Residents Voice Skepticism at Community Meeting on Allston Development

By Sam Tarr

Winter 2017

Brent Berc, co-founder of Boston Real Estate Collaborative, fielded questions from a crowd of more than 30 community members, as his team took another step forward in the process that would put a 54,000 square foot, 7-story residential complex at 44 N Beacon St.

Several attendees at the Jackson/Mann auditorium shouted over calls-to-order from Project Manager Gary Webster, Thursday night, as Berc tried to ease concerns about density, traffic, shadows, and parking.

“Two hundred and fifty people are going to be living in this building, and there are only 35 parking spaces,” Eva Webster, co-chair of the Homeowners Union of Allston-Brighton said. Webster was the fiercest critic of the project, one she called “sterile” and an “abomination.”

“You can’t say this exceeds in open spaces when you have a canyon leading to the front door,” Webster said. “You’re calling it an open space; it’s just a walkway.”

Berc defended the project saying it was “early in the process.”

“I understand that this is not a place you would want to live,” Berc said. “But the people that live here are not going to go to the two or three families you want to build and pushing the rents up and pushing those people out.”

Many of the concerns that attendees had were regarding several assumptions that Berc’s team made. For example, the calls of insufficient parking were dismissed by Berc who said that people who needed parking simply wouldn’t live there if that were a priority. Also, Berc presented a study that estimated only 6-8 departures per hour in the morning that he said should eliminate any traffic concerns.

With 54 proposed units for rent and to own, some in attendance argued the number was too conservative. Berc also said that they intended to have as many owner-occupied units as possible but didn’t set any hard target.

“We want them to be owner-occupied,” Berc said. “We also want to build the project.” He said that limiting the project to only owner-occupied units would severely limit the pool of potential buyers and turn off investors.

Rosie Hanlon, the Administrative Coordinator for Boston Centers for Youths and Families at the Jackson/Mann and AIG Board Member, raised concerns over the project’s commitment to owner-occupied units. 

“I think it’s unacceptable to have 16 owner-occupied with the potential of being rentals. It doesn’t make sense to me or many of the people here,” Hanlon said.

“It is, or it isn’t,” Hanlon said. “It’s owner-occupied, or it’s not.”

Berc also assured the meeting that none of these units would be for short-term rentals. Berc however, has advocated for short-term rentals as an owner of BREC’s sister company Short-Term Rental Boston (STRB.) STRB has 44 listings of short-term rentals in Boston on VRB.com alone.

“What we will do,” Berc said, “is find the balance between the maximum amount of owner occupancy and the building being built. That requires work that I can’t do right at this meeting.” The comment period for the project ends on April 6.

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