have not responded to issues raised by the community at the April meeting.

Community Meeting April 24, 2012

The Archdiocese of Boston’s in-house developer, the Planning Office of Urban Affairs (POUA), held a community update meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 6 PM at the Cape Verdean Adult Daycare Center on Hancock Street in Upham’s Corner. From a news perspective this meeting provided little technical content to what is already known about the project.

Except for a couple modifications the developer’s presentation consisted of a rehash of  past presentations with an emphasis on citing their own accomplishments. Of the many suggestions made by those in attendance, all were turned down.

St. Kevin's Redevelopment ProjectThe meeting lasted two hours with presentations from the developer team present:
  • Lisa Alberghini, Pres POUA
  • David Aiken, project manager for St. Kevin's
  • The Architecture Team (project architects)
  • Landscaper
  • Drainage specialist
  • Judy Beckler
  • Joe San Clemente (traffic engineer)
  • Fr. Jack Ahern
  • Others

The drainage specialist contributed nothing new to the community's understanding. The landscaper presented the same pictures he had presented in 2010. The project manager said nothing. All St. Kevin's developer statements were made by Ms. Alberghini who spent the first 15 minutes talking about the past.

Joe San Clemente made helpful comments about why there had to be a Davern Ave exit (truck turnaround problem) and the architect showed renderings of Building A which is now set back 30' on the 5th floor. Finally, the developer has agreed to store the trash inside the building - no smell, no dumpster divers and no raccoons.

Meeting of Little Benefit to the Community

St. Kevin's Redevelopment ProjectIn other words, the community spent two hours and learned almost nothing new. It was, however, a chance for the developer to put another “notch” in their “gunslinger belt” - list of accomplishments.

Note: This statement is not made lightly, nor sarcastically. Regardless of how useful a meeting was / was not, at the next community meeting, the developer then proudly states how many times they have met with the community.

The real story was not the technical content or lack thereof at the meeting but rather the emotional and psychological state of the community during the meeting. Anger, hostility and a warring attitude toward the developer pervaded the interaction over the entire two-hour meeting.
  • Why are the residents so angry with the developer?
  • Why was the developer quite literally ignoring resident comments at the meeting?
At all of the community meetings, the developer methodology appears to be one of "We'll show you and tell you what we are doing.”

Residents Looking for Cooperation

What Upham's Corner residents and stakeholders want, they say, is a cordial working relationship with the developer - give and take - all hands working out design issues with the developer. The developer seems unable to hear suggestions the residents are making.

From one resident: “There is a clear level of disrespect for the community. It appears that they have the bit between their teeth and are determined to ride roughshod over the neighborhood.”

Throughout the meeting, residents made suggestions to which the developer’s answer was “no.”

Community Suggestions
Developer Response
Build underground parking No
Reduce the height of Building A to 4 stories No
Rebuild Building B
Add density to the rear of Building C to remove density and height from Building A
No - maybe
Set back from the sidewalks to give community "breathing space"
The development is too close to traffic pollution - bad for children No - “We think the location is OK for kids.”
Curb cut on Columbia Rd to ease traffic problems
Examine the health effects of families on the high traffic Columbia Rd No
Widen Davern Ave No
Route traffic into/out of the site from Columbia Rd not Bird St

For several residents who live close by and who walk through the St. Kevin's property, comments about "pollution" are frequent.  "About three days ago, (early Dec 2012), I was actually having trouble breathing because of the pollution from vehicles on Columbia Rd.  And this is nothing new.  I am really concerned about putting housing on such a heavily travelled artery."

Developers Waiting for Funding; Residents want Cooperation

As one resident said to Judy Beckler who represented the Planning Office at the January 2012 Westside meeting: "My problem is that we do not have a relationship with the developer. Right now it feels like we're getting into a divorce."

Ms. Beckler responded by saying she "hoped" they could be friends. On what basis is not clear. To gain the confidence of the community the developer needs to "offer" the community enough to regrow the trust that has been draining from the reserves since day one. Yet the meetings are never structured that way.

As of December 2012, the developer has made no attempt to dialog with the community (since April 2012). They have, however, done some investigative probing on site, have cleaned up the property and as of October 12, have applied again for LIHTC funding (Low Income Housing Tax Credits).

According to Matt Seadale from DHCD, the Department of Housing and Community Development, funding announcements (awards) will be made in January 2013.


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Posted: December 10, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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