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Residents Discuss Charlestown Armory's Future

Concerns about parking, business hours and rodents were among the issues raised at the Jan. 29 community meeting.

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.

New concerns

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.

What’s next

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.

Just a person! January 30, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Seems like that the CNC has more concerns about this than parcel 39a in the Navy Yard! Parking?noise? traffic? And completion boy, I wonder why??? Could it be to close to someone??????
Joseph January 30, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Tom Cunha lives at what number Bunker Hill Street? Spot on JAP! Get the popcorn. This is gonna be good. Question: Why does turning a building into residential units not have the same requirements to provide parking, yet when you take row house, or the like, they're required to remove a street spot and add a "driveway?" I may be wrong on this, but isn't that the law? What am I missing? Anyone care to educate me on this? Thanks.
Just a person! January 30, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Got to love it,they also want any business closed at 6:00pm but, it is okay to have dominoes open way after midnight, go figure!
Just a person! January 30, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Joseph, I really don't have an answer to your question, but I think that if you request a driveway permit, it has to accommodate 2 cars, if you are taking a space off the street, Maybe at the next CNC meeting on driveways you could ask the question. Because I think Mark R. wants to change driveway requirements, I thought I was at a meeting where that was discussed, actually pertaining to the Row Houses that were built on the Cushman property on Rutherford Ave. where all the street parking was removed to accommodate the single garage driveways. But then again, it's all in who you know!! ;-)
Sean Boyle January 30, 2013 at 04:52 PM
I disagree with the residents who were at this meeting. I wish I knew it were happening so I could voice my opinion. 1) The last thing we need is more condos. Why is every square inch of this town being turned into residential units? Kind of sad that I grew up in this town, and I'm never going to be able to raise a family here. 2) I 100% completely disagree with only having "quiet" retail at this location. The residents of this town WANT more restaurants and bars. Hospitality retail will thrive in this town. Why? Because we are confined to a select few eatery & drinking options. We should encourage more restaurants/bars to open. People who think it isn't an appropriate spot are ridiculous. It's on a MAIN ROAD of our town. Try going to other parts of Boston and you'll see plenty of restaurants/bars in "residential" areas. We live in the CITY, noise is inevitable.
Sean Boyle January 30, 2013 at 04:53 PM
3) How about addressing the needs of the youth for once? Yeah they have plenty of sports programs and after school clubs, but where is the "fun" for teens? This building is big enough to be let's say - a bowling alley, arcade, or a movie theater. Yeah you can say that we already have a "theater" but it doesn't show films. Where will people park? They don't need to park! It's a one square mile town, walk. Not the appropriate place? It sure is! Look at the bowling alley in Southie. Where is it? Right in the middle of Broadway! The small movie theater in Somerville? Right in Davis Square. It would be far more useful to do these things than to have some housing units.
Just a person! January 30, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Right on Sean! How many condos or housing developments do we need in a square mile? Let's get some retail stores in here! Let's look at it, we have 99 units on West School St 6townhouses or condos on Rutherford ave ( Cushman house) The Nancy sales building Parcel 39a 64 units The old projects I don't know off hand Mishawam park over 400 units Bridgeveiw apts Mezi lofts All the housing in the Navy Yard The Armory Row houses at Warren St. Also I don't know how but another tower at North Point that they list as Charlestown Then let's consider do we have enough, schools? Health care? Police protection? Or even a shopping area in this town to accommodate all this housing and people? And let's not even go to parking issues or traffic.
Jay K. January 31, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Totally agree with you on points 2 & 3, Sean. There's nothing wrong with more housing though, as long as it doesn't get in the way of your points 2 & 3. One cold argue that more housing creates more demand for bars, restaurants, and fun places. Of course, I've been thinking that for a while now and don't really see hopes of new stuff coming in...
Sean Boyle January 31, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Thanks Jay. The problem in Charlestown is that we don't have enough retail space for businesses to even think about opening a place in Charlestown. We as residents need to make sure we voice that we want more retail space included in the plans when developers like this are planning a new development in Charlestown.
Jay K. January 31, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Absolutely. Completely agree.
DND Real Estate Team January 31, 2013 at 08:20 PM
These are great comments from residents. We want as many as possible. Please feel free to go to our new website www.dndpropertyforsale.com , choose the Charlestown Armory project and post your comments. Thank you, City of Boston Dept. of Neighborhood Development (DND) Real Estate Team
James January 31, 2013 at 08:25 PM
It is unfortunate that you did not know the meeting was taking place! It was well advertised in the Patriot Bridge, where all C-Town meetings are advertised. Perhaps you can still express your thoughts to the City by means of their website, detailed above in the article? They said they would receive comments there, and consider them equally with the ones made in person. Your point of view was certainly lacking at the meeting! SPEAK UP!
Sarah Simeone January 31, 2013 at 11:11 PM
I agree with the need for retail, etc especially on that side of town. You can be heard by using the link in the article and visiting the community comments section!! Its easy and will get the Point to the dnd and cnc. Then there can be a better representation :-)
TheMaskedTruthsayer February 04, 2013 at 12:45 PM
How about an enclosed mall with shops, office space and a farmers market? We can pave the roof for parking and create a footpath in the sky from Sullivan Square T-station? More overpriced/cheap-build condos, here we come.
Mark Murphy February 12, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Amen on the restaurants! That's exactly what this area needs. I completely understand restricting certain aspect of a restaurant with the types of signage (i.e., Domino's big neon lighted sign on Main st.) and seating capacity allowed. But, lets be real, who wouldn't want to walk out your door and down to a nice pub for a beer and some good food. Communities have been built around pubs since the revolutionary war, they ARE hugely important to building communities.
Mark Murphy February 12, 2013 at 03:54 PM
A restaurant or pub would greatly increase everyone's property value within walking distance. When purchasing a house in the area one of the biggest negatives is that you need a car to go out to eat, or grab a drink. A well designed and tasteful restaurant will only help our neighborhood rival "the other side of town's" property values. Sounds like everyone's concerns are Noise and Parking, which are greatly over-exaggerated and out-weighed by the benefits: Noise really isn't an issue with restaurants anymore. Modern sound-proofing can eliminate all noise. Walk down the Pleasant Street next to the Warren Tavern (with no modern soundproofing) and the noise is barely audible. Introduce soundproofing and it will disappear. Parking is also a non-issue. The restaurant will have to be responsible for providing parking in excess of any developer provided spaces with a valet service such as Ultimate Parking. Ultimate Parking is a local company that will valet customer's cars in surrounding lots (Schrafft's, Sullivan Square, etc). The right restaurant would be a great gathering place and a welcome addition to the neighborhood in my opinion and we could do it with very little disruption.
Sean Boyle February 14, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Mark, if you haven't already, click on the link in the article (community comments), register, and voice your opinion on more restaurants. They need to hear that this is what Charlestown wants.
Robs March 05, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Correct on both accounts. Charlestown needs more retail and food options. Families want to shop local and support local businesses not some developers retail project that inflates the cost of living at residents expense.

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