The Boston Department of Neighborhood Development on Tuesday hosted the third in a series of meetings to gather community input for the future use of the old Charlestown Armory building.
Located at 374-398 Bunker Hill St., the 105-year-old Armory is currently vacant, owned by the city and managed by the DND, which is looking to create a request for proposals, or RFP, for developers interested in renovating the site. The DND expects to hold at least one more community meeting, at which residents can review a draft RFP, before posting the document in late March or April, said Reay Pannesi, DND senior project manager.
At the meeting, which was co-hosted by the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, Pannesi quickly reviewed the site’s history and features—the main feature being a 46,530 sq. ft. Georgian Revival-style building—and summarized the questions and concerns raised at two previous community meetings.
The DND’s goal, she said, is to put together developer guidelines for the RFP process—an outline of uses and situations the community would or would not accept on the site.
Dos and don'ts
Some of the priorities residents previously identified included:
• That the building’s exterior, in particular any historical elements, as well as the name should be retained;
• That market-rate, owner-occupied residential units is the preferred use;
• That there might be an allowable business or office use on the first floor, but that it should be a quiet business—no restaurants, bars or other “loud” types of businesses;
• That there should be no significant change to the building’s height and footprint;
• That the developer should make available at least two parking spaces per residential unit;
• That traffic should be minimized on nearby Baldwin and Auburn streets;
• That the developer should include buffering for neighbors and ensure protection of or mitigation for damage to neighbors’ retaining walls that border the site;
• And that the project be completed as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Some current issues on the site are being addressed now by the DND, said senior project manager William Epperson, who is in charge of the building’s care.
Workers have been on the site trapping and removing rats, skunks and other rodents. And they have been refreshing the boards that have covered the Armory windows for years—filling gaps and replacing boards that have deteriorated to “keep the building secure and make it look a little better,” Epperson said.
Baldwin Street resident Marc Pelletier asked whether the city could help expedite the development process, saying he’d last heard it could be five years before construction is completed.
He referred to a previous plan for the site, which was approved around 2007 and did not move forward for economic reasons.
“I would encourage the city to move quickly, because we could find ourselves sitting here in 2018, talking about the same thing,” Pelletier said.
Resident Fran Murphy wondered whether the building could be turned into a parking facility to address the community’s ongoing needs.
“I love housing. I’d put housing everywhere, but it’s a small town,” Murphy said.
Charlestown Neighborhood Council member Mark Rosenshein said he didn’t know if that type of project would be economically viable and noted that it would probably take well over 60 parking spaces—possibly as many as 100 or 200—to make the project worth the cost of construction.
“The economics of it are challenging, but I’m not saying it can’t be done if that’s what the community wants,” he said.
Rosenshein worked as an architect for the previous developer, before he joined the council. He said the earlier plans called for a 38-unit development featuring mainly one- and two-bedroom apartments along with a few three-bedroom and studio units, as well as parking in the basement.
Other residents said they would like to see any first-floor businesses limited to daytime hours (closing by 6 p.m.) to help reduce parking issues in the area.
Charlestown residents can add their comments—in particular, what they would and would not like to see at the Charlestown Armory site—online at dndpropertyforsale.com (Click on “Community Comments” and pick “Charlestown Armory” from the list of projects).
More information about the site can be found on the DND’s Active Projects page.
After the RFP is posted this spring, developers will have between 60 and 90 days to submit their proposals, Pannesi said. The city will then hold a community meeting to review the top proposals in fall 2013.
Additional public meetings will be held during the Article 80 review process with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, when specifics of the chosen plan are addressed, Pannesi said.