Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rebuilding Plan Draws Criticism

An artist's rendition of the proposed construction. Image supplied by Forte, which is responsible for the design.

JAMAICA PLAIN — A community meeting to discuss the proposed construction of 615-619 Centre St. drew a dozen neighbors to hear and voice their opinions of the building’s additions.

The single-story building, which was victimized by arson last summer, will maintain its current footprint, but will add a second story if owner Christ J. Stamatos gets what he wants.

Some neighbors expressed their concerns at the meeting, held at Stamatos’s Century 21 office at 660 Centre St., last Wednesday, ranging from blocking the sun to adversely affecting their property values.

Perhaps most impacted by the proposed construction would be Michael Tang, the new owner of 609 Centre St., Unit 2, who would have a side of his condominium, which currently enjoys large amounts of natural light, come within three feet of a wall, should the second floor be added. Stamatos hopes to reach a compromise with Tang, in which both parties will be "reasonably unhappy."

Neighbors of the building on Centre Street and Pond Street, which is behind the building, seemed aggravated that Stamatos approached the meeting without much wiggle room.

"I think people are generally supportive of redeveloping this block," explained Laura Vanderleeden of 2 Pond St. to the property owner, "but I’m not hearing a ton of flexibility from you." Another neighbor echoed the sentiment, saying, "It’s interesting that the zoning laws [prohibit this type of construction], because they seem pretty logical to me." Zoning regulations for the property currently allow for a two-story building with only 3,500 square feet of floor space. Further, any new additions on the right side of the building must be at least ten feet away from the neighboring building. The first floor, which is grandfathered into its location, is only three feet from the neighboring building. The proposed structure would maintain the outside of the building as is but would change the interior of the first floor, in addition to the second floor, which would serve as extended office space for Stamatos’s Century 21 office. The office had resided in the building, along with a clothing store and nail salon, before the fire. Permission from the city’s zoning board is required, due to the proposed building’s proximity to its neighbors as well as its square footage being increased to 48 square feet. Stamatos, who owns numerous other properties in the neighborhood, can still go ahead with construction, if the plan is not approved, but will have to comply to zoning requirements. He worries that if he complies with those requirements, the building will be aesthetically unappealing while the newly created space won’t be cost-effective.

"It will cost me just as much to add 2,400 square feet as it would to add 1,100," he said on his plan’s behalf. "I’d rather put up a nice looking building." Stamatos and his architect, Edward P. Forte, are scheduled to meet with the Boston Zoning Board in November, and in the meantime, will continue to discuss possibilities with neighbors as well as the Jamaica Pond Association.

This article originally appeared in The Boston Bulletin on September 27, 2007.

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