Chestnut Hill Square Gets Committee's O.K.
The fate of the massive Route 9 project now rests in the Board of Aldermen's hands.
The Chestnut Hill Square project is one step closer to reality.
The Board of Aldermen's Land Use Committee voted early this morning to recommend the necessary special permits and zoning changes for the mixed-use development at 200-230 Boylston St. proposed by New England Development.
The Land Use Committee met for more than five hours last night to review the board order--18 pages of findings and conditions they developers must meet--that now goes to the full Board of Aldermen. The eight committee members unanimously recommended the zoning changes, but two-- Aldermen Deborah Crossley and Susan Albright--abstained from voting on the special permits.
"There's a lot of additional work that needs to go into this board order," Crossley said.
Despite the committee's approval, though, questions and concerns remain, specifically around pedestrian safety and open space.
Much discussion and debate surrounded the topic of a proposed crosswalk across Rte. 9, as Crossley said the possible path--which will go from Chestnut Hill Square to the Chestnut Hill Mall--does not seem safe.
"We're putting a pedestrian walkway across five lanes of traffic," she said.
But Alderman Sydra Schnipper argued the crosswalk wouldn't be any more dangerous than any other on Rte. 9.
"Any pedestrian crossing Rte. 9 is taking a terrible chance," she said. "But Rte. 9 exists. It's not going away."
Discussion around a Florence Street sidewalk also arose, as several committee members suggested requiring New England Development to add the pedestrian walkway.
The developers responded by saying they would have the sidewalk done by the end of the project's first phase, however, some committee members expressed interest in having it done sooner.
Several committee members also complained about the amount of open space on the 11-acre site. The conditions the committee approved say the developers must include more open space than the zoning requires, but this specific zoning requires no open space at all.
"Shame on us for not requiring it," said Alderman Susan Albright.
However, current plans do call for about 20 percent of the site to remain as open space. John Twohig, attorney for New England Development, said the developers would have liked to include even more, but that was the most they could do given parking requirements and other constraints.
Twohig noted that they already reduced the number of parking spaces from 323 to 308 to add more open space.
"We think we've done a lot to add green areas," he said.
New England Development has proposed 102,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 60,000 square feet for medical offices, a 51,000-square-foot supermarket, a 30,000-square-foot health club, a parking structure and 91 to 100 residential units at 200-230 Boylston Street, the former Omni Foods site.
The developers are seeking two special permits and want to rezone the entire site in the city's Business-4 district.
The Board of Aldermen will take up the project Dec. 6 but will likely hold the vote until Dec. 20, Land Use Committee Chairman Ted Hess-Mahan said.
In a previous version of this story, Atrium Mall was accidentally put in place of Chestnut Hill Mall.