13 residents express range of views of $20m project that includes affordable housing

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'absolute delight.'

-- Barbara Thornton 

'Just say no' to project.

-- John Worden

UPDATED Oct. 25: After more than a dozen residents expressed views containing support, opposition and concern about the proposed residential development on Mass. Ave. near Brattle Square, the Arlington Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Tuesday, Oct. 18, voted unanimously to continue the hearing to Nov. 22.

The Maggiore Companies plan to build a five-story, 50-unit residential building, which includes 13 affordable-housing units, with a parking garage, retail area and communal courtyard. They are seeking ZBA approval of a comprehensive permit so that the project may proceed.

They have contracts to purchase and demolish 1021 and 1025 Mass. Ave. and their respective parking spaces in order to construct the project. The estimated cost is $20 million to develop the residential building and the surrounding outdoor space. Of the 50 units, each of which comes with a parking space on the ground level garage, 13 are considered affordable-housing units. Of the 50 unites total, 35 are to be two bedrooms, 10 are one bedroom and five have three bedrooms. Planned behind the building are a “native woodland” and a small walkway around the shrubbery and trees with benches and a bike rack. 

5th story set back

The planned building is a U shape, with the narrow side facing Mass. Ave. and extending back. It is planned to be five stories high, but the fifth story is to be set back from the view of the street to fit in with the rest of the street and to appear smaller than it is, the developer says. 

Maggiore’s project application says that VAI reported that there would be minor delays and no considerable safety deficits for the building. LEC Environmental Consultants Inc. reported that there are no areas of rare wildlife or other rare species surrounding the development, and that, besides a recommendation of a subsurface infiltration system, the development poses no real concerns. 

Maggiore Companies, family owned and based in Woburn, has built residential properties in Reading, Woburn and Wakefield as well as industrial developments in Franklin, Taunton, Andover and Newton. They are working with Cambridge Savings Bank, Harrison Mulhern Architects and Patriot Engineering, along with numerous consulting firms. 

During the meeting conducted over Zoom, the five board members present (Chair Christian Klein, Patrick Hanlon, Dan Ricardelli, Venket Holi, Elaine Hoffman) and public attendees heard a presentation from Maggiore President Matthew Maggiore regarding the plans for the project. Maggiore and lawyer Paul Feldman of Davis Malm attorneys explained the overall design, the changes to the existing land and — a point of much contention later at the hearing — the waivers they are requesting. 

The building will have 1,700 square feet of retail space in the front right corner near Mass. Ave., a fitness center for residents, a management office, two elevators, a second-floor courtyard space and some private decks, as well as a private resident garden amenity in the back of the building near Mill Brook. 

Following the presentation, board members asked some general questions about the development without getting into specific details expected to be covered in further meetings. 

Favorable public comments

Attendees then expressed their opinions. Each had five minutes to speak and were asked to keep their comments related to the information presented. Thirteen Arlington residents spoke, and it was a mixed bag in terms of community perceptions. 

Supporters of the development pointed to the importance of affordable housing, especially in Arlington where there is a housing shortage, and the convenience of having housing near public transit, and expressed a general level of excitement about the prospects of the building. 

The first to speak, Barbara Thornton of Park Avenue, called the project an “absolute delight.” She spoke about how, as she is getting older and looking to downsize, this development is a great prospect for a future residence for her.

She also expressed gratitude for the affordable-housing options; according to her, Arlington has a lot of economic diversity and having a project that embraces that is important for the town. Thornton is excited about the garden in the back but is concerned about the uplighting and what that will do to the neighborhood and the environment. 

Next, Xavid Pretzer also was excited about the project. He lives in the neighborhood and said that this is the type of thing he wants to see near him. He urged the board to look into the impact on Mill Brook, which runs behind the development, and encouraged the developers to work with environmental consultant agencies to ensure that the brook is protected and that flooding will not be an issue.

Pretzer also spoke about the ways in which Arlington generally lacks housing accessible for people using wheelchairs and said that this development, built with accessibility in mind, could be a real asset for wheelchair users, disabled people and older people. 

Not so favorable

Others, however, were not at all pleased with the plan. John and Patricia Worden, joining in the same Zoom, said it was “totally inappropriate” for the area. John Worden was upset about the “ugliness” of the building and urged the board to “just say no” to this development. Patricia Worden, who noted that she had previously submitted a longer and more detailed written complaint, argued that the units that are labeled affordable will not truly be affordable and will not ease the problem of homelessness. She also said that that the development would be too crowded and make the neighborhood too dense. 

Another resident, Carl Wagner, leader of Arlington Residents for Responsible Redevelopment, a citizens' group, agreed that the cost of each of the 13 units labeled affordable is still too high. He predicted that the rest of the units stated to be at market value will be sold at the highest rate possible and will generally increase the average prices of property in town.

The waivers, asking for exceptions to local zoning laws, are in his opinion unacceptable and are an example of bigger corporations using the 40B law to pass over local rules and seize power. Wagner said that asking to waive so many fees is “unfair when [the] project is thrust up [upon the town’s] shoulders.”

He also said that cutting down so many trees behind the property is going in the “wrong direction” when it comes to environmentalism and conservation, even though there will be more shrubs and trees planted.

Wynelle Evans also communicated her concern about the project, specifically about the ways in which the “whopper of a building” will integrate into the neighborhood. She is concerned about the height and stature of the building compared to others in the neighborhood and also objects to the uplighting in the interest in preserving the dark sky.

Similarly, Don Seltzer requested a diagram showing the building not only as compared to buildings on the other side of Mass. Ave., but also from Brattle Street nearby, as well as a shadow report

What comes next

Maggiore thanked the attendees for their participation, said he looks forward to answering all questions and wants to reach out to concerned residents individually. 

The board emphasized that the meeting was only the first of many hearings regarding the development and that more detailed plans will be explored later. 

Watch the entire Oct. 18 meeting on ACMi:

The board then passed motions to post the slideshow presentation from Maggiore on the website and incorporate the meeting minutes from any previous meetings between Maggiore and various town boards. 

The next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22. The Zoom link and the recording from the Oct. 18 meeting are to be posted on the ZBA website

This news summary by YourArlington intern Renée Abbott, a journalism student at Northeastern University, was published Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022. It was updated Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, to correct the name of a citizen group, the first name of a speaker and the name of a consultancy firm, and to add links explaining the terms shadow report, subsurface infiltration system, uplighting and the 40B law. It was updated Oct. 25, to add an ACMi video window.

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