Upham's Corner Online

St. Kevin's Project Update April 12, 2011

Posted: April 18, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

The Planning Office for Urban Affairs (POUA) is the developer for the St. Kevin's site in Upham's Corner.  Lisa B. Alberghini, President, and Molly Ekerdt, Development Project Manager & Policy Coordinator, attended the Upham's Corner West Side Neighborhood Association (UCWNA) meeting on April 12, 2011 to provide an update on the status of the project and solicit additional feedback.
St. Kevin's Project
The St. Kevin's project received BRA approval on March 10, 2011 with the condition that POUA meet with abutters and address the concerns that were laid out at that hearing including density, parking and specific abutter issues. 

Two weeks later (3/26/11) POUA met with abutters and discussed issues related to adjacency as well as neighborhood issues beyond the scope of the St. Kevin's project. 

Bringing the conversation to UCWNA was a step towards including a wider group of residents in the same conversation. 

The St. Kevin's project consists of three buildings, 80 units, replacing Building A (530 Columbia Road) at the corner of Davern Ave and Columbia Road and replacing Building C (35 Bird Street).  A third story will be added to Building B.  The project is primarily residential, although the first floor of Building A may house a relocated branch of the Upham's Corner library. 

Useful Links

St. Kevin's Stakeholder Update  11/30/2010
St. Kevin's Planning Collaborative, Aug 2009
According to Marti Glynn, President, Friends of the Upham's Corner Library, library management and trustees are very interested in the proposal to locate the Upham's Corner branch in Building A.  However, there is a set RFP process that must be followed without bias to any potential developer. 

The BPL has already set a line item in the budget for the planning process.  No actual money lies behind it until the trustees vote to do that.  Currently, in the opinion of the Friends group,, St. Kevin's is the best chance for getting a new library in Upham's Corner.

While delivering UCWNA notices to area residents, Aaron and Kathy Larget-Caplan had an opportunity to speak with residents on Virginia, Monadnock and Bird streets.  "People seem to be quite concerned about the St. Kevin's project, saying they don't know or understand what is going on though it is partly their fault because they don't go to the meetings." 

Aaron then pointed out to the POUA staff:  "As much as you say that you are working with the community, you are not in fact reaching out adequately to the members of the community for whatever reason.  We have to find a way to make sure that every resident of this community knows what's going on with the St. Kevin's project."

An entrance to the St. Kevin's site from Davern Avenue may create traffic problems.  POUA is working to redesign the site to make Davern Ave exit only - no entrance.  They are still examining traffic circulation and the layout of parking. 
  • Resident Concern:  In the summer the number of kids on Arion Street doubles from 15 to 30 due to visitors from Cape Verde.  The St. Kevin's development will take away the play area for these kids.  While St. Kevin's has offered its play area to children from the neighborhood, it is located behind Building A which is not visible by the parents as the street is now.
  • Resident Suggestion:  Eliminate an entrance on Davern Avenue.  POUA states their traffic engineers indicate that diverting all traffic onto Bird Street would be problematic.  Still it is expected that only 1% of the traffic will actually use the Davern Ave exit because it only allows traffic to go south on Columbia Rd. At the same time, forcing people to exit via Bird Street only would cause more traffic on Virginia Street, more idling and more air pollution. 
  • Resident Suggestion: Make the St. Kevin's traffic one-way only onto Davern Ave.  POUA is looking at the possibility of angling the exit driveway so that it is a forced right turn. If it's done correctly (using a curb cut), it would be (almost) physically impossible to take a left turn and go the wrong way up Devon Street to Virginia Street.  The goal is to make a cut through to Virginia Street as difficult as possible.
Resident Concern:  Parking density - Parking will spill out onto adjacent streets such as Virginia Street. 

POUA is discussing the following points and measures to respond to this concern:
  • The designed parking ratio is 0.6 spaces for every unit and the target population for 25% of the units does not routinely own cars. 
  • Parking spaces would be assigned by the third party professional management company managing St. Kevin's. 
  • Strict parking standards including aggressively towing non-resident cars to encourage respect for parking spaces, especially for the first couple weeks.
  • Implementing a TDMP - transportation demand management plan which would include proactive encouragement and assistance towards the use of public transportation and other creative transportation solutions, for example car sharing, transportation passes for the residents, fees to rent parking spots
  • Work with the City to request enforcement of controlled parking on Columbia Rd
According to Lisa Alberghini, parking in Upham's Corner is absolutely the number one issue in Upham's Corner.  They are hoping that the Upham's Corner planning initiative will address the parking issue and find solutions to help alleviate the problem. 

Example: a parking garage.

Attendees commented.
  • The problem is prevalent - many people bring up this issue. 
  • We can't keep ignoring it, yet that is exactly what is happening. 
  • There is a conflict with the businesses in the Upham's Corner business district.  They do not want to see parking enforced because it will take away from their clients.  The people who are looking for places to park want to see it enforced. 
One resident believes that the Upham's Corner Health Center is contributing significantly to the parking problem.  (Not that they are at fault.  There simply isn't adequate parking in Upham's Corner.)
  • There are approximately 20 parking spaces in the tiny parking lot associated with UCHC. 
  • Everyone else, both employees and patients, must park on Columbia Road. 
  • That fills up all the available parking spaces from Quincy to Upham's Corner. 
  • That is not going to go away whether St. Kevin's is here or not.
Resident concern:  Building A, at five stories, is too tall.  This creates shadows but also an unusual streetscape. 

POUA has been looking at several interventions: 
  • Do a setback on the top floor to diminish its overall effect
  • Move some of the Building A units over to the Building C area.  Dropped because of its impact on Bird Street.  
  • Move some of the units scheduled for Building A over to Building B.  This would necessitate adding an additional floor to Building B.  POUA architects are looking at the Building B structure.  This would allow Building A to remain at a four story height. 
Marti Glynn talked about the library and its relationship to the neighborhood. 

"We started this conversation with density and I don't want that to get lost.  I think that it's really important that the five-story building become a four-story building not just for the shadows that would be cast on the yards of the Virginia Street abutters but also from the perspective of the Upham's Corner streetscape and the height of the buildings."  She pointed out the five-story building directly across the street from the Upham's Corner Health Center (422 Columbia Rd). 

"If you look at the building, it is so out of scale with the rest of the streetscape and the rest of the block.  It gives you a sense of how jarring a building of that height could be.  [Even if you create] a small setback somewhere, generally these buildings sit right on the sidewalk so it really does become Gotham city looking up at it."

She added:  "I would hate to see Upham's Corner go towards a high-rise streetscape.  As President of the Friends of the Upham's Corner Library, we very much want a library but we don't want a library at the expense of our neighbors' well-being.  It's really important to us who represent the library that people are heard and that there is a real compromise."

Lisa Alberghini responded: 

"We as the developer did not want pit one group of people against another group.  Our original development was a four story building but to accommodate a library on the first floor of Building A, we added a fifth story to the building.  When the idea of a library was presented to us, we loved the idea. 

But for us to accommodate that we did have to raise it to a five-story building.  Again we're balancing numbers of units and financial feasibility.  We will continue to look at ways to mitigate the height impact but we do appreciate hearing your comments.  As important is the library is, we don't want that to impact other quality of life issues for the neighbors. "

Neighborhood issues that are not the responsibility of the developer have to do with the Upham's Corner neighborhood immediately surrounding St. Kevin's and with Upham's Corner as a whole. 

As future residents of the community, the St. Kevin's site needs to engage in conversation about these issues starting now.  POUA proposed that they join in as (future) neighbors in requesting that the city deal with some of the larger Upham's Corner issues.  There needs to be a meeting with all the right people, for example BTD, public facilities, inspection of services and we need to come with a list of infrastructure issues.
  • People who turn right from Arion Street and cut back to Virginia Street.  They also need to be directed to take a left turn only out to Columbia road.  That needs to be dealt as a neighborhood issue, not a St. Kevin issue, but POUA is willing to participate in these conversations with the city.  
  • Making one passable sidewalk on Davern Ave.  This would require working with the city departments to figure out how to accomplish this (DPW).  It would necessitate relocating poles such as light poles.  
  • Pilgrim Church holds a flea market every Saturday and a lot of cars park along Davern Ave.  This would impact St. Kevins residents as much as it impacts anyone else.
  • Davern Ave and sidewalk need improvement - The street is very narrow.  If any car parks on the street, it could block the flow of traffic.  The sidewalk is very narrow and does not allow the free passage of pedestrians, certainly not handicapped.  They are not considered passable sidewalks.  

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