What was at one time a not-so-serious, placeholder proposal for the vacant Forbes site by a Chinese company is increasingly looking like the final proposal after a meeting on Monday night at the Residence Inn revealed no changes to the plan.
Representatives of YIHE Forbes LLC, of Guangzhou, China, and the Boston law firm Davis, Malm & D’Agostine met with neighbors on Monday night, Nov. 30, at the hotel to discuss the proposal that is set to go to a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 8.
While last summer’s more than 150-page submission to the City – complete with 27-story buildings – was deemed something that wasn’t serious, that submission seems to be getting more serious by the day and will be what is proposed on Dec. 8.
A detailed plan of several hundreds pages – and prepared by some of the most renowned architects, lawyers and engineers in Boston – was submitted in August for the Forbes site and calls for 534 residential apartments in towers stretching as high as 27 stories, 224 rooms in two hotels, a 333 seat luxury restaurant and nearly 100,000 sq. ft. of office space – all utilizing one single access point over the railroad tracks at Crescent Ave.
Mill Hill Councillor Matt Frank, who attended the meeting, said it was a monumental plan and one he cannot support.
“It’s still a ludicrous proposal as I said before,” he said. “It’s still a 27-story building and way too much development. A 27-story building is much taller than Broadway Glen. The amount of retail is larger than the Market Basket footprint. The amount of residential units is larger than One North. The hotel is the size of the Wyndham and the Residence Inn put together. We’re talking about the largest residential development, the tallest building, the largest hotel and putting it all on an 18-acre plot with one street to access it and a narrow bridge. That’s where the problem comes in.”
He said the developers also had a miscue in not notifying the entire neighborhood, but only on street – Crescent Avenue. He also said the project just doesn’t take the surrounding neighborhood – that of detached homes in a semi-suburban feel – into account.
“That’s not a full-fledged suburb, but it’s certainly not city living either,” he said. “This is something that belongs in Cambridge or downtown Boston. It’s beautiful; I’ll give them that, but still ludicrous.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he will not support the project, but understands something needs to go on the Forbes site.
“My opinion hasn’t changed really,” he said. “It’s a huge site and there will be development there that is significant…I think what they’re proposing with 500 residences in a 25 story tower is a little bit overkill and out of character with the neighborhood. Given that it doesn’t seem like they’ve spent much time exploring alternative access to the site, that’s not a proposal anyone in the City could reasonably support.”
Ambrosino said the access point to the site needs to be explored and solved. If not, something will go on the site with access that will be intrusive to neighbors.
“What concerns me most about that property is that something significant is going to be developed there,” he said. “If the alternative access problem cannot be solved, then any development there will have a big impact. I’m not sure what to do about that because the City cannot deny every single proposal. It’s a big site.”
Ambrosino suggested an access point using Railroad Street in Revere and crossing over the Mill Creek and into Forbes. That would keep most vehicles out of the Chelsea neighborhood and give exclusive access to the development from major roadways like Rt. 1, Rt. 1A and the Parkway.
“It’s not a long span across the water and it could be expensive but I don’t think it is insurmountable,” he said. “You have to address the environmental issues, but if you’re investing $500 million, it could make sense to think about another $50 million to solve the access problem.”