To the Editor:
I wish I had a nickel for every time I have been accused of threatening the town and its neighborhoods with 40B alternatives to projects I have advocated for all over Milton.
In the 16 years I have represented developers and their projects here, I have consistently worked for development that is sensitive to the community but pushes the edge of reasonable understanding that such developments were far superior to the high density affordable housing projects to which the town has been vulnerable.
My clients and I have been successful in many cases, unsuccessful in others, and the reality of 40B in some of those cases is now at hand. At the end of the day, 40B is the realistic alternative and I have not been afraid to lay that hammer on the table where necessary.
The town has a well-earned reputation for punching developers in the nose and then expecting them to say, “Thank you, may I have another?” After a while, commercial developers and their potential tenants take their money elsewhere.
Meanwhile, 40B developers are big boys, well capitalized and very patient. They know that they will get through the process. They also know that the state is fully supportive of their efforts here.
Some successes — here are a few, including the development of 30 new units at the Milton Hill House on Eliot Street in my neighborhood. I led my client through my neighborhood to produce a set of attractive buildings with limited impact. Not all neighbors were happy, and the client took a brief detour with 40B (110 units) before coming back to the table and closing the deal.
Then there’s the development of 36 townhomes at Woodmere on Brush Hill Road and the 54 unit townhome development now under construction at Wolcott Woods. Both are projects developed by Jack Dawley and his team at Northland Residential, who listened and took the time to mold the projects in response to neighbor and town input. Again, not everyone was happy, but Milton can be proud of both outcomes.
There was the condominium development at 36 Central Ave. developed by two Milton residents with real sympathy for the town and the neighborhood. Mike Roberts and Paul Sullivan paid attention and produced a great project.
Two proposals failed: the Shaw’s supermarket proposed for Randolph Avenue and the Falconi project in East Milton Square. In a town that is starved for new commercial growth and lacks a real supermarket alternative, the Shaw’s plan was an elegant approach to redeveloping the town’s DPW yard into a new town center and would have delivered new town engineering offices with it.
I thought it was a good idea. Others didn’t, so after an extensive process the idea failed, Shaw’s sold, and we now face a 90 unit 40B development in its place.
In East Milton, the Falconis, a Milton family, worked hard to massage a project to fit the district only to be blown out of the water because “We don’t want Quincy!” That project would have provided new first floor office and retail space with 60-plus new apartments (10 percent of which would be affordable).
The building would have four stories along the spine of Adams Street, stepping down to two and a half stories along Bassett Street, with parking underneath. Instead, the project will be significantly larger.
The proposal recognized and responded to four significant and expensive fundamentals. First, our business zones are comprised of small lots with little area for parking. Redevelopment requires that parking be placed underground (in excess of $30,000 per space).
Second, our business zones are not capable of attracting the type of tenants who can pay the rent necessary for such parking and new, fully accessible buildings. We need to introduce residential tenancies upstairs to supplement the business tenancies downstairs.
Third, residential development requires an affordable component (at least 10 percent under our zoning). Fourth, these projects need to contribute to public realm improvements to the district. This combination requires height and density to generate enough revenue to subsidize these major cost components, a fact that many have been unable to understand and acknowledge.
Finally, there was the Ice House. I am sick about this one because I worked very hard with the owners and the larger neighborhood through two Town Meeting cycles to create zoning to attract a small market development. Unfortunately, I think that potential market users questioned whether the town would really welcome them (remember our well-earned reputation).
A new developer has chosen a path of lesser resistance (40B). I am encouraged that the developer has indicated a willingness to work with the town, but I don’t think we will get the market that so many worked hard to attract.
– Ned Corcoran